Every season, the Patterson Lumberjacks set three goals as a football team.
The Lumberjacks try to use its tough non-district schedule to prepare for the playoffs, win its district, and lastly, win the state title.
While the ultimate prize of a state championship has eluded them, Patterson has nonetheless become synonymous with annual post-season runs over the years.
The high expectations Patterson has each year are something its players and coaching staff welcome, Lumberjacks coach Tommy Minton said.
“We try to set high standards so that we either achieve them or we’re disappointed if we don’t achieve them,” Minton said. “Kids want to play for a winner. They want to be held accountable and they want to be successful. High expectations are definitely things that excite (the players) and make them want to be a part of this program.”
It’s a program that is annually a playoff contender, having reached the Class 3A state championship games in 2002 and 2010.
While Patterson suffered an early loss in the opening round of the playoffs last year, with an experienced quarterback and several key returning starters back this season, the Lumberjacks hope to have another deep post-season run in them.
Senior quarterback Spencer Landry is one of six returning starters for Patterson on offense. Landry suffered a broken ankle in the Lumberjacks’ spring game and missed a good portion of the summer, but Minton said his quarterback’s health wasn’t an issue.
“He’s healthy and practicing now,” Minton said. “I feel like him getting the ball to our skill people in space is going to be our strong suit on offense. Whether it’s the short passing game or the perimeter run game, he’s definitely going to be the operator. I feel really good about all the intangibles he brings to the table. He’s a great leader and he’s a very smart kid. The players respond to him and he’s a good quarterback to boot, so I feel like we’ve got a lot of potential there.”
As a possible new wrinkle this season, or perhaps just to simplify things a bit, Landry said the Lumberjacks’ offense has been putting in a few different formations in camp and that he’s been taking more snaps from under center.
“In the past, we were more shotgun-oriented and now we’re throwing the ball more from under center,” Landry said. “I think that’s because last year, our running backs were first-year starters. This year they’ve gotten bigger and stronger. But we’re still a spread team so we’re going to throw the ball as much as ever.”
To that end, three of Landry’s receivers are returning from last season, including heavily recruited wideouts Daylon Charlot and Mykal Jones, plus Jedrick Gunner.
On the offensive line, Patterson doesn’t feature a ton of depth, but Minton said the team has the right skill set in place.
“I feel good about our five starters, but we’ve got to keep those guys healthy,” he said. “We’ll be as good on offense as they let us be.”
On the defensive side, junior Larry Turner is the captain of a defense that returns seven starters from a season ago. A standout in Patterson’s secondary at free safety, Turner also sees snaps at running back while playing both sides of the ball.
Turner said the defensive unit is mostly the same from last year but with another year of experience under their belts.
“We added a couple of pieces, but we have good corners and good safeties,” Turner said. “Our box is pretty good, too. We learned a lot last year. We’re not young anymore and know what we have to do and what our goals are. I feel my whole defense is strong. We all have to focus on stopping teams from getting first downs, then getting off the field on third down, and then forcing turnovers.”
That was something Patterson struggled with at times a season ago when they started two freshmen and four sophomores on defense.
They opened the year by allowing 30 or more points in three of their first four contests before posting consecutive shutouts against Jeanerette and Franklin and holding a third opponent (Erath) to seven points late in the season.
“I feel good about us defensively,” Minton said. “It’s been a great start to fall practice. They’re running to the football and really playing aggressive. Early in the year last year, we were very inexperienced and took our lumps. Now they’re a good year older and have another year in the weight room, and I feel really good about where we’re at.”
Patterson’s players feel good about where they’re at as well. In fact, to the upperclassmen like Landry and Turner, their only goal is this: go all the way.
It’s the only one of the Lumberjacks’ three goals that the team has yet to reach.
“All my running backs and receivers are back,” Landry said. “The only goal I have, really, is to win the state championship. We all talk about getting there, but we all want to win it.”
“We want to come out and win and be the best, and try to be No. 1 in Louisiana,” Turner added. “We’re going to run, pass and hopefully be really hard to stop. I want to be the best, and I want my team to be the best. We don’t want to just go to the (Superdome) and have a sad story to tell. I want to be able to talk about this (season) for a long time.”
Patterson High School standouts Spencer Landry (left) and Larry Turner pose for a picture during a Lumberjacks practice. The Jacks are hoping to make a deep playoff push in 2013. Their hunger is strengthened because the team lost in the first round of the playoffs, despite having a 7-3 record. The Jacks have a slew of returnees on both sides of the football.