South Lafourche low on roster numbers in 2019, but unity sparking team

Patterson High School’s quarterback dropped back to pass a couple Friday’s ago for a fall scrimmage. 

Immediately, the offensive line collapsed around him and he was swallowed up by several South Lafourche High School defenders. 

One of them was sophomore Hunter Condley, who immediately shot up off the ground, jump up in the air and pumped his fists.

“That’s what I’m talking about, baby!” Condley shouted, looking at the sidelines where his team stood.

Looking back at Condley was a wave of support.

Tarpon players jumped up and down on the sidelines to celebrate Condley’s sack. 

“Let’s go,” shouted one player. 

“Let’s eat, baby, eat,” said another.

Off in the distance in the middle of it all was Tarpons football coach Blake Forsythe, calmly coaching his defense, instructing them to not allow a big play. 

The noise? The cheering? The chemistry? 

That’s not new in Tarpon Land.

That’s just what the 2019 does.

Roster numbers are not high this fall at South Lafourche. The Tarpons have a little more than 50 players, and that covers all grades — 9-12. 

The Tarpons also have fewer coaches than they’d had in years past with a six-member staff.

But because of that, coaches and players say a small, united, tight-knit family has formed and members of the team believe that their unity will be a strength heading into the season.

“I think it’s a small, united family,” Forsythe said. “The players are all together. We have great leadership. And I think with our coaching situation, everyone is doing a little more, which means we’re spending more time with all of the kids. They see us more. They hear us more. I think there are some benefits to that. We’re a smaller group, the kids have bought in and we’re in it together — a united front.”

The push for greater unity down the bayou in Galliano comes after a rough year.

South Lafourche struggled mightily in 2018, finishing just 2-8 — an unheard of poor season for a program that’s historically excelled.

A switch to a triple option offense took a lot of the blame for the struggles amongst fans, but Forsythe said he also didn’t always like the vibe of last year’s team. 

So he changed it.

From the time 2018 ended and in the lead up to 2019, Forsythe said he’s preached energy and unity amongst his players. 

The Tarpons practice fast and with tempo and speed. There’s music blaring in the background and coaches are urging players to give it 100 percent on every play — no matter how hot it is or any other external factors.

If you’re not physically in the game, you’re a fan of your classmates — rooting them on. When they do well, you cheer. When they don’t, you’re encouraging them to keep fighting.

All of those things have been on display throughout the Tarpons’ spring game, fall scrimmage and also this past Friday at the jamboree against H.L. Bourgeois.

In the scrimmage, coaches even had to sometimes urge bench players to tone down their enthusiasm to avoid drawing warnings from officials for standing too close to the field.

“We believe you’re going to play the way you practice,” Forsythe said. “So for us, knowing that, we want to make sure that in practice, we’re doing all of the the things we want to see in our games. We have the energy going. We have our adrenaline flowing. So far this year, it’s been great. The kids have really bought in and everyone is really getting after it.”

Energy and adrenaline are needed to combat what’s ahead.

The Tarpons have a brutal non-district schedule. 

They’ll play St. Charles Catholic, Thibodaux, Central Lafourche, Lutcher and Belle Chasse before giving way to the district schedule.

All five of those teams are expected to strongly contend for the postseason.

Forsythe said he knows the schedule will be a challenge, but added that he thinks his team is improved and better equipped to handle those challenges this year, as opposed to last.

Offensively, the Tarpons return several starters off last year’s squad, including Southeastern commitment Jhy Orgeron, receiver Eric Thibodaux and playmaker Braxton Pitre. At quarterback, the Tarpons will likely play Patrick Gisclair and Austin Danos.

Defensively, the Tarpons have Danos, Condley, Kendall Walker and Elijah Barnett back with a secondary full of guys who had experience last fall.

“We’re still young,” Forsythe said. “But we have a lot of guys now who have experience. We think that experience will pay off for us when the games start.” •

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