The Walker football program has a new look to it with a renovated locker room and new sod on the field thanks to the help of the players who did much of the work. Now if only the Wildcats can shed the image of perennial losers.
Walker currently owns the state’s longest losing streak at 29 games. They finished 0-9 last season after a pair of 0-10 records.
“None of the players on this team have ever won a high school football game and some of them didn’t win a game in junior high,” second-year coach Mike Todd said. “That’s a tough thing to overcome. It’s not just about changing a workout or a locker room. It has to be about changing the culture. Sure, you have to get stronger, but you have to change how people think. The players have to believe they can win. We’re working on that.”
If anyone can make it happen, Todd may well be the man. In his first and only season as head coach at Baton Rouge Tara, Todd led his team to a 9-2 record while earning All-Metro Coach of the Year recognition. A native of Denham Springs, he took over at nearby Walker last season.
“When I look at where we are now and the things we’ve accomplished, I can tell you we’re light years ahead of last year,” Todd said. “Last year, we were trying to learn offensive and defensive systems during the season and that’s hard to do in the best circumstances.
“One big issue we had was trust. They (Walker players) have to be able to trust me and the other coaches. We’re getting to that point now.”
Walker boasts of 11 seniors, including wide receiver-turned-quarterback Chris Seese, who gained valuable experience during seven-on-seven drills. The offensive line returns five starters.
“I feel like we’re more on the same page,” lineman Ryan Parish said. “I’m more motivated to improve and I think other guys are, too. It’s up to us to set a good example.”
“I think our mind-set is different now,” linebacker Daniel Truxillo said. “We’re more focused and we understand what it’s going to take for us to be successful.”
Huntington having to adjust
If the only change Shreveport Huntington had to be concerned with was the move from Class 5A to 4A, things wouldn’t be too bad.
Instead, Huntington finds itself having to acclimate itself to a new coach after head coach Jerry Byrd Jr. was arrested after an altercation at a restaurant late last month. Anthony McClain, an 11-year assistant, has been overseeing practice.
"We're just trying to keep focused and trying to move on," McClain said. "We want to have fun, but we want to do right for the kids. That's first for me. Our focus is to play sound football and not make a whole lot of mistakes. In the spring, we were trying to win football games. In the summer, we were trying to win football games. It's the fall and we're still trying to win football games."
Huntington finished 4-6 overall and 3-5 in District 1-5A last season. It returns four offensive starters and a like number on defense. Huntington plans to simplify its offense with more emphasis on the run. A ball-control offense may also relieve pressure on a defense that yielded 385 points, which was the third-highest total in the district.
McClain said moving down to Class 4A should help Huntington, which fields around 40 players, with 30-35 regularly reporting to practice.
"I think it's fair for everyone in the state to play where their numbers are," McClain said. "Our numbers have been down in football even with us in 5A. We're glad we're not having to go deal with West Monroe, Ouachita and Ruston."
State powerhouses to scrimmage
Perennial powers West Monroe and Bastrop will face each other in a scrimmage scheduled for Aug. 21 at West Monroe’s Rebel Stadium. The two haven’t played since West Monroe won a non-district game in 1998, 41-0.
There is speculation that they could meet again in the annual Bayou Jamb next year and eventually in the regular season.
“There’s no reason not to play,” West Monroe coach Don Shows said. “It just depends on the fans. It’s just a football game. It’s not a matter of life and death.”
“If it goes all right, and there’s not a lot of animosity, let the kids play” Bastrop coach Ben Bradshaw said. “If they get into all this Internet stuff, and people stirring it up down there and up there, I don’t want a part of that.”
Despite reports to the contrary on the Internet, Shows and Bradshaw said they speak to each other and there is no animosity between them.
Avoyelles hires new coach
If Andy Boone can win a district game in his first year as Avoyelles' head coach, he’ll have made improvement.
Boone is taking over a program that finished 0-5 in District 3-3A last season and 1-8 overall. Boone replaced Matthew Carmouche, who resigned to become defensive coordinator at Alexandria Peabody. Carmouche also will serve as Peabody’s disciplinary chief. Boone was 4-6 at Cenla Christian Academy last season before being fired.
"I'm excited about the job because there's only one way to go, and that's up,” Boone said. “I think we can win some football games, but we're a little behind. I'm putting in an all-new offense and defense. It's tough. I'd like this to have been done five-six months ago. It's going to be a challenge."
Carmouche said his main reason for leaving was the opportunity to spend more time with his family. He said his new job will shorten his commute to and from work. He also said that Boone will have some enthusiastically skilled players.
“A lot of kids here are very athletic and eager to learn and work hard to build a program," Carmouche said.