SWLA Coach of the Year: A little help from friends Assistants, community support Grand Lake’s efforts to thrive

Warren Arceneaux

Athletic Director Scott Miano was convinced Grand Lake could eventually win big in football if he could find a man with the right plan.

Shortly after hiring Jeff Wainwright before last season Miano, who also serves as offensive line coach, knew he had found the leader the program needed after a 1-8 season in 2018.

“It took two weeks,” Miano said. “We work year-round. He was out there cutting grass with me. He had a plan for the future. He has a lot of energy and was very positive. We needed positive energy when he came in. He is always ready for the next thing. I knew pretty quick he could have good success here.”

Wainwright’s debut season ended with the program’s first playoff win. The Hornets made another big leap this season, finishing as Class 1A state runner-up and winning eight of 10 games.

“We knew we had a good team coming in, but this caught me by surprise,” Miano said. “I thought it would take five or six years to get to that stage.”

Miano said Wainwright has a good reputation and has lived up to it in his two years at the school.

“He has always been successful, easy to get along with and had a reputation of being good to work with and work for,” Miano said. “In the interview he asked the right questions. He had a plan for everything — one for fundraising, one for weight lifting, an offensive plan, a defensive plan — and he was able to adapt plans that worked at other schools to our situation. He was very organized.”

The ability to adjust on the fly and provide structure came in handy as the Hornets had to deal with COVID-19 and extensive damage from Hurricanes Laura and Delta.

“Half the coaching staff was living out of town the whole season,” Miano said. “We never had a meeting at school, they were all over Zoom. When we came to school for the first day of practice the National Guard was based in our field house, passing out water and ice.”

Hayes Picou, an assistant coach at South Cameron High during Wainwright’s playing days, came out of retirement to serve as his defensive coordinator at Grand Lake.

“I’ve worked with him since he was a little boy, and went to Sulphur with him to coach the kickers,” Picou said. “He was a good player, good leader and exciting to watch.

“As a coach, he is well-versed in football, always prepared, makes a good plan for every game and has good relationships with all of the coaches and young men on the team.”

Wainwright is at his best before Friday night.

“What he does best is preparation,” Picou said. “He has the kids prepared, the coaches prepared. He notices little things others might overlook. He is a good speaker and motivator.”

Picou was impressed his first week with the Hornets.

“The first day I came here I told Jeff I had never seen kids who were so coachable, never questioned what you wanted them to do,” he said. “They wanted to know where to go, what to do and how to do it correctly. This year we started to shine.

“The kids played as a unit. Team players, hard workers; no one was a ‘me, me, me’ guy. They believed in each other and worked together as a team. When you asked them to do something, they did it.”

Other members of the staff are special teams/secondary coach Kerry Morrison, running backs coach Andrew Dietz, receivers coaches Jason Mouton and Tyler Alton and defensive line coach Ancil Delaney.

Picou said parents and fans made the season a special one under tough circumstances.

“The support was unbelievable,” Picou said. “We never had a complaint or a problem with a parent all season. The kids needed that support and they felt it. They were more disappointed they didn’t win at state because they wanted to win it for the fans.”In his second year at the helm, Jeff Wainwright guided Grand Lake through a pandemic and two hurricanes to get the Hornets to their first appearance in the Class 1A state championship game, Dec. 28, in Natchitoches.

Rick Hickman / American Press

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