The McDonogh 35 High School Roneagles Set to Take Flight Thanks to Talented Defense
by Jace LeJeune
In the New Orleans area, one of the biggest and most consistent programs is the McDonogh 35 High School Roneagles. Led by longtime Head Coach Wayne Reese, the Roneagles have always been really talented and usually by the end of the season, the team is right there in contention for competing for the Class 4A state championship. This year, the Roneagles may be young and inexperienced, but it does not mean that they have lost their talent especially at the defensive side of the football. Led by Coach Reese and assistant coach Frank Daggs, it has been the Roneagle defense that has stood out in previous years. Former NFL defensive back Devin Breaux (New Orleans Saints) comes out to mind. However, it has really been over the last four years that the secondary that has stood out the most for this program. Recent McDonogh 35 graduates Brad Stewart (Florida) and Joe Foucha (Arkansas) have helped set the tone for McDonogh 35 to become a Louisiana high school factory for producing defensive backs. Once again, the secondary should be strong according to Louisiana Football Magazine’s recruiting specialist Lee Brecheen as it features experienced players such as ULL commit Jaden Henderson and Austin Jones.
“Jaden Henderson is one of the best hitters in Louisiana,” Brecheen said. “Henderson is the best player on the team in 2018 and would be a steal for a DI team.”
“Austin Jones is another big time talent,” Brecheen said. “Jones is a really good athlete at 5-11, 175 pounds. I like his toughness, long arms, and 4.5/40 speed.”
The defensive backfield is talented, but at the same time, they know it is going to be a tough task to replace last year’s group. In fact, for Jones, he models his game after his former teammate Brad Stewart.
“Brad and I played football at the same playground and ended up at the same high school,” Jones said. “He is older than me and was at McDonogh 35 before me, but when I got there, he took me under his wing and worked with me. As a result, I got my technique right.”
As now a veteran player in the secondary with 12 interceptions, 26 pass breakups, 40 tackles, and four forced fumbles over his career, Jones now shows the veteran leadership to show the younger guys what it means to be a part of this special unit at McDonogh 35.
“Man, coming up under guys like Brad and Joe, you have no other choice, but to be great,” Jones said. “It feels amazing to get that torch passed down.”
One player that is really coming on the radar in the secondary like Henderson and Jones is another senior defensive back in Jesse Lawrence. At 6-0, 190 pounds, Lawrence has also shown what it takes this year to be really great. He is a player that has really come along late for the coaching staff. With already two interceptions and three touchdowns on the season, Lawrence has already shown that he is confident in his abilities.
“I believe in trusting the process and am willing to do anything it takes to get my team a win,” Lawrence said. “I am an all around player that is a good defender and does not go down without a fight. I am not afraid to get out of my comfort zone.”
Obviously, the secondary is confident, but in order for the overall defense to be great, there must be some big bodies on the defensive front. Luckily, the Roneagles have their guy on that side they can rely on. His name is Jalen Jackson. Jackson has only one offer right now and that is from Louisiana College, but don not let the one offer fool you as Jackson has had quite the success on the gridiron. Over his high school career, the 6-2, 260 pound defensive tackle has made 70 tackles, three sacks, 15 tackles for loss, 10 tackles for loss, and even scored a touchdown. For Jackson, playing on this talented defense and for the coaching staff is a very enjoyable experience.
“It’s an honor playing with these guys,” Jackson said. “They always are teaching me something new to better my game.”
After a 3-2 start with an inexperienced team that is still trying to find an identity on the offensive side of the football after losing guys such as WR Lawrence Keys (Notre Dame), QB LeJohn Howard (Florida A&M), and Eddie Tillman (Florida A&M), the team has a very high ceiling as well as the potential to get where they want to be at the end of the season.
“Right now, the team just needs to continue to grind and work hard everyday at practice,” Jackson said.
“In order to be more consistent over the next couple of games, my team needs a better mental focus, execution, and a belief in themselves to never refuse and let anything in our way,” Lawrence said.
“We are 3-2 right now, but it’s just the little things we need to fix as a team,” Jones said. “We should be good for the rest of the season and expect no more losses coming our way for the rest of the season.”
It will be an extremely tough task to accomplish that task with a tough schedule, which includes playing fellow Class 4A power Edna Karr High School this week. Still, once the team figures it out offensively, this is a Roneagles team that will take flight to new heights at the end of the year.
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