Judging by their 26-7 pre-season win over the Crescent City Rampage not long ago, the Louisiana Bayou Hurricanes should be pretty good in their inaugural season, but one game’s outcome isn’t the only reason to believe that.
The Lafayette area has yearned for a quality developmental football team for too long as a broken record has played the same tune of several very talented teams from the area falling short of meeting their potential.
Finally, after more than a decade of learning from other teams what to do and what not to do, the Hurricanes appear to have a foundation that can stand the test of time and possibly create a dominant program in Acadiana.
“The problem that Lafayette has had, and it’s always got under a lot of our skin,” Hurricanes general manager Derek Leger told Developmental Football USA. “It’s always went two ways: you have a guy that would start a team with the best of intentions, but he would allow too many things to go on and he would let certain guys get away with certain things. You would have the same situation on these teams where about 50 percent were dedicated and about 50 percent weren’t and all of these guys were treated the same and what happens when you do that is it creates poison.
“It’s a poison to your team and over time when you allow a roster that’s 50 percent dedicated and 50 percent not, the number of the ones that are dedicated is not going to grow. They start to pull away the morale and the foundation of what you have. Those teams always came and went. Then they had other teams where the guy walks in that has shiny shoes and he thinks he’s just going to get guys out there to play football and really not run it the right way. He’s all about trying to make a buck or something and at this level, it’s not about that.”
At this level, most teams will tell you it’s about family, football and fun. However, those desired qualities have eluded too many teams, like Leger mentioned, which have failed to start out with a strong structure.
That strong structure was the number one focus for this calling that appears to have chosen Leger, who had distanced himself from this level of football until one year ago when approached by another team about coming on as a coach. Instead of accepting the offer, Leger decided to wait and observe how things went for a season.
“I got calls after their season wrapped up and these players wanted a new home and a new place, a new way to do things, and that’s when we came up with the Bayou Hurricanes,” Leger said. “What we did from Day 1, we picked a head coach, Phil Norman, a guy that I’ve been knowing for over 10 years, a real solid spine guy. Every player can relate to him because he’s always been a player. He just doesn’t take the nonsense. He’s an easy guy to approach, he’s an easy guy to speak to, but what’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong and that’s the way I wanted it.”
The Hurricanes drew a line in the sand and decided they didn’t care if they started out with 50, 40, or only 15 players. A standard had to be met by the players for the organization to fulfill its vision and uncommitted players would have to be let go.
At first, the core of committed players was only about 15, Leger said, but the front office stuck to their guns and didn’t waiver in the standard they set for their team and now they’re looking at a roster of close to 40 players for their March 4 season opener.
“The players bought in to that, that we’re going to do this the right way and if you weren’t with that, just get out of the way,” Leger said. “Get in line or get the – get out of the way. It created an atmosphere like nothing else I’ve ever been around with any of these teams. We have unbelievable people on this team and we have a lot of great fathers. That’s one thing I love about this team, these guys only talk about the Hurricanes and their kids, that’s it. They love football and they love their kids, so this roster started to expand when everyone else took it seriously in the off-season.
“That draws in more guys that may fit in and some guys that may not. The guys that came in and weren’t willing to put in the work and weren’t willing to be this dedicated, they’re gone. It didn’t take long, they may have shown up one practice, they may have shown up one week, they may have shown up one month but they’re gone. The guys that are dedicated stuck around and that atmosphere gets bigger and bigger and bigger as we go.”
Leger and the rest of Louisiana Bayou’s staff has delegated responsibility to four team captains that are each responsible to head up communication with his share of players.
“I can give any of these captains a call at any minute, whether it’s a day of practice or a day off of practice,” Leger said. “I can call one of these captains and they can tell me every single thing about the guys they watch over in their platoon. They do a lot of things away from football together.”
The family atmosphere that is being birthed among the Hurricanes should carry the team a long way this year. In addition to team chemistry, Louisiana Bayou also has several talented playmakers, including quarterback Josh Edison, who’s already getting some next-level looks.
“His skillset is off the charts,” Leger said. “I love Josh’s football IQ. For the coaching staff, it makes their job so much easier because Josh can simply nod to the sideline to say, ‘I’ve got this.’ Josh just understands so many different concepts when it comes to defense that he knows what he’s attacking. There were times during the pre-season game, the offensive coaches sent Josh out there with just a formation, not a single route called, and Josh would call routes in the huddle, send guys out, look at the defense and check each route he wanted.”
Edison threw for more than 300 yards and three touchdowns in the Hurricanes win over the Rampage – a win that could have been by a much larger margin if not for a few offensive mistakes, Leger said.
Joining Edison in the backfield is another key player to the Hurricanes offense, in running back Jerome Milson.
“If I’m going to pick one guy that stands for everything a Hurricane is supposed to be, it’s Jerome Milson,” Leger said. “He’s a running back, but he’s more than willing to play any other position. He’ll do anything you need him to do. He can catch out of the backfield, he can run outside, he can run inside, he can protect the quarterback, he picks up on anything and he’s just a natural born leader. You can’t help but listen when he speaks. He’s one of those guys that carries himself with such pride quietly, but when he speaks, everyone is going to listen.”
Defensively, look no further than the defensive line, which Leger believes will be the best unit in the entire Gulf States Football League.
“Our defensive line is going to be the best unit in this league and you can quote me on that,” Leger said. “They will be the best unit, of any unit, in this league. This defensive line is unbelievable. Our defensive line is off the charts, it’s the best I’ve ever seen at this level.”
This highly touted unit is led by defensive end Sage Guidry.
“I’ve got a cold-blooded killer on defense, Sage Guidry,” Leger said. “We’ve put him at mike linebacker and he flies all over the field. We can put him at the three-tech defensive tackle and he’ll make plays. He is literally unblockable. I literally don’t believe there is a man on this planet that can block Sage one on one. I really don’t. He’s one that’s getting some attention from Europe. Somebody is going to end up paying this guy some money to play football. He’s going to be thankful for the opportunity, but they’re going to be very thankful to have a guy like Sage on their team. He had three sacks, three forced fumbles and a blocked punt returned for a touchdown in the pre-season game. He also steps in on offense and helps out at guard whenever we need him to.”
As if trying to account for Guidry is not enough, he’s joined by a tandem of defensive tackles whose talent and ability are right up there with his.
“I really like our defensive tackle Lane Batiste,” Leger said. “He’s another one that will play at the next level. What I like about Lane, it’s almost the equivalent to what Josh is on offense. Lane is so smart, his football IQ is so high, that Lane can help make other players better around him. We can go through drills at practice and Lane is so talented and has done it for so long that he can pull one guy off to the side, a younger guy and say, ‘Try this, do this, you’ll be fine,’ and he’s taken raw talent and helped them develop. He’s the type of guy where it’s always foot to the floor. He teaches them at a pace to where they’re so comfortable with it, that by the time it’s time to translate to the game, they’re ready to go.
“Our other defensive tackle, Cordland Chassion. If there was a definition of a football player, it’s Cordland. He’s another one that’s going to play at the next level. Every coach is going to love this guy, he shows up always on time, you never have to explain it to Cordland, he gets it, he does it right, he’s effective. He’s a coach’s dream. If you have 50 guys like him, you’ll never lose a game, simply on the type of person he is, he’s an outstanding football player as well.”
While the Hurricanes have a lot of momentum heading into their GSFL season, they know there are some other teams that they’ll have to get through if they plan on winning the whole thing.
“I’d say the Magnolia Knights are getting a lot of attention,” Leger said. “Another team, the Gulf Coast Trojans are getting a lot of attention. They both seem to be very well organized too. They’re very well organized teams, deep teams and talented teams.”
Right now the Hurricanes aren’t worried about the Knights or the Trojans, though. Their entire focus is on their Week 1 opponent, the Jennings Oilers.
“Our goal is always going to be the same, we’re focused on winning on March 4, our opener,” Leger said. “We’re in a league where a lot of guys tell you, ‘We’re going to do this this year and we’re going to do that this year,’ and I’m not concerned about all that, because it doesn’t matter how much I say. It doesn’t matter how much I say it, the goal always has to be to go in and win the game in front of you. Our next game is March 4 in Jennings against the Oilers. A lot of teams are telling us how great they are, and like I tell the guys all the time, you never hear the shot that takes you down, and that’s the way we carry ourselves. We’re only worried about March 4 and after that we’ll only worry about the following weekend. I do put a lot of pressure on these guys, I do have high expectations for these guys, but all of that comes down to March 4, and then we’ll worry about the next game when we get there.”
In addition to focusing on cultivating a family-like atmosphere, developing a potent offense and a ruthless defense, the Hurricanes also prioritize the community. Just recently, they helped with a food drive hosted by a local church that turned out to be a success.
“That’s one thing I haven’t seen a lot of teams do,” Leger said. “A lot of guys are willing to get in front of a camera and say, ‘Look at me.’ That’s the American way now, right? ‘Hey look, let me film myself giving money to a guy on the street, let me pat myself on the back.’ With these guys, they showed up bright and early, some of them 5:30, 6:00 in the morning on their Saturday to help with the food drive.”
Look for more updates on the Hurricanes at DFUSA.