It starts off with a good amount of experience coming back with six returning starters on offense and seven on defense. The picture looks better on the defensive side, where there’s balanced talent in each area.
On the line, there’s two senior veterans with run-stopper Rodrigo Diaz and pass rusher Dylan Prejean. At linebacker, there’s last year’s combo of Khale Schexnayder and James Brown. And three return in the secondary with junior Luther Brooks being the newcomer.
The offense has seasoned halfback Trevin Kelly back, as well as a nice start to a steady offensive line with Dominique Williams moving from tight end to tackle to join left guard Ben Bertrand.
The biggest question is the health of three-year starting halfback Keshawn Young. Young suffered a shoulder injury in summer 7-on-7 drills and it’s possible he could miss much of the first half of the regular season.
That’s significant on several fronts. For starters, Young’s hard running will be missed, but also his potential replacements – such as LB Brown and SS Thaquan Priestley – could affect the defense.
On the offensive side, Dwight Youngblood takes over as a full-time starting quarterback for the first time.
His progress is crucial for the Lions. Not being a shifty runner, Youngblood will need to establish a passing game that hasn’t been a big part of the Lions’ offense in recent years.
If not, then the full impact of having two returning wide receivers won’t be as big and it’ll put more pressure on an offensive line with three new starters and a backfield that could be missing its top rushers for much of the season.
The passing game, though, could also get a lift from new junior tight end Hunter Merry, who figures to be more of a downfield threat than Williams was in recent seasons.
THE BOTTOM LINE
While some may say the Lions aren’t real close to contending, having not enjoyed a winning season since 2006, another perspective may indicate otherwise.
In going 4-6 last season, Lafayette High lost to district champion Carencro by four points, runner-up Barbe by seven points and to eventual state champion Acadiana High by three points.
Now with that team returning 13 starters, coach Jay Domengeaux’s Lions are hoping to be able to take that next step.
To do so, the passing game will need to be elevated and either Young must return soon, or his replacements will need to be productive.
The early-season schedule is conducive to a quick start, but LHS must figure out a way to win those close games in District 3-5A play.
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PLAYERS TO WATCH
Dominique Williams, OT, Senior: Played tight end the last two seasons and could end up playing some this year, but the plan is to anchor the Lions’ offensive line to provide a potent rushing attack and more pass blocking than usual.
James Brown, LB, Senior: Athletic linebacker who has battled injuries throughout his career, but appears to be primed for a fantastic finish to his high school career. Could also see a little time in the backfield this season.
Dwight Youngblood, QB, Senior: Not quite the running threat that most Mighty Lions quarterbacks tend to be, but should bring more raw passing skills to the table. With his height, Youngblood should be able to read defenses better than most and has the necessary arm strength.
Rodrigo Diaz, DL, Senior: Returns for his third season as a starter on the defensive line. Uses his skills as an All-Acadiana wrestler to fight off opposing offensive linemen to provide an excellent run-stopping force to the Lions’ defensive front.
Thaquan Priestley, SS-RB, Senior: Could end up being one of the most important performers on this year’s club. First, he’s a returning starter at strong safety. Secondly, he may have to get more carries in the backfield due to a key summer injury to Keshawn Young.
24 New Iberia
30 Sam Houston
2014 In Review
Overall Record: 4-6
Beat KAPLAN 16-0
Beat Opelousas 40-7
Beat ALEXANRIA 44-13
Lost Acadiana 15-12
Beat New Iberia 27-22
Lost BARBE 27-20
Lost Comeaux 28-6
Lost SULPHUR 42-35
Lost Sam Houston 42-21
Lost CARENCRO 21-17
Last five years
Projected Starting Lineup
*Denotes returning starter
WR Archie Ducote, Senior*
WR Jaelyn Price, Senior*
TE Hunter Merry, Junior
OT Dominique Williams, Senior*
OG Ben Bertrand, Junior*
C Evan Fisher, Senior
OG Michael LeBlanc, Senior
OT Briahn Auguillard, Senior
QB Dwight Youngblood, Senior
RB Trevin Kelly, Senior*
RB Keshawn Young, Senior*
DE Rodrigo Diaz, Senior*
DT Sean Hebert, Senior
DT John Sinegal, Junior
DE Dylan Prejean, Senior*
LB Khale Schexnayder, Senior*
LB James Brown, Senior*
LB Chance Anderson, Junior
CB Uche Utomi, Junior*
CB Luther Brooks, Junior
SS Thaquan Priestley, Senior*
FS Troy Williams, Senior*
FROM THE ARCHIVE
Former Lafayette High assistant coach Frank Barousse with his Mighty Lion defensive front in the early 1980s, led by standout linebackers Cedric Figaro, back left, and Randy Guidry, back right.