PLAQUEMINE – When it was discovered that Denham Springs would not have senior quarterback Luke Lunsford available for its entire spring training, junior John McDaniel was provided an opportunity to gain valuable experience with the Yellow Jackets No. 1 offense.
That process included starting in the Yellow Jackets spring scrimmage and will involve the team’s 7-on-7 passing league in June.
“I had to speed up my process a lot more,” McDaniel said upon learning about Lunsford’s back ailment. “Last year playing under Luke helped me quite a bit. I got to stand on the sideline and watched his process.”
The roles were reversed in Wednesday’s split scrimmage with McDaniel leading Denham Springs No. 1 offense and Lunsford watching and encouraging from the sideline where the Yellow Jackets faced both Plaquemine High and Donaldsonville at Andrew Canova Stadium at Plaquemine.
The Yellow Jackets’ No. 1 offense and defense took part in 64 plays, while their Nos. 2-3 and teams also saw action against Donaldsonville and East Iberville.
“It’s a varsity opportunity to compete,” said Denham Springs third-year coach Bill Conides, whose team hosts Catholic High in its fall scrimmage Aug. 22. “I told them there wasn’t any fear. Just play and enjoy it and whatever mistakes we make we’ll fix them off the film.
“That’s what spring’s all about and that’s why I like playing a spring game,” Conides said. “You get to see different competition and different offenses and defenses. Ultimately we execute the plays and the ones we don’t execute we’ll fix the mistakes.”
Given his first extensive varsity action McDaniel received good reviews from Conides, who said the team’s playbook didn’t shrink once Lunsford was sidelined.
“Whatever Luke got, John got it also,” Conides said. “We’ve got a very intelligent quarterback room. Whatever I threw at Luke and I’ve thrown at John. He’s been able to pick it up and he’s progressed so much since he walked into my office as an eighth grader.”
After failing to lead Denham Springs to touchdowns on either of its first two eight-play series, McDaniel helped the Jackets reach the end zone in one play in their two live segments against Plaquemine.
McDaniel hit senior Phillip Earnhart in stride behind coverage for a 70-yard score and wound up lead DSHS’ offense to Plaquemine 32-yard line before stalling.
The drive was highlighted by McDaniel’s 18-yard slant to Troy Golmond and Patrick Isadore’s 10-yard run on first down from midfield.
“The spring’s helped me a lot and it’s helped a lot of other players,” McDaniel said. “We had guys that hadn’t played varsity reps before and we’re moving up a lot of guys to play varsity. It’s helped us learn the plays a lot more. We came out and did our job.”
The Jackets offense struck gold on their final drive, scoring on first down when Golmond, the cousin of former running back standout Tyre Golmond, lined up in the backfield and broke outside on a zone play for a 70-yard run down the sideline that resulted in a touchdown.
Place-kicker Cameron Beall booted his second extra point.
McDaniel completed two other passes to Earnhart and Golmond to Plaquemine’s 45 and the Jackets reached the 37 but stalled on their eighth and final play.
McDaniel combined to complete 8-of-14 passes for 175 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Earnhart led a new-look receiver corps with four catches for 118 yards.
“John’s super smart and has a good head on his shoulders,” Conides said. “The kids believe in him and they follow him just like they follow Luke. That speaks volumes for the back-up quarterback.”
Jaylon Jenkins was the team’s leading rusher with six carries for 46 yards and a 3-yard TD, while Isadore added 14 yards on four attempts.
“We still have things to fix, but we did our job for the most part,” McDaniel said. “It’s definitely helped a lot and in the future, it’s going to be a big deal for us to get these reps like that.”
DSHS’ defense was extremely active on its first series, allowing 13 yards on eight plays with junior linebacker Omari Warren being involved on four tackles before Kaydon Berard pressured quarterback Percy Jackson for an incompletion on Plaquemine’s final play.
Following Tristan Duhe’s tackle for no gain, Plaquemine’s Darius Cyprian broke a tackle on a sweep, hit the sideline and finished the 40-yard scoring play.
The Green Devils threatened four plays later, reaching the 1-yard line on a 39-yard pass play, but the Yellow Jackets responded by holding the home team out of the end zone on four plays with Josiah Raymond successfully defending the final play.
Plaquemine drove to DSHS’ 20-yard line during its next-to-last series where Duhe contributed a three-yard sack and David Aime and Myles Edwards combined to tackle Jackson after a 2-yard run on the final play.
The Green Devils scored on an 18-yard pass from Jackson to Cyprian near the back of the end zone on their fifth play of their second series, but Warren responded with a tackle for a 2-yard loss and a breakup on a pass plahy.
“It was another team we were able to play against,” Duhe said. “It gave us something else to see and we got to play at game speed which gets us ready for that.”
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