Blanchard takes the reigns of Patterson football program
The 2014 Patterson High School Football team (Submitted Photo/Courtesy of Wade Gussman)
The Patterson Lumberjacks have to get solid performances from several young players in order to make a run to the Dome in 2014.
Patterson (10-3 last season) also had a change on the sidelines when longtime head coach Tommy Minton retired before moving on to take over at Central Catholic High School. The Patterson administration didn’t have to look far, naming longtime assistant Chad Blanchard to the head coach position.
“I think the transition has gone well,” Blanchard said. “But obviously, there are some things that even after 22 years of being an assistant you can’t learn until you’re in the hot seat. I’m very excited for this opportunity, but it’s a big plus that I been around this program for so long. I’ve actually coached some of our freshmen’s fathers. We haven’t changed much. I know all the success Tommy (Minton) had, and it would be foolish to change that.”
One trend that hadn’t plagued Patterson, like other area schools, is players.
But even the mighty ’Jacks will dress fewer players this season. Patterson has 62 players on the roster while last season’s team opened the season with 79.
“Our numbers aren’t great, but they’re still pretty decent,” Blanchard said. “We’ve got pretty small sophomore and freshmen classes, but our junior and senior classes are big and they have playing experience.”
The ’Jacks may be a little light on bodies but they’re not short on talent. Expect to see the Patterson offense among the state’s best again this season.
“We have a lot of talent on that side of the ball,” Blanchard said. “If everyone plays like they’re capable of, then this could be a special group.”
At quarterback, Sirbatian Charles takes over for Spencer Landry, who in his senior season a year ago earned District 9-3A Offensive MVP honors. He also was an honorable mention selection on the Louisiana Sports Writers Association Class 3A All-State team and a Louisiana Football Coaches Association Class 3A All-State second team pick a year ago.
Charles, a junior, was expected to see playing time last season but was injured early.
“Sirbatian has been in our system for three years now and he understands what we are doing and what we want from him,” said Blanchard, who was the Lumberjacks’ offensive coordinator before taking over as head coach.
“He’s super competitive, he’s sharp and he can do some things in the run game that we haven’t seen in a while,” Blanchard said. “He’s a good football player, and he allows us to open up our entire playbook and he also makes good decisions.”
Sophomore Dillan Giandelone will back up Charles.
“Dillan is also very intelligent and a good decision maker, so if we need him, I expect him to perform,” Blanchard said.
The ’Jacks have arguably the best tandem of wide receivers in the country. Senior Daylon Charlot, an Alabama commit, is ranked No. 15 in Nola.com/The Times-Picayune’s Nifty 50 players in the state. He holds other major college offers, according to Rivals.com and 247Sports.com
Charlot earned first-team Louisiana Sports Writers Association Class 3A All-State honors, junior honorable mention All-American honors from Student Sports and was a first-team All-District 9-3A selection a year ago.
“Daylon has been productive for us since he stepped on campus,” Blanchard said. “His biggest strength is his strength. He has strong hands, he’s physical and that’s why he’s a matchup problem for every team we play.”
The other blue chip recruit at receiver is junior Mykel Jones. Jones also has offers from around the college football universe, including LSU, Florida State, Tennessee, Arizona State, USC and UCLA, among others, according to Rivals.com. and 247Sports.com
He currently ranks No. 9 in the Class of 2016, according to NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune’s rankings.
“Mykel understands everything going on around him on the football field; therefore, he knows how to get open,” Blanchard said. “He also does a great job with the football after he catches it.”
Jones was named first-team All-District 9-3A as a sophomore as well as an honorable mention Louisiana Football Coaches Association selection and a sophomore second-team All-American by MaxPreps.
Jones was named to the CBS Maxpreps Preseason junior All-American football team.
Expect to see a lot of juniors D.J. Jones and Nehemiah Augustus in the slot receiver position for Patterson.
“Both of those kids will play on both sides of the ball,” Blanchard said. “They’re very explosive players, and we need them on the field to be at our best.”
Senior Taylor Verdin will play tight end, while junior Shay Ragas also will be in the mix at wide out.
Others expected to see playing time at outside are sophomores Jordan Butler, K’hyri Harris, Brandon Ramagos and De’Sabrian Benjamin.
Other graduates from the 2013 receiving corps who earned first- or second-team district honors included tight end Jedrick Gunner, a first-team selection; and Rene Maillet, a second-team pick.
Sophomore Matthew Dardeau and senior Malik Bass will split time in the backfield at fullback.
The bulk of the Patterson ground game will fall this year on a platoon of running backs led by senior John Davis and juniors Tristen Ausama and D.J. Jones. Ausama was a second-team all-district selection at running back a year ago.
“Tristen played a whole lot for us last year,” Blanchard said. “He has good vision and he understands the blocking schemes, while John has played both offense and defense for us. He’s a good solid back; he doesn’t try to do too much. He just picks up yardage, while D.J. has explosive speed and he’ll see time at running back and receiver.”
Lost from last year’s backfield due to graduation is first-team all-district selection Deontay Jones.
Patterson returns four starters on the offensive line. Junior Jayce Leblanc moves from guard to center. Senior Clay Benoit will man the left guard, while senior Keith Gray will be the right side guard. The most seasoned player on the offensive line is Bass, a right tackle. Junior Sean Stewart will replace Landon Thomas, who had signed with McNeese State during his senior year. Thomas earned first-team all-district and Louisiana Football Coaches Association Class 3A All-State honorable mention honors in 2013.
Leblanc and Gray were second-team All-District selections a year ago.
“They’re a really good unit,” Blanchard said of his offensive line. “They are close, they’re hard workers and we expect a lot of them because of their experience.”
Others expected to see time on the offensive line are juniors Charlie Kelly (a Dutchtown High transfer), Jbriaan Johnson and Tyrik Singleton.
Also lost to graduation from a year ago was first-team All-District selection Kevin Merritt.
Patterson’s biggest concern on the defensive going into the spring was defensive line and the secondary, which took big graduation hits.
“But we had some young guys that really stepped up and had a good spring,” Blanchard said.
Earl Johnson returns to anchor the defensive line, while Singleton, Kelly, sophomore Tyric Garrett and junior Jaylon Antoine will be in the mix.
Johnson was a second-team All-District selection a year ago for the Lumberjacks.
Others in the defensive line rotation include senior Carlos Turner, sophomore Aarion Hartman and junior Raymond Lugo.
Gone from a year ago is Matt Tregle, who earned first-team All-District honors and now is a walk-on offensive lineman at Nicholls State University.
Bass, a second-team all-district selection a year ago, will be the middle linebacker and make all the defensive calls.
“He a very explosive and instinctive football player,” Blanchard said. “And he’s a terror on our special teams.”
Junior Blake Dreyer and sophomore Dariont’e Brown also will see time in the middle of the ’Jacks’ new 3-4 defense.
“We’re still going to play some man-to-man like we did in the past, but we will play more zone now,” Blanchard said.
The outside linebackers are Davis, Augustus and senior Shundren Johnson.
Augustus, a junior, was a second-team Louisiana Football Coaches Association All-State selection last season at rush defensive end as well as a first-team All-District selection. He’s getting a ton of attention from college recruiters.
“By playing him at outside linebacker, we have the ability to do a lot of different things he’s good at,” Blanchard said. “He’s a very special player.”
Davis and Johnson both had strong spring campaigns, according to Blanchard.
Gone from last year’s linebacking corps is Taylor Harris.
Ragas, a first-team all-district selection a year ago, returns at one corner while senior Devontre Richard will be on the other side.
“They’ve picked up the new stuff very well, and they’re both real good athletes,” Blanchard said. “Shay played a ton last year, but Devontre has bided his time and earned his shot to be a starter.”
Giandelone and D.J. Jones will be the starting safeties. Both are new to the position.
Kendall Hunter, a second-team all-district defensive back a year ago, graduated.
Shundren Johnson will do the punting for Patterson, while sophomore Christian Soria kicks.
In addition to Minton retiring, the Lumberjacks’ assistant coaching staff also has changed. Tommy Boudreaux returns to Patterson as the offensive line coach. Boudreaux was at Vandebilt Catholic and Central Lafourche the last couple years. He coached on the last Patterson Dome team in 2010.
Jonathan Baumann will work with the receivers this year after coordinating the running backs last season. Jeff Sanders will take over the running backs, while Wardell Johnson and Garrett Grogan will work with all the skilled positions.
“I will stay on the offensive side of the ball; I will still call it,” Blanchard said. “I’ve always enjoyed doing it, so I’m going to do it until I don’t.”
Mark Millet remains at the helm of the defense while Patterson has several former ’Jacks on the sideline. Carlon Butler, C.L. Grogan, Grant LaGrange, Tyler Olivier and Jared Ross are ’Jacks assistant coaches.
“Those guys are key for us,” Blanchard stressed. “They were where these kids are not too long ago, and most of them played college ball so they can really relate and motivate our kids.”
Patterson opens the season Sept. 5 hosting Brother Martin.
Additional reporting by The Daily Review Sports Editor Geoff Stoute.