DENHAM SPRINGS – With a wide receiver group that graduated its top four players from a productive unit Denham Springs’ offense provides plenty of opportunity for aspiring receivers looking to get on the field for the 2019 season.
Consider senior Phillip Earnhart one such player.
Earnhart, who played junior varsity a year ago, continued his development throughout the spring and summer 7-on-7 Baton Rouge Metro Passing League with another solid outing Wednesday at Yellow Jacket Stadium.
“We’ve all been working hard, the entire team,” Earnhart said. “We’ve done everything together. I’ve been working hard to get a starting spot and to keep that.”
In the final installment of the June passing league, Earnhart was able to catch passes in a variety of areas of the field, including the team’s lone touchdown against Northeast. He finished with eight receptions for a team-high 105 yards.
“He’s a guy that’s waited his chance for an opportunity for four years now,” Denham Springs coach Bill Conides said of Earnhart. “He reminds me of Hunter Bond who had one year as a starter and he had a pretty good year last year. I think he’s going to have a great year for us.”
Without the services of senior quarterback Luke Lunsford, who remained sidelined by a stress reaction in his back, Conides gave the keys to his first team offense to three different quarterbacks in 20-minute games against Port Allen, Northeast and Ponchatoula.
Junior John McDaniel, who was with the Yellow Jackets No. 1 offense during the spring, took the majority of the snaps Wednesday and finished 20-of-33 for 210 yards with one score and no interceptions.
Sophomore Hayden Hand (2-4, 16 yards) and junior Thor Debetaz (2-6, 31 yards) each took a series during the matchup with Northeast but were unable to generate any touchdowns.
“You watch the other teams this last month, they’ve got one quarterback, maybe two,” Conides said. “We’ve got five guys at the quarterback position (including Lunsford and freshman Reese Mooney). Depth has been big for us. It’s great to see different kids in there.”
Preston Holwager matched Earnhart with eight catches, gaining 69 yards, while Alex Morrison added four receptions for 59 yards.
The reviews for Denham Springs’ offense may have been different had the Yellow Jackets navigated seven drives that stalled inside their opposition’s 20-yard line – including two at the 5-yard line.
“Makes it more difficult to throw the ball,” Conides said of the field becoming compacted closer to the goal line. “Unless you’ve got a 6-4 receiver that can jump, and we don’t have one of those types, it can be difficult to throw down there.”
Denham Springs’ defense held Port Allen on two plays from the 1-yard line but later yielded a touchdown on the final play from 16 yards out.
The Yellow Jackets allowed another score, this time against Northeast, on a pass that deflected off safety Hayden Horne and into the hands of a receiver in stride on first down from 45 yards out.
Horne responded on his team’s next series, matching up with a slot receiver that had motioned to the seam, and picked off a pass on second down to lead a defensive unit that didn’t permit another score the rest of the day.
Cornerback Josiah Raymond delivered a key breakup on fourth down against Ponchatoula, which was without LSU quarterback commitment T.J. Finley, while defensive end Kaydon Berard added an interception on first down of their final series.
McDaniel involved three different receivers during DSHS’ scoring drive against Northeast, finding Morrison for a key 20-yard grab on third down before connecting with Earnhart, a sprinter on the school’s track team, in stride on a 10-yard corner route for a TD.
“He was the quarterback in JV last year, so we’ve got a pretty good chemistry,” Earnhart said of McDaniel. “No matter whoever the quarterback is, we’re always going to have faith and trust in him to do what he’s got to do as long as he trusts me along with everybody else, to do what we have to do.”