(American Press Archives)
American Press high school sports reporter Troy LaFleur.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 04, 2013 7:51 PM
Thirteen weeks of high school football have flown by and Southwest Louisiana now has just a pair of teams remaining in the state playoffs.
Last week Barbe and DeRidder made their grand exits by way of state powerhouses Acadiana and Neville, respectively, meaning that there are no Class 5A or 4A teams left from the area. Instead, local fans must now turn to 3A Jennings and 2A Kinder to keep their hopes of bringing a state championship home to Southwest Louisiana.
The loss of Barbe means we will no longer see Kennon Fontenot and Trey Quinn on a football field, and from DeRidder we lose running back D’Angelo Reder and the area’s best defense. That doesn’t mean all of the star power has disappeared, though, you just have to look a little harder to find that Jennings and Kinder both provide ample amount of athletic talent and in fact may have bigger stables of playmakers than anyone else.
When the postseason began I made the bold prediction of saying that both the Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets would be standing at midfield in the Superdome come Dec. 13. In that column I listed reasons such as their past victories and upcoming playoff opponents, but didn’t delve into what each team brings to the field in terms of players.
From Jennings, one name sticks out more than most others and that is wide receiver/cornerback Malik Williams, who has made himself known as one of the best all-around players in the area.
He has started every game for the Bulldogs since first stepping onto the field at Simmons Stadium his sophomore year and will start his 40th consecutive game Friday night. This season he has caught 32 passes for 726 yards and 11 touchdowns. That is only a small portion of what he is capable of as he also remains one of the area’s best defensive and special teams players.
South Beauregard fans are sure to remember Williams after he shut down the Golden Knights in Week 7. In that game he caught touchdown passes of 19 and 79 yards, blocked an extra point and a field goal, and returned an interception 64 yards for a touchdown.
Getting the ball to Williams all season has been quarterback Kaleb Chaisson, a junior who has more than made a name for himself this season.
Chaisson has completed 60 percent of his passes for 1,492 yards and 17 touchdowns. He isn’t just a threat through the air as has also picked up 316 yards and seven touchdowns with his feet.
Defensively the Bulldogs have always been known for having one stalwart player who stands head and shoulders above most everyone in their district. Some of you may remember defensive back Keagan Deville and linebacker Keagan Myers from the past five years. But this season Williams has shared the glory with multiple players, including linebackers Ronnie Courville and Brett Fontenot.
Fontenot, a junior, finished the 10-game regular season with 111 total tackles to finish second in District 4-3A in the category.
At Kinder, playing both sides of the ball is a much more common theme, as it is at most small schools, and the Yellow Jackets have plenty of talent to go around.
Senior Khalil Leblanc ranked second among District 4-2A receivers and plays just as vital a role defensively at cornerback where he locked up the Jackets’ position in the state semifinals last week with a big interception in the game’s final minute.
While Leblanc does a lot of work out wide and in the secondary for Kinder, it has been junior Welles Cooley who has stepped up to become the secret weapon.
Cooley doesn’t receive a majority of the touches in the passing or running games offensively, but when he does get the ball in his hands everyone in the stadium had better hold on to their seats because it has become a common occurrence to see No. 15 streaking his way down the sideline.
Cooley has rushed for 426 yards and five touchdowns with an average of more than 7 yards per carry and has caught 18 passes for 304 yards and five touchdowns. He also plays a big role in the secondary.
Joining Leblanc and Cooley on both sides of the ball is senior Trenton Kirklin, who serves as one of the district’s best linemen while serving as the team’s placekicker.
As for primarily offensive players, Kinder has leaned heavily on running back Jordan Vickers and quarterback Austin Pickle.
Vickers has rushed for 1,174 yards and 14 touchdowns on 177 carries. Pickle has rushed for 483 yards and 12 touchdowns while completing 56 percent of his passes for 969 yards and 15 touchdowns.
If you are a true high school football fan you may have to go a little bit off the beaten path to cheer for Jennings or Kinder, but it is well worth it as both teams have a good chance of making it to the state championship game and winning it all. But you won’t know what these special athletes are all about unless you get out and see them for yourself.
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Troy LaFleur covers high school athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted By: Jimmy LaBuff Jr. On: 12/9/2013
Title: Thanks Troy!
Troy, thanks for supporting Kinder! We all thought ourselves that we would have a down cycle year with losing some awesome seniors from last year. We started with a new coach also. Brett Fueslier has done an amazing job coming in fresh. That's difficult to do. You are spot on about the players! Both offense and defense do well. Next year we also aim to be just as stong with many kids returning. Thanks again for the support! Shout Out to nephew Welles Cooley#15!!!!!