DENHAM SPRINGS - Denham Spring senior outside linebacker Kaydon Berard decided to make his biggest statement against a 6-foot-6, 250-pound quarterback bound for Tigertown.
Two weeks ago, when the Yellow Jackets visited Ponchatoula and the state’s top quarterback T.J. Finley, an LSU commitment, Berard had a clear vision running through his head during that week’s preparation.
“I made it a priority that I had to at least get a sack and I got three,” Berard said. “I went into the game with the mindset that game that I had to prove myself.”
It also wasn’t far from the forethought of the Denham Springs defense, especially Berard, the damage Finley had inflicted upon the Yellow Jackets defense the previous year, throwing for more than 600 yards and seven touchdowns in a 64-63 road victory.
Denham Springs didn’t obtain its desired result, falling short in its rematch at Ponchatoula 31-24, but the Jackets’ defense yielded 325 total yards with 204 going to Finley through the air.
For Berard, it was mission accomplished with not only three sacks of one of the nation’s top quarterbacks, but a shining example to college recruiters who were uncertain about his ability as a defensive player.
“He’s doing everything we’ve asked him to do,” Denham Springs coach Bill Conides said. “The biggest thing is he’s taking coaching, doing what he’s been coached to do. He’s not trying to do his own thing. He’s bought into the system.”
Berard followed that performance in last week’s 17-13 comeback win over St. Amant with seven tackles, including another pair of sacks, to lead the Yellow Jackets (1-2) in that category for the season going into Friday’s homecoming matchup with Class 4A No. 10 Assumption (3-0) at 7 p.m.
The game will be broadcast beginning at 6 p.m. on Family Radio, 91.9 FM, Baton Rouge and on the Internet at JonFineProductions.com.
“If teams want to throw the football, they’re going to have to figure out a way to block him,” Conides said. “We have a hard-enough time trying to do it in practice. His talents are certainly on display.”
Conides believes because of his explosiveness, strength and build Berard – a 6-foot, 218-pounder – is better suited to play fullback or H-back in college.
The dilemma for college recruiters is that when they watch film of Berard, who was an outside linebacker a year ago with 64 tackles, 16 stops behind the line and four sacks, is that he’s still playing defense.
“If they don’t see it on tape, it’s kind of hard for them to project him on offense,” said Conides, who indicated Berard improved his ACT to 22. “He doesn’t fit the length that a lot of teams are looking for out of a rush defensive end. He may be able to play outside linebacker like (SLU signee) Davion (Nassri), it’s all about the system. If he keeps doing what he’s doing, it’s going to be hard for people not to notice him.”
Conides has had one central theme for Berard in which to operate: “Just keep doing what you’re doing. People are going to see you.”
Upon his arrival in the program four years ago, Berard began his career as a fullback who became a varsity starter for seven to eight games.
He was then switched to defensive end when Conides took over three years ago, sensing a greater need on defense where Berard played as a sophomore and outside linebacker as a junior.
“When coach said I was going to defense, I just said I wanted to play on the field,” Berard said “However I was going to get on the field, I was willing to do it. It wasn’t a shock to go back to defense. I always loved hitting people. It was something that came naturally.”
Berard earned first team All-Parish honors a year with greater aspirations for his final season, regardless of where he played in Denham Springs’ defense.
Berard created early momentum this year and further bolstered his confidence with a seven-tackle effort in the season opener against Hahnville that included a pair behind the line of scrimmage followed by his three-sack total against Finley.
“I was trying to prove to the recruiters that I could hang with the best,” Berard said. “That I could get to the best quarterback no matter what star rating he is. That I could sack him and change a game.”
The guy Conides said is nicknamed “Bull” is off to a terrific start. Berard, who is fifth on the team in tackles with 17 and tied with Tristen Duhe for sacks/tackles for losses, added to his performance against Ponchatoula with another seven stops last week against St. Amant, that included a sack and pair of stops for losses.
“All I’m doing my senior season is trying to show college recruiters I can make plays regardless of wherever you put me,” said Berard, who took part in summer camps at Louisiana Tech, Southeastern Louisiana and UL-Lafayette. “If you classify me as a defensive end or outside linebacker, I’m going to make a play.”