Warren Easton ready to make run at Class 4A football title

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Lance Legendre

When you talk about the top programs in Class 4A in the state of Louisiana, you must start with Karr and Neville or Neville and Karr. Take your pick in terms of the order of the duo.

While those two are the trendsetters, next up on the list and gaining is Warren Easton. The evidence is clear.

The Eagles lost by a point in the Class 4A state championship game in 2014 and reached the semifinals in both 2015 and 2016, falling to 4A powerhouse Neville on all three occasions. The Eagles were in the quarterfinals in 2013, losing to eventual state champ East Jefferson.

In 2017, the Eagles are poised to make a serious run at its first state championship since 1942.

Former Karr and Tulane star Jerry Phillips enters his second season at the helm, having taken over for Tony Hull when he departed to become an assistant coach at Kansas. The Eagles did not skip a beat last season and are ready to beat down opponents this season.

“I feel we are getting there as one of the top programs in Louisiana in our class,” Phillips said. “I think we are close to the level of Neville and Karr. I think we are there this year but until we win a championship, we cannot be mentioned in the same breath of them. We are right there. We just have to get it done. Until then, they are still in charge in 4A.”

The offense is very good, with seven starters returning, led by junior quarterback Lance Legendre (6-2, 200), who had a big sophomore year and figures to have an even bigger junior season.

Legendre has lethal weapons in the passing game, including seniors Yo’Heinz Tyler (6-4, 190) and Sheldon “Sticks” Jones (5-10, 170). Tyler is a massive, impressive target while Jones is fast and quick. Junior Kiaeem Green (6-1, 200) is a returning starter while sophomore Jewell Holmes (6-1, 185) is the other starter.

“Our passing game is very good,” Phillips said. “Those guys are ready. Lance did not play so well against Jesuit last year. Joe Edwards can play as well at quarterback. Tyler feels a bit disrespected in recruiting and has a lot to prove. So does Sticks, trying to prove that his size is not a factor.”

The running game is led by senior Larry Barabino (5-11, 185) and sophomore Ashaad “Shaddie” Clayton (6-0, 190), both of whom return and are very talented. Junior Dewitt Johnson (5-10, 175) has come on strong as well.

“We have three phenomenal running backs,” Phillips said. “People expect us to be a passing team but we will be more of a running team this year. Barabino and Clayton are proven players. Johnson has turned the corner and can really play so we have three really good ones. I wish I could play all three at the same time but there are not enough footballs.”

Up front, three starters return. Sophomore center Sedrick VanPran (6-3, 270) has a big future ahead of him while junior tackle Caleb Etienne (6-6, 310) is a new starter and a Division I prospect. Senior guard Devin Lewis (6-2, 320) is another returning starter, along with senior tackle Devante Phillips (6-1, 260). The other new starter is junior guard Treyvon Riley (6-3, 265).

“We have great size up front, along with good experience.” Phiilips said. “They are a close-knit group and they take pride in running the ball and will be a load to handle. We expect this to be a real strength for us.”

Defensively, the Eagles are experienced, with all 11 starters being juniors or seniors.

Massive senior tackle Jeffrey Holmes (6-1, 330) holds down the front while in the secondary, cornerback Chester Kimbrough (6-0, 170) and free safety Damien Tate (5-10, 180) are stars.

The other starters up front include senior Damani Burrell (6-5, 220) and junior Jacob Parker (5-10, 195) at the end spots and senior Khyran Givens (5-10, 250) at tackle.

The linebackers are juniors Josh Williams (5-11, 200) in the middle and Jason Allen (5-11, 200) on the weak side.

In the secondary, Kimbrough and Tate are joined by senior corner Tyree Tanner (5-10, 175), senior free safety Christian Treaudo (5-11, 185) and junior strong safety Jahmal Sam (5-11, 175). Sam will handle field goals and extra points, Clayton is the kicker and Tate and Kimbrough will be the primary kick and punt return specialists.

“We have a lot of experience on defense,” Phillips said. “They can carry us. Damien runs the entire defense and is our team leader. Holmes is really good up front. Our linebackers are juniors who played some last year. Givens is really good. He will make a lot of noise. We are good up front and in the secondary. Kimbrough is going to be one of the best in the country. We are solid on defense.”

The schedule is intriguing.

Easton opens on Friday against long-time rival Jesuit at Tad Gormley Stadium before battling another Catholic League opponent in Brother Martin on Sept. 9. A huge showdown takes place on Sept. 15 when the Eagles travel to Behrman Stadium to battle defending Class 5A state champion Landry-Walker.
After an open week, Easton battles another juggernaut in John Curtis at The Shrine on Airline.

“It is a heck of a start for us,” Phillips said. “We want to prepare the kids for district and for the playoffs. If we play good people early, it will really benefit us. If we can get some wins, it will really help us get power points and home games. Last week, we traveled three weeks ago in the playoffs and that is tough.”

District 9-4A play begins on Oct. 6 at Belle Chasse before the Eagles celebrate Homecoming on Sept. 14 against McMain. A trip to Hoss Memtsas to face Helen Cox follows.

The last two weeks of the season may define the Eagles in their run at a state title as they battle long-time rival McDonogh 35, now a non-district game, on Oct. 27 before hosting defending 4A state champion Karr in a district showdown on Nov. 2 in the regular season finale.

“The league is going to be tough,” Phillips said. “We bring in McMain and Helen Cox and I don’t know too much about them. We know Karr will be tough. The champ is the champ until someone beats them. It is strange to see 35 in a different district but we still want to play each other. It is a great rivalry for the kids and the fans and it gives us great competition.”

With a powerful offense and experience on defense, Warren Easton has a real shot at its first state title 75 years. What a story that would be!

“I feel we have a shot to win it all this year,” Phillips said. “That is the ultimate goal and we believe it can be done.”

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