After staying the course during a rough season last year, the LaGrange Gators have turned things around, snapping a 15-game losing streak with a pair of wins and finding themselves atop the District 4-4A standings.
The Gators (2-3) will travel Friday to Welsh for a nondistrict game before finishing the regular season with three district games.
Head coach Marrico Wilson said there's a different mood within the program since its first win of the season, a 32-21 win over Lake Charles College Prep. After having a game against Opelousas canceled by lightning, the Gators won their district opener last week, beating North Vermilion 32-14.
"The mood is different with the coaches and the kids," he said. "There is a different demeanor in the weight room, in the film room, on the field and off the field. As a staff, I think we all knew we were slowly turning the corner after the Sam Houston game (a Week 2 loss). After the Sulphur game (a 27-25 loss in Week 3), we knew we were right there. The big thing is the kids never quit."
The Gators broke into the win column in style, defeating LCCP, which reached the Class 3A quarterfinals last year. Quintorious Jones ran for a touchdown and threw for three more in the game. On the season, he has eight rushing touchdowns, six TDs passing and 787 yards of offense. He has scored at least one rushing touchdown in each game. "That's crazy because I don't like running," Jones said. "I like to get my team involved."
Jones said the Gators recommitted to the game and that has led to the success.
"The biggest difference this year is effort," he said. "That's it — effort and dedication to the game. (Ending the losing streak) felt good, like we were coming together. We finally figured out what we needed to do as a team."
Jones has been passing down lessons from last year's senior class.
"The game has slowed down for me and I have become a leader for other players," he said. "I know what to do and what my team expects of me. I think my strengths are leadership, getting to know everyone and breaking down the things they don't get right away so they understand.
"I learned from (current McNeese State defensive back) Anthony Johnson and Jalen Dobson, a bunch of other guys from last year I could name. They taught me to keep pushing through any situation."
Jones said the Gators are physical on both sides of the ball.
"I think our biggest strengths are running the ball and coming together as a team," he said. "The whole offensive line showed up and stepped up. Defensively, we always hit people in the mouth first and make a statement that we are here."
The Gators have not made the playoffs since 2016 and have not won a postseason game since 2014. Jones said he thinks this team can end those streaks.
"I just want to win and get as far as we can go," he said. "We have the talent, but we have to get discipline. I know that we can do it."
Wilson said the Gators have had many players step into larger roles.
"It starts with the defense," Wilson said. "We've played well up front, rotating six or seven guys. The secondary has come around since the Sulphur game. Offensively, we are still having some missed assignments, but we are really firing off the ball. Jones is running the ball well; we are working on going through his progressions in the passing game.
"Malik Bertrand (276 yards, 2 TDs) has stepped in for Chad Victorian and carried the load running the ball. When Chad gets back we'll have a double-edged sword."
Wilson said the team isn't getting carried away with its recent success.
"We are going week by week," he said. "Our ultimate goal is the win the district; right now we are on top with Rayne (both are 1-0 in district). We have to stay humble, work on our discipline and on finishing games."