Young Southern Lab Kittens Show Some Bite In Injury Plagued Season
by Jace LeJeune
Every team in 2020 had to adjust to the Coronavirus pandemic, but there were a lot of teams that had to adjust to not only COVID, but injuries as well. For the Southern Lab Kittens, there was a lot going on at the start of the 2020 season according to head coach Darrell Asberry.
“Well, for us, the biggest challenge was to make sure our kids sanitized,” Coach Asberry said. “It was tough not being able to use our locker rooms and wiping the balls down every five minutes. We managed and were fortunate enough to get through it. Our kids did a good job of adapting to social distancing making sure that you bring your own bottled water, and our parents did a great job of helping us.”
Not only did the players adjust through COVID, but the team had to adjust on the field as well after losing some of their key players early in the season due to injury.
“We lost two tough blows early in the year with Herman Brister going down early in training camp with a torn ACL before we can get the ball kicked off,” Coach Asberry said. “That was a major blow because he was our backup quarterback, starting safety, starting wide receiver, and starting punter. He did all of those things for us. However, Darren Morris stepped up with the punting and did a great job for us. Another young kid Hayden Smith stepped up and never really played football, but led our team in interceptions. Then, our next major blow was losing Chris Bess, who played defensive end. By losing Chris, we then needed ninth and tenth graders to step up and play immediately. We also took our running back Lutrell Pruitt and put him at defensive end. However, it turned out to be a good decision by our staff to put him out there.”
With a lot of underclassmen playing for the first time, those players were thrown in the fire early by playing three playoff teams in a row that played in bigger classifications such as Central B.R., Scotlandville, and Riverside Academy. Losing three games early in the season helped the Kittens mature early and go on a winning run for the rest of the regular season winning its next three games before the playoffs.
“There has been a lot of talent since I’ve been here, and I have been a part of a lot of good football teams, but this group of kids really rallied together when all of those injuries happened,” Coach Asberry said. “They made their mind up that they were going to make a commitment, and we are going to do our best job as a team to stick together and trust the process. Because of that, we started getting some things go our way.”
What started out as a team that was trying to find its way at the beginning of the season turned into a team that was playing its best football by the end of the season with a playoff victory against Cedar Creek and only a ten point loss in the Division IV semifinals against eventual state champion Calvary Baptist Academy Cavaliers.
“Going into the semifinal game, Mr. Brister and I talked about the game before, which was Cedar Creek,” Coach Asberry said. “They took a lot of us in that game, and they are a great program. I can remember walking off the field and Mr. Brister asking me how I am going to get them up for another big game like that. I looked at him and the kids walking off the field, and I told him that I would get them ready. The guys came out the gate swinging, and scored on the first drive. We had a couple of turnovers, penalties, a dropped interception, and it’s really a different ball game.”
Despite not playing in the state championship game, the Southern Lab Kittens showed a lot of promise and because of that, the future is bright.
“Starting on offense, our quarterback Angelo Izzard, Darren Morris and the whole receiving core will be returning,” Coach Asberry said. “Also, our whole offensive line will be returning. Of course, Lutrell Pruitt is leaving so we will be young at running back. On the defensive side of the football, Herman Brister, Chris Bess, Shawn Bates, and our whole defensive line including our defensive player of the year Shane Forman will be returning. We will be put together, but the key for us is to get there healthy.”
With the combination of youth returning as well as some of the top players coming back from injury, the Kittens are definitely a force to be reckoned with in 2021.
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Jace is from Addis, LA but resides in Port Allen, LA. Jace attends Southeastern Louisiana University and is majoring in Communications. This is Jace’s fourth year as Associate Editor at Louisiana Football Magazine. He is also a graduate from Catholic High School in Baton Rouge where he was the editor of the school newspaper the “Bearly Published.” While at CHS, Jace also announced their football, basketball, and baseball games for the Bruin Broadcast Network which is the Catholic High’s streaming website for their events. On weekends, Jace is the PA announcer for his middle school football games. At home, Jace enjoys time with his family and friends. Besides being a huge football fan, Jace is also an avid NHRA drag racing fan.