DENHAM SPRINGS – The start of Wednesday’s 7-on-7 football session of the Baton Rouge Metro League maybe didn’t start the way Denham Springs or Albany would have liked, but both teams made up for in the latter stages of the morning at Yellow Jacket Stadium.
“Defensively, I thought we started out excellent,” Albany coach Mike Janis said after J.J. Doherty hit Rhett Wolfe on a 45-yard TD strike for all of the scoring as Albany and Denham Springs squared off to open the day’s action. “I was very pleased with that. Offensively, I felt like it just needed to warm up a little bit because we had the balls there. We were just missing by a couple inches on a lot of things – had a couple of drops, so I was pretty pleased with how the day went.
“One thing that I was upset with, which we really need to see out here – we’re going to play teams in our district that are going to try to test us vertically. Teams are going to send multiple receivers down the field, and if we don’t figure out how to stop it, we’re going to have trouble.”
Denham’s C.J. Johnson intercepted Doherty to end another Albany possession as the DSHS struggled to get on track with Yellow Jacket QB John McDaniel completing just two passes against the Hornets after missing last week’s session while on a mission trip.
“He was a little rusty,” DSHS coach Bill Conides said of McDaniel. “He’s had a week in Guatemala building houses, so he didn’t pick up a football again until Monday, so I think he’s a little sore from the hammers and the nails into the roofs. I thought gradually as the day went on, he got better. He started to get into his rhythm and complete some passes. That’s really all you can ask for in the summer.”
“It was definitely a little bit slow and weird,” McDaniel said of returning after taking a week off. “It takes a little bit of time, but I’m getting back into the groove now.”
Baker went up 6-0 on the Hornets, but Doherty had a 13-yard TD pass to Trey Yelverton on fourth down. After another Baker score, Doherty connected with Michael McCahill on a 45-yard TD pass.
“I expect us to see a lot of man coverage, and I think we’re going to surprise some people with how much speed we have at the receiver position,” Janis said. “Rhett’s been clocked multiple times at under a 4.5 40. He’s very gifted there. Michael McCahill and Trey Yelverton also possess pretty good speed, so I think we’re going to surprise people with how well we run on the outside, which gives us that big-play ability.”
The Buffaloes hit a 21-yard TD pass to cap the scoring after Doherty hit Wolfe to the Baker 5 before throwing four straight incomplete passes to the end zone to end the drive.
Janis said Doherty is still learning the Hornets’ new offensive scheme.
“I think he wants too much sometimes,” Janis said. “He’s got to go through his progression. He’s got to just run the play and let the open receiver come to you, because it’s going to be there. We’ve designed it in a way that it’s supposed to be successful, and as long he just follows that progression, somebody’s going to be open. Sometimes he gets a little antsy or he wants to throw a touchdown too early. He’s just got to let it come to him. That’s two weeks in a row he’s thrown the ball really well … I’m very proud of him. He’s throwing the ball well with some good touch. We’ve just got to get some of that progression understanding better.”
Wolfe and Avery Bergeron had TD catches for the Hornets against Slaughter, and Wolfe added a pair of interceptions.
“(Albany defensive coordinator) Coach (David) Knight has done a lot this week to kind of clean up some of our secondary issues that we had,” Janis said. “We were really kind of exposed this (past) weekend when we played at Southeastern, so we’ve put in a lot of work, and I thought the guys really started out and did a great job responding to that.”
McCahill had a pair of TD catches against Istrouma, while Yelverton had another, and Dae Dae Doherty had an interception.
Istrouma scored three times against Denham Springs, while the Yellow Jackets got two scores – a 14-yard pass from McDaniel to Phillip Earnhardt and a 6-yard pass to Alexander Morrison.
Against Baker, DSHS freshman quarterback Reese Mooney went 4-for-6, completing an 8-yard TD pass to Micah Harrison on fourth down.
“It’s extremely important to get those guys reps, especially the freshmen, because the system is kind of new to them, the terminology is new to them, some of the positions are new to them,” Conides said. “A lot of it for them is just understanding what they’re supposed to do and then gradually how they’re supposed to do it. The twos have certainly picked it up. I think the twos had a really good spring going into the summer. Watching the freshmen play and those backups play and get in and understand what they’re supposed to do and how to process coverages is a really good thing. To me, that’s what this is all about.”
McDaniel threw an interception, and Baker capitalized with a 5-yard TD pass before McDaniel found Morrison on a 1-yard TD on the ensuing DSHS possession.
“It was definitely good to come back and get to throwing the ball again,” said McDaniel, who has been getting reps with Luke Lunsford sidelined with a stress reaction. “We started off a little slow, but towards the end, we picked it up and started scoring more. I think we did better towards the end.”
Against Slaughter, Spike Brasseaux had an interception for the Yellow Jackets, setting up McDaniel’s TD pass to Earnhardt.
“I love the way we compete for the ball,” Conides said. “Seven-on-seven is tough because you get all these teams that actually throw it every down, but you don’t see that during the regular season, so we’ve got to be able to apply our coverages and our rules to the certain formations that we see, but I thought overall, we flew around to the ball. Amari Warren, to me, is lights out. I think he’s going to have a tremendous year.”
Thor Debetaz found Austin Bacigalupi on a 5-yard TD for DSHS’ last score of the day.