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LaGrange's Anthony Johnson carries the ball past Yellowjackets Andre Brass (24) during the their game of the SPOT Therapy/Billy Navarre Chevrolet Jamboree at Sulphur High School in Sulphur, La., Friday, Aug. 24, 2018. (Rick Hickman/Lake Charles American Press)

Optimism should be high among most area high school football teams with a new season kicking off this week. Last week’s jamborees provided a peek at what could be in store this season. A few teams that struggled last season should feel good about reversing their fortunes this time around.

Here is a look at a few schools that have reason to be hopeful following last week’s showings.

LaGrange: Already facing an uphill battle as a school with a 4A enrollment that plays up in a tough 5A district, the Gators were also hit hard by the graduation cycle last season and must break in 17 new starters this season. A pair of senior stalwarts, Anthony Johnson and Jalen Dobson, had big plays for touchdowns in a 12-0 win over Iowa.

The defense forced a turnover and special teams produced a kickoff return touchdown by Johnson. Donte Dodd, a newcomer to football, gave the special teams an added boost with a touchback on a kickoff. The one area where inexperience did show was a slew of penalties, including a couple that took away big plays on offense.

Despite that, getting into the win column in head coach Marrico Wilson’s debut has to give the Gators confidence, which they will need with perennial state power Notre Dame visiting Mims Stadium Friday night.

Leesville: The Wampus Cats lost a couple of outstanding skill players in quarterback Chris Vargas and running back/receiver Andrew Croker, but started this season in style by putting up 33 points against Peabody. The program generated a ton of good momentum last season by winning the District 3-4A title and a playoff game. The offense gets a good test this weekend when they host Washington-Marion.

Washington-Marion: Speaking of the Charging Indians, a receiving corps decimated by a pair of transfers looked to be a weakness coming into the season, but junior William Carswell, an incoming transfer, changed that in a hurry, scoring a 69-yard touchdown on W-M’s first play from scrimmage and adding a 93-yarder later in the game. His ability to stretch the defense should make things easier for RB Carrington McClinton, who ran for over 1,300 yards last season.

The W-M defense shut out defending 2A champion Welsh and added a score of their own on an interception return by Ahmad Lee. The Charging Indians missed out on a playoff home game last season due to a 1-4 start, which included a total of two points scored over the first two weeks. This year W-M gets three home games in the first five weeks. Three of the four nondistrict games are against 4A teams, allowing W-M to build a good stash of power points with a few wins.

South Beauregard: The program’s best-ever streak of success came to a crashing halt last season when youth and inexperience led to a winless season. The Golden Knights lost to Westlake last week on a last-minute touchdown, but played pretty well on both sides of the ball.

The good Golden Knights teams ran the ball and were physical on defense. The new-look spread offense looked good with Colby Hollier at the helm. He ran for 74 yards against Westlake and could have been over 100 without a big run called back due to holding. Rams head coach Phil Fontenot commented on the physical play of the Knights’ defensive line after the game. After allowing a game-opening 17 yard run, SB held the Rams to 28 yards on 11 carries, including a big stop on a fourth down play with Westlake in the red zone.

A tough District 4-3A slate will make it difficult for the Golden Knights to pile up wins this season, but they will be competitive and should contend for a return to the postseason.

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