University Lab looks to repeat as state champion
With four state championships in the last eight years, University Lab has stamped itself as one of the elite football programs in Louisiana.
The Cubs, who have won six state titles overall, claimed their sixth in 2021, defeating E.D. White Catholic 14-7 in the Division II state championship game in Lafayette.
To illustrate the elite nature of University Lab, the Cubs have reached the semifinals or finals in 10 consecutive seasons.
That completed a magical 13-0 season.
In three seasons, Andy Martin has posted a very impressive 32-4 record.
Gone from last year’s team are seven players who signed to play college football, including Austin Ausberry (Auburn), Jason Barnes Jr. and Nicholls Williams (Nicholls), Justin Collins (Arkansas State), Derrick Graham Jr. (Southeastern Louisiana), Jabari Johnson (Dartmouth), Roman Pitre (Purdue) and Edan Stagg (Columbia).
That is a huge number of key players to replace as only six starters return, including just two on offense.
The good news is that one of those players is senior quarterback Blake Abney (6-0, 180). Last season, Abney completed 137 of 221 passes for 1,974 yards and 24 touchdowns with just seven interceptions.
Abney has a solid wide receiver returning in senior Trip Singer (5-11, 165). Singer had 14 catches for 195 yards last season.
Another superb receiver is senior Josef Hodoh (6-3, 190), a college prospect. Also slated to start are juniors Granville Anderson (5-9, 165) and Seth Gale (5-9, 155).
Michael Guruli (6-0, 210) is a two-way player who is a rugged running back and he will also play at linebacker. Also set to log time at running back is junior Riley Small (6-0, 195).
Up front, senior Darrius Vessel (6-0, 225) is a fine player who will see action on both sides of the ball. He is joined by juniors Quade Welch (6-4, 340) and Tucker Latour (6-1, 210), along with a trio of sophomores in John Hebert (6-3, 225), Preston Jones (6-4, 290) and Jarvis Brookshire (6-1, 260).
The strength of the team and the defense is at linebacker.
That includes senior Jaiden Ausberry (6-2, 215), who recently committed to Notre Dame. Ausberry had an outstanding season last year with 94 tackles, including 12 for loss and four sacks. Ausberry caused three fumbles, recovered a pair of fumbles and had a pair of interceptions.
Senior Holden Fox (5-10, 170) recorded 71 tackles, including seven sacks. Fox caused a fumble, recovered two fumbles and had two interceptions last season.
Junior Harry Beachem (6-2, 215) led U-High in tackles with 143 in 2021, including 14 for loss with seven sacks. Beacham caused four fumbles and had a pair of interceptions.
Up front, Jackson Forbes (6-1, 200) is quick while Vessel will play some at defensive end. The other starters include sophomore Alec Haynes (6-1, 210) and freshman Lamar Brown (6-4, 270).
The secondary is led by junior Marcus Dawson (6-2, 185). In 2021, Dawson was in on 39 tackles, including two for loss. Dawson caused a fumble, recovered a pair of fumbles and had an interception.
Also in the secondary are juniors Patrick Beecham (6-1, 180) and Tommy Greene (5-9, 155). Sophomore Jayden Gloston (6-0, 170) has talent as well.
Anderson will handle kicking and punting duties.
The schedule is very challenging.
The Cubs open with three tough Class 5A opponents, beginning with Woodlawn of Baton Rouge in week one, followed by Archbishop Rummel and defending Division I state champion Catholic of Baton Rouge.
District 6-3A play begins in week four at home against Mentorship Academy, followed by a trip to Port Allen. U-High will then host Tylertown, Mississippi in a non-district contest.
The final four games are district contests, hosting Madison Prep in what should be a good one, followed by a game at Glen Oaks, a home contest with Collegiate Baton Rouge and the finale at Parkview Baptist.
While many key contributors are gone from last year’s state championship team, do not be deceived. University Lab is primed to make a strong run at defending its state title as the elite program that it is.
Click here for more CCS Prep Football team previews (including archives of past season previews).
- < PREV McNeese, Cajuns play to 2-2 draw in exhibition soccer match
- NEXT > St. Augustine's Bryce Robinson commits to Tulane baseball
Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…