DENHAM SPRINGS – The sun didn’t rise as hoped last Saturday morning in the coaching world of Denham Springs High’s Bill Conides.
The Yellow Jackets were not only shutout 28-0 in their season opener against Hahnville, they were limited to less than 100 yards on offense and turned the ball over four times – two of which resulted in touchdowns, spoiling a solid outing from the team’s defense.
Given his background for generating plenty of offense and scoring points, including his first two years at Denham Springs, Conides referred to his team’s lackluster performance as a career low point on that side of the ball with his team traveling to Ponchatoula (0-1) at 7 p.m. Friday.
“That was embarrassing,” Conides said of his team’s offensive showing in its opening game. “Friday was the most embarrassing moment of my coaching career. I was embarrassed and Saturday was not a good day. I want to be happy on Saturday again.”
Denham Springs crossed midfield twice against Hahnville and gained possession at Hahnville’s 23-yard line after recovering fumbled punt but had nothing to show for it on the scoreboard.
The Yellow Jackets reached the 9-yard line after Preston Holwager’s fumble recovery and wound up settling for a 27-yard field goal from Cameron Beall that was blocked early in the second quarter.
“There are times where we had touchdowns and we didn’t give it to the running back,” Conides said. “We should have given it to the running back because he walks into the end zone. Instead we have to go kick a field goal and it gets blocked. That’s the snowball effect and then another bad thing happens.”
Conides also pointed out that Hahnville’s first touchdown midway through the second quarter was the result of an interception where the intended wide receiver on the play ran the wrong route.
Quarterback Luke Lunsford’s pass was picked off and returned 65 yards to DSHS’s 15 where Hahnville scored two plays later for a 7-0 lead.
“I thought defensively we played well enough to beat them,” Conides said. “If we could have just done something on offense. Scoring a touchdown in that position would have been a huge position. At worse it’s 7-7 at halftime and it’s a completely different game.”
Another fumble late in the third quarter led directly to Hahnville’s third score and 21-0 lead with 1:14 to go in the third quarter – leading to a shakeup in the team’s starter in the backfield this week with Jaylon Jenkins (9-77) scheduled to start.
Conides said in an effort to try and improve his team’s offensive efficiency, he and his offensive staff have tapered the offense to a certain number of formations, fewer reads for Lunsford to make and narrowed the number of routes available to wide receivers.
“If that ultimately gets us wins, then so be it,” Conides said. “It’s really hard for me. The part of me that loves coaching is the scheme involved, the drawing of the Xs and Os and coming up with new, cool and exciting things. Ultimately, I get pleasure out of seeing the kids execute the way it’s drawn up.
“That’s something I’ve been able to do since becoming an offensive coordinator a long time ago,” Conides said. “We’re going to make it simple enough to when a guy goes into the game, we’re catering to his strong suit. We’re very lucky as a team that we have the best offensive staff that I’ve ever had. We need our guys playing fast, we need them playing with confidence.”
That offense, which returned six starters from a year ago, is a year removed from one of the school’s most prolific performances in a 64-63 loss at home to Ponchatoula.
Lunsford was spectacular in trying to match the effort of Ponchatoula quarterback T.J. Finley, an LSU commitment, when the two teams combined for 1,360 yards and 18 touchdowns in a game that was decided on a two-point play in the final two minutes.
Lunsford accounted for 402 yards and six touchdowns – including 353 yards and 4 scores in the air – to help his team keep pace with Finley, who passed for a career-high 639 yards and 7 TDs.
“You’ve got to score points to win,” Conides said. “They’re (defense) light bulb went off last week. Now it’s time for the offense to pick it up. We’re still waiting for that complete game to put it all together.”