A preview of things to come

Warren Arceneaux

Area high school stadiums are being repurposed for high school graduations this week, with many of the prep sports stars from the past school year turning the tassel and moving on to the next stage of their life.

It’s always sad to see the great ones go, and this year’s senior class had some special talents such as LaGrange’s Jeriah Warren, Lake Charles College Prep’s Dillon Simon, Barbe’s Jack Walker and Lake Arthur’s Deonna Brister.

Part of the charm of high school sports is that there is always a new crop of stars on the way. The recently completed spring sports brought in the biggest haul of state championship trophies I can recall.

Leading the way was a stable of talented underclassmen in the area, from Barbe softball stars Halie Pappon and Nyjah Fontenot to the Rosepine two-sport tandem of Ethan Frey and Grant Ducote who led the Eagles to their first baseball state title to track and field event winners Tristan Goodly of Westlake and Emma Freeman of St. Louis.

The games are on pause for a while, but there is plenty to pay attention to this summer before the next school year gets started.

Football recruiting

Trevonte Citizen and Trevor Etienne are among the state’s top-25 recruits. The Iowa duo of Crajuan Bennett and Curtis Deville have been piling up offers over the past few months.

Keshlon Jackson is the lone returnee from Lake Charles College Prep’s deep corps of receivers from the 2020 season, but the Blazers 2021 defense is loaded with college prospects, including junior defensive backs Joe Ward and Kevin Thomas. Offensive lineman Reginald Burks is another junior that has already received college offers.

The NCAA has lifted recruiting restrictions that were put in place in response to the COVID pandemic as of June 1. Recruits will now be able to visit campuses and meet with coaches in person. Greater contact and being able to see campuses firsthand, rather than on virtual visits, could spur summer commitments from prospects looking to get recruiting done before the new school year starts.

Gridiron returnees

A handful of area teams that sat out the 2020 football season are set to return to action. Elton decided to sit out due to a lack of players before the storms hit last year, but has new leadership in new head coach Marcus Lejeune. The Indians completed spring practice and appear set to go for the new season.

Barbe, LaGrange, Sam Houston and Washington-Marion all decided to sit out after the hurricanes. The Broncos and Charging Indians made coaching changes, with first time head coach Chad Davis taking over in Moss Bluff and veteran head coach Jules Sullen moving over from McNeese to lead the Charging Indian program.

Championship Central

Bidding for the state championship baseball and softball tournaments will be held again this summer.

Sulphur has held a vice-grip on the events since drawing them to Southwest Louisiana, hosting softball every year since 2001 and baseball every year since 2014, when all the classes/divisions were brought together at one site rather than being held across the state at different venues.

The quick rebound from the storms and easy handling of postponements following a stormy night at the baseball tournament should be strong selling points for the events to remain here.

Baseball draft

Scouts from several major league organizations visited Barbe this year to get a look at Walker, a Mississippi State signee. Sulphur grad Connor Cooke of UL-Lafayette earned first team all Sun Belt Conference honors and could also get a look as a draft-eligible junior. However, like last year, this year’s draft has been shortened.

While this year’s event will be 20 rounds, longer than last year’s five, it is only half the picks as the last full draft in 2019, which was 40 rounds. Recent restructuring of the minor leagues decreased the number of teams affiliated with major league organizations.

The lower number of rounds and fewer available roster slots in the minors both give the MLB teams more leverage in negotiations and could lead to unsatisfactory offers to prospects with college eligibility.

Warren Arceneaux covers high school athletics. Email him at warren.arceneaux @americanpress.com””Warren ArceneauxAmerican Press

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