WALKER – For the first time in 10 years Chad Mahaffey directed a team other than University High during spring football practice.
After a successful nine-year run at the Baton Rouge school where he won 102 games and three state championships Mahaffey accepted the head coaching position at Walker High where the Wildcats will complete spring drills at 5:30 p.m. Thursday with a home scrimmage against Woodlawn.
“Every coach has a way they want to do things,” Mahaffey said. “We’ve got to be on the same page with what we want to do. You can tell there’s been things with the kids that have been changes. We’ve got a hard-working group. While there’s been changes, I don’t think they’re not used to structure or discipline. That part’s been fine.”
Mahaffey was the architect of a U-High program that developed into a Class 3A/Division II powerhouse, guiding the Cubs to state titles in 2014 and consecutive crowns the past two seasons, having won their last 26 straight games.
He finds a Walker program coming off one of its best regular seasons in school history, albeit under difficult circumstances.
The Wildcats went through two head coaches with the Week 2 resignation of Lester Ricard, who was replaced by offensive line coach Cecil Thomas.
Thomas guided the Wildcats (8-3) to second place finish in District 4-5A and opening-round state playoff game where they fell to Hahnville. He left two months after being named the school’s permanent head coach for a similar job at Sulphur High.
Not only has Mahaffey brought his up-tempo, no-huddle style of offense where he’ll serve as offensive coordinator/play-caller, he’s also brought wide receivers coach Nick Glueck and defensive line coach Nick West along with him from U-High.
Defensive coordinator Chris Womack of Lakeshore High School has also joined Mahaffey’s staff, which will be completed at a later date.
“Just getting used to more routines, habits and policies,” Mahaffey said of his near first three months on the job. “We’re working on plays and schemes as well. A lot of it is, ‘this is where you go when we say this, and this is the way we want you to do certain things.’ A lot of it has been procedural. But we do feel good about at least getting an understanding of our guys.”
Mahaffey said in order to gain a better perspective of the abilities of his players, he’s tried practicing them on both sides of the football.
Quarterback Ethan McMasters returns for his senior season after passing for 2,100 yards and 21 touchdowns and has two of the state’s most explosive players back in senior wide receiver Jalen Cook and junior wide receiver Brian Thomas, an honorable mention All-State selection.
“You can tell Ethan’s experienced,” Mahaffey said. “I think he’s learning it very well and I think he’s a quick learner which I think’s important at quarterback. He gets the hang of it pretty quickly.
The team’s duties at running back have been handled by Demetri Wright, while starting linebacker Keondre Brown did gain some experience in the backfield last year.
“Nothing’s settled,” Mahaffey said. “You want a couple of guys that can help you there even if you’ve got a (number) one. You’ve always got to be ready for a backup. A lot also factor’s in who’s best for our team, who’s where on offense and defense.”
Mahaffey, who has maintained a roster of 100 players, looks forward to the retention his team’s able to show to the new system he’s helped implement in a short period of time.
“You want to see them put drills into practice,” he said. “You want to see when you put somebody else out there, some guys kind of rise up and some guys, maybe that’s not as good for them, so you’re learning personalities. We’re going to make some mistakes, but we want to minimize them and have on film a long evaluation process and get as many reps for those guys as we can.”
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