It’s not often all three of Livingston Parish’s Class 5A teams qualify for postseason play in the same season.
Consider the 2017 season a highwater mark where Live Oak rode a wave of late-season momentum to its first state quarterfinal appearance – the best showing by a parish team in 32 years.
The process of reaching – or exceeding – such a finish in ’18 season began Monday with Live Oak and Walker both opening workouts in helmets and shorts.
Denham Springs begins on the first day of school – Aug. 8.
“I like going in the evenings in helmets,” Live Oak coach Brett Beard, who begins his fourth season with the Eagles. “You can get out of heat, get under the lights and it gives parents a chance to come out and watch us after work.”
Since all three members of District 4-5A participated in spring drills they’re not permitted under LHSAA rules to conduct fully-padded practices until Aug. 9.
Live Oak and Walker plan to gradually build after wearing helmets five days this week to three practices next week in helmets and shoulder pads until finally going in full gear.
“For us spring practice was important,” Walker coach Lester Ricard said. “We had a quarterback battle (between Christian Ard, Ethan McMasters and Landon Adams) and there’s still a quarterback battle. We needed that time to figure out what we are at that position and continue to get better as a football team.”
Said Denham Springs coach Bill Conides: “Shoulder pads go on first day of school. It will be a good way to get them fired up.”
Each team will gauge their progress through the month with scrimmages Aug. 16-17 followed by jamborees Aug. 23-24 and the start of the regular season Aug. 31.
If there was a consensus among all three coaches, they’re certainly looking forward to the rewards of a beneficial offseason/summer in the weight room.
Conides, now in his second season after a 6-5 mark, was complimentary of the overall development of not only his starters, but players in back-up roles as well.
“When you see kids that will now be starters making 200-300-pound jumps as a whole from end of the season, we’re excited,” he said. “We saw big-time gains in the weight room. We feel like in all facets of the game we’re going to have some strong kids who can get it.
“You like getting into a work environment where it’s not a drag and people are just going through the motions,” he said. “This is a really good place. It’s a really positive environment that we’ve created as coaches and the kids have helped facilitate.”
Ricard, also in his second season following a 6-5 record, credited the addition of strength and conditioning coach Cecil Thomas for improving the Wildcats’ numbers in the weight room.
“He’s made us significantly stronger than we were at any point last year,” Ricard said. “This is one of the strongest football teams I’ve been around in a long time. He does a tremendous job and the kids respect him.”
Ricard said Walker has 16 players that have accumulated 1,000 pounds in three total lifts, compared to two a year ago.
Another area that had Ricard beaming was the power clean/squat numbers – indicators of a team’s explosiveness – where only one player on the entire team didn’t squat 225 pounds.
“We’ve had a full offseason with Cecil, where there was only a summer with him last year,” Ricard said. “It’s been very impressive.”
Beard expects to follow a schedule next week where his team will practice three times in helmets/shoulder pads, have a workout in full gear Aug. 10 that will include a “light” scrimmage before giving the team off for the weekend.
The Eagles completed their testing July 25 to rave reviews from Beard, who said his team experienced a 95 % growth in every lift.
“Our kids don’t shy away from work,” he said. “They embrace the process in the weight room. They follow the system, they work the numbers and I tell them if they trust it, they’ll have good growth. This team’s overall pretty strong and I’m excited to see when they come together.”
AT A GLANCE
Aug. 16 – Live Oak at Franklinton, 6:00 p.m.
Aug. 17 – Denham Springs at Catholic, 5:00 p.m.; Walker at Comeaux, 6:00 p.m.
Aug. 23 - Dutchtown Jamboree
Denham Springs at Dutchtown, 6:00 p.m.
Aug. 24 – Live Oak Jamboree
Fontainbleau at Live Oak, 6 p.m.
Catholic at Walker, 7:30 p.m.