Bastrop Rams Football Preview
Coming off of back-to-back 5-5 seasons, both of which ended with first-round playoff losses, the Bastrop Rams have their sights set considerably higher in 2018.
A solid core of seniors, led by reigning District 2-4A Offensive MVP Quaterius Hawkins, is the basis for the heightened hopes.
Hawkins was extremely sharp in the Rams' 29-13 Bayou Jamb victory over Sterlington on Friday night, completing 15-of-23 passes for 190 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
"That was one of the better performances I've seen from him," Bastrop coach Adrian Burnette said. "He audibled at the line a couple of times and put us in a better situation. I hope the jamboree was a precursorof what we are going to see from him this season."
Three of Hawkins incompletions, one of which was dropped, were on deep routes.
"Quaterius threw the vertical ball very well. By vertical, I mean 40 yards or more," Burnette said. "I know it sounds funny for me to be saying this when he was 0-for-3, but his throws were accurate."
Burnette was especially excited about the way third-year starter ran the ball Friday night.
"That's the element of his game we have been waiting on," Burnette said. "It's not that he couldn't run or was scared to run. He didn't run in the past because he just likes to throw the ball. Adding that element is going to take his game through the roof."
Sophomore Quadarrius Scott is Hawkins' understudy.
A deep group of running backs features senior Kyrese Lawrence, juniors Cartavious Allen and Bobby Smith and freshman Rayshard Lynch.
"This is really a good group," Burnette said.
Lawrence carried seven times for 35 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the Bayou Jamb. Allen showcased his pass-catching skills with a team-high five receptions for 86 yards.
"Cartavious played very well in the jamboree," Burnette said. "He had some opportunities in space, which is what we are looking to do with him."
In the spring, Burnette was concerned about a lack of depth at wide receiver. At the time, senior Calvert Johnson was the team's lone established target. This is now one of the Rams' deepest positions, which is the norm.
Senior Christian Smith returned to Bastrop after spending the spring semester at Alexandria Senior High, and junior A.J. Fenceroy moved back to wide receiver after spending most of last season in the secondary. A first-team All-State selection as a sophomore, Smith collected first-team All-District honors as both a wide receiver and return specialist last fall. Jordan Mansfield rounds out the starting quartet. Tyrin Smith, Carl Givens Jr. and Jacari Covington are also expected to figure into the equation.
"I've had better receivers person-to-person, but as far as a complete group, this might be the best group I have ever coached," Burnette said. "What's going to happen is people are going to end up keying on those guys, and somebody is going to slip in the back door and surprise you."
Bastrop is looking for improvement up front. So far, so good.
"Nothing against anybody who has been here in the past, but Cedric Sherrod, our new offensive line coach, has really done wonders with these guys," Burnette said. "That's why I believe the sky is the limit for them."
Also available on offense are wide receivers Tycariun Downs, Chandrian Murphy and LaDarrell Lee and linemen Jaiden Coleman, Baron Martin and Jaheim Johnson.
Senior Quandarious Rhodes has made the transition from the defensive tackle to right guard, joining junior holdovers Carter Ellison and left guard James Carter. Ellison, a first-team All-District center in 2017, enters his third year as a starter. Carterius Johnson and Terrion Morgan are the tackles.
Junior Denterrius McHenry, a first-team All-District selection in 2017, is the mainstay of the defensive front four. McHenry played on the edge in the Bayou Jamb, but is projected to spend most of his time in the interior.
"If he really stays focused
"If he really stays focused — which I know he is — our defense is going to be hard to deal with," Burnette said of McHenry.
Jordan Doaty is the other tackle with senior TJ Blanch Jr. and junior Markell Peoples at the ends. Blanch made first-team All-District last year as a linebacker.
"We're fast on the edge, which is always a plus," Burnette said.
Burnette is confident that junior linebackers Robeyone Williams and Germany Powell will provide an upgrade to what has been a problem area of late.
"I can't tell you the last time we have had two true inside linebackers," Burnette said. "And we are blessed, all of a sudden, to have two."
Senior strong safeties Phillip Jackson and C.J. Mullins, a pair of four-year regulars, are both bona fide playmakers.
"All I ask of them is that they stay consistent," Burnette said.
Jackson earned first-team All-District accolades last season. Mullins led the Rams' defensive effort in the jamboree with five tackles, three stops in the backfield, an interception, two pass breakups and a forced fumble in just 24 minutes.
Robby McDaniel and Jabez Thompson are the cornerbacks with Jaden Davis at free safety.
Blanch will handle the kickoffs with Fenceroy in charge of the punting and extra points.
Other defensive candidates for action: linemen Josef Frazier, Xavier Whitmore, Caleb Johnson and Maxwell McDaniel; linebackers Joseph Robinson, Michael Winfield, O'Larious Johnson, Asuntiae Smith, Kiantre Robinson, Hunter George and Kyrese Jackson; and defensive backs Denim Hill, Rodarrious Moore, Chris Lumpkin, Jalen Johnson, Varick Morgan, J'veon Moore, Dominic Turner, Anthony Peoples and Melvin Bradley.
Burnette isn't shying away from the expectations.
"Our expectations are higher just for the simple fact they have had a year in the system," the Rams' second-year head coach said. "Sometimes fans get mixed up when we have good players and start saying, 'They should have a good team because they were pretty good in the eighth or ninth grade.'
"That's not how it works. It's about building a program. It's about the team, the players and the next man up."
Burnette's elevated expectations aren't limited to others.
"Regardless of how long I have been coaching or how long I have been around, last year was my first time as a head coach," Burnette said. "I have to keep the good ideas from last year, throw out the bad ideas and learn from my mistakes. I think that's going to help us all get better this year."
Bastrop opens the regular season Friday night at home vs. New Orleans G.W. Carver.
Aug. 31 Carver
Sept. 7 at Airline
Sept. 14 at Calvary Baptist
Sept. 21 Richwood (Delta Night)
Sept. 28 Menard (HC)
Oct. 5 at Brother Martin
Oct. 12 Open
Oct. 19 Franklin Parish*
Oct. 26 at West Ouachita*
Nov. 2 at Neville*
All game times 7 p.m.