The Ellender Memorial High School football team has been through a lot already in 2019.
But those kids only bend and never break — always finding ways to keep battling for their team.
The Patriots are just 1-3 on the year, but they could easily be 3-1, having lost two close, hard-fought games in the past two weeks to H.L. Bourgeois and then McMain.
Coach David McCormick said he’s proud of the effort his team gives, adding that if they keep giving that same effort on the field, things will eventually turn around.
“The kids are giving us everything they’ve got right now,” McCormick said. “I don’t have anything negative to say about our effort. We have to do better in our execution, but our effort is there. They’re doing the best that they can, and that’s all we can ask. I told the kids — just keep working hard and keep doing the right things and eventually, the ball will bounce our way or we will get things to happen the way we want.”
Truth is, the Patriots just have a lot going against them right now.
For starters, they’re low in numbers with hardly 50 kids in the program — a problem that McCormick said has been plaguing the team for the past few seasons now.
“It’s hard to get these kids off the video games,” McCormick said. “They don’t want to play football, I guess because of the heat or the physicality of the sport or whatever it may be. We’re just having a hard time getting those numbers like we’d want them to be.”
And with the poor numbers, the Patriots are also having attrition.
Ellender dressed just more than 40 kids on Friday night against McMain. McCormick said several players missed the game with injury.
The Patriots led the game early, but then fizzled late, surrendering a lead in the fourth quarter before surrendering.
It was the second-straight week that Ellender lost a game that they led in the second half.
“I think we just kind of ran out of gas a little bit, you know? We’re asking those boys to do a lot and it’s wearing on them a little bit,” McCormick said. “We have a lot of kids who are going both ways for us and when you add it all up with the offense, the defense and the special teams, something’s got to give. And we’re getting close and competing well, but we just can’t play the whole game right now and finish it off.”
But the good news is that the Patriots are young and talented and McCormick said he thinks the team is going to continue to get better as the year goes on.
Offensively, the Patriots have skill all over the field.
Quarterback Patrick Perna is doing a good job managing the game and getting the ball to the team’s playmakers.
“He’s never played quarterback before, but he’s getting better and better and more comfortable,” McCormick said.
McCormick said he’s also pleased with Tyshaun Hester and receiver O’Ryan James — guys who are making a lot of the plays and scoring a lot of the touchdowns for the team.
On Friday, James took a jet sweep 80-plus yards to the house for a touchdown.
McCormick said Hester is one of the most underrated players in the area.
“He puts our team on his back every Friday night,” McCormick said of Hester. “He does whatever we need him to do to help us win. He makes plays all over the field at so many positions. We can’t say enough about the way he’s played for us so far this season.”
The Patriots have one more challenge before starting district play.
They play Central Lafourche on Friday, then open district play at Morgan City.
McCormick said he’s told the team that all of their goals are still in front of them and the team needs to keep playing hard without panic.
“We said before the season we wanted to win district and we wanted to make the playoffs,” McCormick said. “We can do both of those things, so we’re still in good position. We just have to keep working hard and get a few injured kids back and we think we have a shot.”
PATRIOTS STUDENT OUT OF HOSPITAL AFTER STROKE
There was some good news for Ellender this past week.
McCormick said senior defensive back Kameron Adkins is out of the hospital after suffering a stroke earlier this month.
Adkins visited with the team and urged them to keep fighting through the season.
McCormick said the long-term prognosis for Adkins is good. He added that the team is finding power in his strength.
“That kid just won’t quit,” McCormick said. “He’s been through so much and he just doesn’t quit fighting. He wants to play so bad. He wants to get back out there and be with his team. But while he’s out, we’re just amazed by how strong he’s being and the resiliency he’s showing.”
CLASS 4A/DIVISION II SCOREBOARD
Assumption 40, Denham Springs 34
McMain 35, Ellender 26
Hanson 12, Morgan City 3
Lutcher 42, South Lafourche 7
South Terrebonne 35, Patterson 20
Dutchtown 52, Vandebilt 0
St. Charles 36, E.D. White 0