Last year was a coming out party for Orenthal Lewis, Jr. and the Lake Charles College Prep Trailblazers, who won the District 4-3A championship and advanced to the quarterfinal round of the playoffs.
Lewis led the way, running for 951 yards and earning District MVP honors.
"It was a breakthrough for us, we finally had things clicking, we finally jelled together as a team," Lewis said. "I thought we could be good after the spring game, then when we beat Rayne (in Week 2) it set the tone for the rest of the season."
The Rayne game, a 17-14 win a year after the Wolves beat Prep 47-6, was also a big one personally for Lewis. He gained 30 yards on four carries in the game's final drive to set up a game winning field goal by Edwin Gomez. Lewis also scored on a 32-yard run in the third quarter to start the Blazer comeback from a 14-0 deficit.
"I had a big game, some big runs to help keep us in the game," he said. "I embraced getting a bigger role in the offense last year, a leadership role, being able to put the team on my back, just going out and leading. I try to keep everybody focused, keep everybody's spirits up."
Lewis said his running style combines strength and speed.
"I would say I'm powerful, effective," he said. "I am a big back but I have speed. This offseason I'm working on improving my sideline-to-sideline game and running through tackles."
The Blazers feature a potent passing game led by returning quarterback Dylan Simon and receivers Glynn Johnson, Jaylen Joseph and Solomon Lewis, Orenthal's younger brother. Orenthal said he benefits from the Blazers' balanced attack.
"I think the passing game is going to be one of our biggest strengths," he said. "Our passing game is going to be good, that opens things up for me, keeps the defenses spread out and gives me more lanes to run through. We are balanced on both sides of the ball. Even though we lost a lot on defense, we are still solid. (Defensive backs) Kylin Andrus and Gabe Starland are going to breakout players. They know their assignments, they play hard and they are physical."
Lewis said he's enjoyed helping Prep establish itself as a winning program.
"I have enjoyed the journey, seeing where we came from," he said. "Four years ago we were nothing (the Blazers went 7-15 in Lewis's first two seasons) and now we're the top dog. This year I want to keep the team together, be more of a leader and personally to get to that 1,000-yard mark. I think our team can go as far as we want to go. We just have to keep working and grinding every week. Some weeks will be tough but we have to keep going. Starland and (offensive guard) Gabe Rankins will be good leaders for us. Rankins is big and physical, he's a mean dude. He commands respect."