CCHS looks to replace big senior class
By GEOFF STOUTE
Anyone who skims the field at the Central Catholic Eagles’ football games this season will see some new faces or familiar ones at different positions.
That’s what happens when a team must replace 12 seniors, including current Southern wide receiver Dontrell Brown and current Nicholls State University cornerback Josh Singleton.
Both, along with others such as Luke Landry and Lamar Grogan were key contributors for Central Catholic who have since graduated and must be replaced by some of the current group of 36 Eagles on this fall’s roster.
“(We) got to get some people to step up,” Central Catholic coach David Fuhrer said earlier this month.
However, Fuhrer said that he knows that the Eagles have players that are ready to step up.
“I think we had a real good summer in the weight room and running,” he said.
This year, the Eagles also will face a different dimension heading into their season as they already know they will make the playoffs.
When the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s member principals voted in January to divide high schools into select and non-select groups for the prep football playoffs — basically a split of public (non-select) and private (select) schools for the postseason — it set in motion a series of changes that now includes every select school qualifying for the playoffs.
In Division IV (Class 1A) that means Central Catholic will be one of 30 schools that automatically will make the playoffs where they will battle each other for a select-school championship.
Even if Central Catholic was a non-select school, though, the squad still would make the playoffs as there are currently 27 Class 1A schools that are non-select, meaning they will all make the playoffs as well.
Class 1A is the only one out of the five football-playing classes where every team will make the postseason.
But before he can get to the postseason, Fuhrer and the rest of the Eagles must worry about the regular season and finding starters to fill various holes.
Central Catholic will look to senior Nick Case to fill its void at quarterback for Landry, the dual-threat first-team All-District 8-1A selection a year ago.
This year, Central Catholic will still run its spread offense but also will be using some Pro I formation, something the squad did in years past.
“(Assistant) Coach (Ree) Case and I talked about it and I think it kind of fits our personnel,” Fuhrer said. “We still have some spread personnel, but we would also like to try and get in that I-formation with the running game and also to be multiple.”
Others who are receiving reps at quarterback for Central Catholic include sophomore Stefano Guarisco, senior Tyler Hoffpauir and junior Garret LeBlanc.
Central Catholic will have multiple running backs this year looking for playing time, including Guarisco, senior Eriq Blanchard, junior Logan Arias and freshmen Blake Byrne and Sydney Holder.
Fuhrer said all of the above candidates at running back were doing well in preseason practices.
From a year ago, Central Catholic lost second-team all-district running back Josh Protti to graduation.
At fullback, the Eagles will look to LeBlanc and sophomore TJ Ruffin.
However, Fuhrer said any of his running backs could see time at fullback and vice versa.
The versatility among skill players also gives Central Catholic options.
“We can go to any formation with the guys being so versatile,” Fuhrer said.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Central Catholic must replace the contributions of Brown and Singleton, all-state selections a year ago.
This year’s group of wide receivers includes Hoffpauir, a second-team all-district selection a year ago, freshman Jalen Johnson, junior Charlie Barron, Guarisco, sophomore Charlie Solar and junior Matthew Barbier.
At tight end, the Eagles will be looking to senior Chaz Galloway and sophomore Tanner Wiggins. The tight end position will be used in the Eagles’ Pro I formation.
Among the Eagles that must be replaced on the offensive line include Zach Aucoin, a second-team all-district offensive tackle, who graduated last year.
The Eagles enter this year without a lot of depth, but do return first-team all-district center and senior Collin Conner as well as senior Joe Michel, both starters a year ago. Junior Kyle Autin, who received some playing time a year ago, also returns.
Others vying for playing time on the Eagles’ offensive line include sophomore Cole Baker, freshman Mitchell Lemoine and junior John Parker.
“The other guys need to step up and grow up quick,” Fuhrer said.
Fuhrer said all of these linemen could play at any of the five positions.
Central Catholic’s base defense will be a 3-4, but squad could play four men on the defensive line.
As for what must be replaced, Central Catholic will be looking to fill holes left by defensive linemen and graduates, David Brown and Grogan.
Vying for playing time on this year’s defensive line include Galloway, Conner, Michel, Ruffin and Autin. Fuhrer said each of these players could see time at any of the defensive line’s positions.
Despite the losses of Brown and Grogan, Fuhrer said his squad does have some experience on the defensive line.
“Most of those guys played,” he said. “They may not have been the starters, but they played a lot on the defensive line.”
Fuhrer called linebacker a “question mark” because the only returning starter from a year ago is first-team all-district linebacker Garret LeBlanc, who returns to his inside linebacker spot. Fuhrer said LeBlanc will be looked upon to help the other inside linebackers.
Losses from last year include first-team all-district linebacker Justin Arceneaux to graduation and second-team all-district selection Sage Thibodeaux.
Along with LeBlanc at the inside position, others looking for playing time include sophomores Patrick Barron and Wiggins and Blanchard.
At the outside linebacker spot, the Eagles are looking at Holder, Johnson, Solar and Parker.
The Eagles will enter this season looking to replace defensive backs Dontrell Brown and Singleton, both first-team all-district performers a year ago in the defensive backfield.
However, the squad does return Guarisco, a second-team all-district performer at defensive back.
Guarisco, along with Arias, is expected to see time at cornerback, while Charlie Barron, Hoffpauir, Byrne and Barbier are candidates at safety.
“We’re not bad off in the secondary,” Fuhrer said. “I think we have some depth and experience that comes back there.”
Barbier, a second-team all-district selection at kicker a year ago, returns to man the kicking position, while at punter, the Eagles will be looking to replace Singleton, a first-team all-district selection, with either Barbier or Case.
In the return game, the Eagles will be looking at Guarisco and Arias at kick returner and Arias, Guarisco, Hoffpauir and Johnson as punt returner.
The Eagles’ schedule includes nondistrict games against Class 2A Loreauville in week 1 and Class 3A Lusher Charter and E.D. White in weeks 2 and 3, respectively.
“I think in those first three weeks we have our work cut out for us, so we’re going to have to be very prepared going into those weeks,” Fuhrer said.
The Eagles then will start District 8-1A play, which in addition to the usual opponents in Gueydan, Ascension Episcopal, Vermilion Catholic and Hanson, also will feature Highland Baptist and Lafayette Christian.
Add to the equation that both Ascension Episcopal and Hanson have new head coaches this year, Fuhrer said it is like having four new teams in the district.
Central Catholic will have one more nondistrict game late in the season when it faces Metairie Park Country Day in week 9.
The Eagles will participate in Patterson’s portion of the St. Mary Parish Jamboree Thursday before opening its regular season Sept. 6 at home against Loreauville.