NOLA.COM: De La Salle 2013 football preview

By Kelly Morris, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayuneon August 28, 2013 12:20 a.m.
Click here for the original article on NOLA.com

 

The De La Salle Cavaliers were young last season and they will be young again this season.

They also join John Curtis and St. Charles Catholic in a stout District 11-3A.

For some, it’s not the best combination, but with second-year coach Ryan Manale at the helm, players don’t shy away from a challenge.

“We’re in the process of putting this great place back to where it belongs,” said the 33-year-old Manale. “We’re going to do the little things right. We’re going to put them in the best position to succeed. Freshmen starting or seniors starting, it’s their job to play hard.”

De La Salle is eyeing a third consecutive playoff appearance and will be relying on new players to make it happen. Gritty Rummel transfer Ryan Walden replaces Brian Dyer at quarterback. Dyer will play wide receiver in 2013.

“My receivers are small, but they’re fast,” said Walden, who is learning plenty from new quarterbacks coach Lester Ricard, a former NFLer and Tulane standout. “It’s more up-tempo, trying to wear teams down. I just want to be a leader and win games.”

His teammates already like what they see.

“He brings a passing game to our offense,” said senior center Jackson Ladner, who added his team ran the ball close to 80 percent last season. “We’re confident in him.”

The offense shifted from a wing-T to a spread offense in 2012. The defense will change its look in 2013. With the help of new defensive coordinator Rowland Skinner, the Cavaliers move from a 4-3 to a 3-3-5 formation. Manale said Skinner’s arrival is “perfect” since De La Salle only loses one defensive starter next year.

The defense’s strengths are the line and secondary.

“We have a lot more corners and safeties,” said lone returning defensive starter Vince Thomas, who moves from defensive end to strong safety. “With the players we have, we have the ability to do something big. People don’t know De La Salle is on the rise.”

The seniors, in particular, have learned to embrace change. They’ve seen two head coaches and only two of the assistant coaches have remained the same.

Still, team morale couldn’t be better. Manale felt a change in the program after a 38-0 win against Cohen in last season’s jamboree.

The community celebrated it like a regular season game.

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm,” Ladner said. “We’re having a lot of fun.”

Football is life for Manale, who became a varsity assistant coach at his alma mater Rummel at age 19. Manale already has installed a new logo on the locker room floor. The locker room also features added incentive.

It features a newly installed Play Station. Players can use it when their academics are in order.

The Cavaliers also went away and camped at Southeastern to build team chemistry with teammates and an experienced coaching staff. Ten of the 11 coaches have played or coached in a state or national championship game.

“We have big shoes to fill, but I’m blessed with a pretty good coaching staff,” Manale said. “The number of coaches is similar to a Class 5A program. … Everybody is seeing the hidden gem that we have here at De La Salle.  It’s out there in the community.”

Players agree their tough District 11-3A schedule will only prepare them for the playoffs.

And like every other team competing on Friday nights, the playoffs are the ultimate goal.

“Players started to buy in last season,” Thomas said. “We’ll only continue that this season.”

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Kelly Morris can be reached at [email protected] 504.826.3405.

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