Continuity is key to any successful team, and Holy Cross will be far better equipped on that front this year heading into its second season under the direction of Guy LeCompte.
After spending 11 years at Mandeville from 2006-2017, LeCompte officially became the Tigers’ head coach on July 1, which didn’t leave an abundance of time to prepare for the 2018 season.
Despite the less-than-ideal circumstances to start, the Tigers still finished 7-3 during the regular season before falling to St. Augustine in the opening round of the Division I playoffs. They’re now hoping to build and improve on last year’s success with a full offseason under their belts.
“It’s a lot better to have an offseason,” LeCompte began. “You get to know the guys a little bit better, you get to know what their assets are and their strengths and weaknesses. You get to meet the coaching staff and spend a year with those guys and we can all get on the same page, so I would anticipate a much better year.”
Holy Cross certainly has the talent to improve on last year’s finish with a host of returning players on both sides of the ball, and the offense looked particularly sharp in the team’s preseason intrasquad scrimmage on Friday making a handful of big plays.
Junior quarterback John Dade Wooton saw some playing time last year as a sophomore and is now heading into his first season as the starter. The 6-foot-3, 175-pounder has plenty of weapons surrounding him including a trio of talented tailbacks.
Junior Jaden Handy returns to lead the group after finishing 14th in the regular season in rushing last year with 988 yards and seven touchdowns on 160 carries. Celven Hulbert also returns for his senior season after recovering from an ACL injury and junior cornerback-turned-running back Amiri Franklin may have had the best day of any player in Friday’s scrimmage.
Tulane offensive lineman commitment Josh Remetich will be paving the way for the group and 3-star receiver Tyler Kirkwood returns for his final season along with junior Jalen Johnson and seniors Paul Johnson Jr., Christian Calamari and Alondre Wells on the perimeter.
“It makes it a lot easier knowing you can trust the guys around you,” said Wooton, who completed 55 of his 90 passes for 637 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions last regular season. “It’s going to be a really good year and it makes my job a lot easier knowing I’ve got guys I can trust.”
“That’s my guy,” Kirkwood said of Wooton. “We’ve got classes together and I’ll tell him how we’re going to do this (or that). We run routes after practice, we do extra stuff outside of school and whenever we have free time me and him do our own thing. Sometimes it’s with the other receivers too when they’re around, but most of the time it’s just me and him.”
Wooton and Kirkwood’s close relationship could lead to an even more productive season for both. Kirkwood, who holds offers from Houston, Boston College, Louisiana Tech, Memphis and Mississippi Valley State, finished eighth in the metro area last regular season with 819 yards and eight touchdowns on 50 catches.
Numbers like that might lead one to believe Kirkwood is dominating at practice, but he says that’s not the case against an improved defense.
Senior linebacker and Louisiana Tech commitment Tyler Grubbs is the leader of the group, and junior tight end-turned-defensive end Barryn Sorrell (6-foot-3, 225 pounds) is primed for a breakout season.
The Tigers also have multiple returnees in the secondary including senior Colby Brown and junior Kolbe Cage at safety, and junior Jackson Wallace is also expected to make an impact as well.
“That side of ball is really good and they’re better than last year,” Kirkwood began. “Grubbs leads them and he’s always in the backfield — he lives back there. I try to tell (the offensive line) ‘y’all gotta block this man so me and the receivers can get the ball,” Kirkwood said with a laugh.
“But everybody on the defense is holding their own and we made a big move putting Jackson (Wallace) at safety. He’s a ball hawk so everything that’s been in the air lately he’s been swatting. I’ve been getting like one ball a practice now, but that’s good because in the game it’ll just be easier now.”
Those games start with a scrimmage against John Ehret Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at Hoss Memtsas Stadium. The following week, the Tigers will suit up in the Chalmette Jamboree at Bobby Nuss Stadium taking on Belle Chasse at 6 p.m. on August 30.
St. Thomas More, Covington and Chalmette are first up during the regular season before the start of district play against Shaw in Week 4, and Holy Cross also has a premier matchup against Warren Easton in Week 6.
There are very few, if any, pushovers on the Tigers’ schedule this season, but much is still expected from what many view as a very talented team.
“Our expectations for ourselves is always (to be) the best,” Grubbs said. “No matter what other people say, we always expect high of ourselves.”
Holy Cross 2019 Schedule
Week 1 | Sept. 6 (Fri.) | vs. St. Thomas More | 7 p.m.
Week 2 | Sept. 13 (Fri.) | @ Covington | 7 p.m.
Week 3 | Sept. 20 (Fri.) | @ Chalmette | 7 p.m.
Week 4 | Sept. 27 (Fri.) | @ Shaw | 7 p.m.
Week 5 | Oct. 4 (Fri.) | vs. Jesuit | 7:15 p.m.
Week 6 | Oct. 11 (Fri.) | vs. Warren Easton | 7 p.m.
Week 7 | Oct. 18 (Fri.) | vs. Rummel | 7 p.m.
Week 8 | Oct. 25 (Fri.) | vs. John Curtis | 7 p.m.
Week 9 | Nov. 1 (Fri.) | @ Brother Martin | 7 p.m.
Week 10 | Nov. 9 (Sat.) | @ St. Augustine | 7 p.m.