DENHAM SPRINGS – Through the first four weeks of the season, Denham Springs has run the gamut of emotions.
The latest sensation? Heartbreak.
“They were pretty down, you had to pick them up,” Denham Springs coach Bill Conides said of his team at Sunday’s workout. “I had to tell them, ‘we’ve still got our whole season ahead of us’”.
That starts with Friday’s final non-district game as Denham Springs (1-3) hosts Westgate (3-1) of New Iberia at 7 p.m. with the start of District 4-5A play a week away.
The game can be heard, starting with the pregame at 6 p.m. on Family Radio, 91.9 FM, Baton Rouge and on the Internet at JonFineProductions.com.
One of the bigger challenges facing Denham Springs is the ability to put last week’s 40-34 homecoming setback against Assumption in its rearview mirror.
The Yellow Jackets believed they were in control through 42 minutes of play with a 34-18 lead after Cameron Beall’s 46-yard field goal.
Then disaster struck.
Undefeated Assumption rallied with three long-distance touchdown passes covering a total of 229 yards, including the game-winning score with 29 seconds remaining in the game – capping a stretch of 22 unanswered points.
Denham Springs’ last gasp effort ended inside of Assumption’s 10-yard line on an interception on the game’s final play.
“You don’t necessarily want to put the game behind you and be, ‘oh just flush it’,” Conides said. “You don’t to do that. You want to be able correct mistakes. You want to be able to see specific things. Ultimately, it’s being able to take those things and learn from those mistakes and not make them again.”
Conides applauded the play of his senior-laden offensive line and tight ends for unlocking the key to the team’s running game for the first time this season.
With freshman Cam’Ron Kelly (23-94) and Jaylen Jenkins (13-64) leading the way, the Yellow Jackets rushed 48 times for 207 yards.
“It’s nice that we’ve established the run,” Conides said. “It took us a few weeks but we’re right where we want to be. That’s good because in order to be successful in this district you have to run the ball. We understand that our strong suit is our offensive line and we need to allow them to do what they do best, which is run the football.”
One of the challenges Conides issued during the week of practice was aimed at his secondary, which allowed Assumption to get receivers behind coverage and score touchdowns of 78, 58 and 93 yards in the last 5 minutes, 30 seconds of the game.
By contrast, the Yellow Jackets permitted four catches for 19 yards in the first half against the Mustangs.
Heightening that test is a quick-strike Westgate offense which averages 33 points per game and has twice reached the 50-point plateau. The Class 4A Tigers feature a pair of Division I-bound wide outs in LSU commitment Kayshon Boutte (11-270, 3 TDs) – the state’s No. 2 overall prospect by 247 Sports – and Kansas State commitment Makholven Sonn (14-194, TD) – the state’s No. 45 prospect.
“I want them to prove to people that they can play really well, stop the pass, and this is a great opportunity to show who they really are,” Conides said of his secondary. “I told them they’re going to have to check themselves real quick, put the past behind and get ready for this challenge. This is probably the most athletic team we’ll see all season.”
Last week’s last-minute setback’s the latest for a DSHS team that was intercepted in the end zone at Ponchatoula in a 31-24 loss and managed to rally the following week with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes from quarterback Luke Lunsford for a 17-13 win over St. Amant.
“They’ve seen it all,” Conides said. “I don’t think there’s anything they’re going to encounter that they hadn’t already seen which is good for a young, inexperienced team.”