LaFleur Column: Jennings, Kinder deserve your support

By By Troy LaFleur / American Press

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 tlafleur@americanpress.com