The best may not have come yet for Catholic High quarterback Joe Lissard.
Those who saw the 6-foot-2 inch tall junior in action in 2011 know just how scary that thought is. Lissard was among the state’s top passers this season in leading the Panthers to the Class 2A quarterfinals this season, completing nearly 60 percent of his pass attempts for 3,142 yards and 39 touchdowns with only nine interceptions.
Those numbers earned him District 6-2A Offensive Most Valuable Player honors, and pushed him to the top of the list of the Teche Area’s top football players as well. Lissard was named the Offensive MVP of The Daily Iberian’s Best of the Teche Football Team for 2011 by the sports staff of The Daily Iberian.
“He’s ready to take a big step next year,” said Catholic High coach Keith Menard, who was named Coach of the Year for the Best of the Teche team. “I think he can get better, and he does too.”
Menard doesn’t know of many people who were unimpressed with Lissard after watching him play this season. His consistency and accuracy (completing 217 of 366 attempts) made him stand out every week for the Panthers, who won 11 straight games in an 11-2 campaign. CHS went unbeaten in district play along the way, and after losing their opener to Class 4A quarterfinalist Teurlings Catholic by a single point in the season opener, didn’t lose again until traveling to Shreveport to face longtime power Evangel Christian in the third round of the playoffs.
“His consistency on a week-to-week basis is special,” said Menard. “We’re not looking to let him go just yet.”
St. Martinville coach Gary Adkins and Hanson coach Richard Sandusky also were strong candidates for Coach of the Year honors as both led their teams to the playoffs for the first time since 2006. Adkins led SMSH to a 5-6 mark in his first season at the helm and Sandusky’s team went 7-4 overall.
Lissard leads a strong offensive group of players that also includes a 2,000-yard rusher and the state’s leader in pass receiving yards.
Loreauville running back Nick Julien and West St. Mary wide receiver Dai Juan Stewart both put up terrific numbers and each likely would have challenged for district MVP honors, except that both played in the same district as Lissard.
Julien was among the state’s top runners with 2,030 yards and 30 touchdowns. The 6-foot tall, 185-pounder wore out defenses with his power and speed.
“He just got stronger as the game went on,” said LHS coach Trent Delahoussaye. “Some of his best runs seemed to come late in games. He’s a very dependable kid, a very strong kid.”
Stewart set national records in a Sept. 23 win over Kaplan with 14 catches for 404 yards and six touchdowns, the majority of that (275 yards, 5 TDs) coming in the first quarter alone. That propelled him to the top of the state receiving leaders with 72 catches for 1,278 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Joining Julien and Lissard in the backfield are running backs Jontrey Tillman of West St. Mary (112 carries, 1,440 yards, 14 TDs) and Jamal Sam of Westgate (129-849, 9 TDs).
Sam picked up steam once the District 7-5A champion Tigers hit league play, said WHS coach Brian Fine.
“Jamal ran the ball really well, particularly in district play,” Fine said.
Joining Stewart as receivers are Catholic High senior Blake Byrom and sophomore Gabriel Fuselier, two of Lissard’s top targets. Byrom finished the year with 65 catches for 1,133 yards and 12 touchdowns and Fuselier had 61 catches for 814 yards and 11 TDs. Tight end Kendall Wiltz of St. Martinville, a first-team District 5-4A pick, rounds out the receiving corps.
Byrom was the leader of the CHS receivers, said Menard.
“He always seemed to make a great catch every game,” said his coach. “He’s a slot guy who’s not afraid to take that hit and go up and make a catch in traffic.”
Fuselier was a flashier player with two more seasons ahead of him.
“He’s that guy you had trouble tackling,” said Menard. “He could make some guys miss and go for a touchdown. How much better is he going to be in two years? He’s gotten a chance to get a lot of action in two years already.”
Offensive linemen for the Best of the Teche first team include Tyler Patout (5-10, 240) of New Iberia Senior High, Joshua Boutte (6-5, 305) of Westgate, Ashton Knatt (5-9, 215) of Loreauville, Landen Pillaro (6-1, 280) of Hanson and Alan Lockett of Franklin. All were first-team All-District selections, with Pillaro also earning first-team All-District honors as a defensive lineman with 52 tackles, including 10 for loss, and seven sacks.
Colby Delahoussaye of New Iberia was the first-team kicker, after earning All-District honors with six field goals and 33 PAT kicks. He also consistently put the ball into the end zone for the Yellow Jackets on kickoffs. Delahoussaye has said he plans to choose between LSU and Mississippi State for his college career.
“He kicked off the ground, which is Highly unusual for High school, but he wanted to get ready for college,” said NISH coach Rick Hutson. “That worried me a little, but he kept his accuracy. I’ve said a number of times, he’s the best kicker I’ve ever been around.”
Several other players earned first-team spots as all-purpose athletes, including New Iberia’s Javonte Johnson, Velot Khammany and Lamarcus Allen, Westgate’s D’Nerius Antoine, Loreauville’s Jermaine Antoine, St. Martinville’s Jamiah Nelson, Delcambre’s Jace Dore, Highland Baptist’s Zach Fleming and Hanson’s Collin Broussard.
Johnson was New Iberia’s quarterback, finishing with 1,485 yards and 16 touchdowns while completing 57.9 percent of his passes. He often sat out the second half of district blowout wins.
“He had a very good season, especially for it being his first year as a starter at the varsity level,” said Hutson. “Probably what hurt him at the All-District meeting was he didn’t have quite the numbers some guys had because he didn’t play as much. Plus he sat out the last game (with an injury).”
Khammany rushed for 625 yards and nine TDs and had 18 catches for 188 yards and another TD as the Jackets’ primary running back.
“He probably ended his junior year a little frustrated (because) he and Tevin (Archon) shared reps and toward the end of the season, Tevin really caught fire and got the majority of reps toward the end of the year and in the playoffs,” Hutson said. “Instead of pouting about it, he had a great offseason. He couldn’t have had a better year. He’s got quick feet and great vision, and when you run zone like we do, that’s what you look for in a running back.”
Allen, a Louisiana-Lafayette signee, was the Jackets’ leading receiver with 36 catches for 725 yards and six touchdowns.
“He had a good career,” said Hutson. “He started three seasons, but he had a breakout year this year.”
D’Nerius Antoine played quarterback, running back, receiver and defensive back for Westgate, rushing for 402 yards and six TDs, passing for 308 yards and five TDs and catching 10 passes for 177 yards and two TDs.
“He started at safety, and returned two of his interceptions for touchdowns,” said Fine. “He played quarterback under center and out of the shotgun. He played running back. He snapped for us on long snaps. He’s just a great kid. He did anything we asked him to do.”
Jermaine Antoine, a junior, was the lightning to Julien’s thunder on the Loreauville offense. He played running back and receiver, and started at quarterback against St. Thomas Aquinas. He was the Tigers’ best cover corner on defense and returned all the punts and kickoffs for LHS.
“Every time he touches the ball he can go the distance,” said Trent Delahoussaye.
“When you talk to (opposing) coaches, he’s the one every one wants to talk about, No. 7. Every Friday night he comes to play. I haven’t seen many kids who love to play football as much as him. He’s definitely going to be our go-to guy next year.”
Nelson was a first-team All-District pick at running back for St. Martinville.
Dore was a two-time first-team All-District running back for Delcambre, and a standout on defense as well. Dore had 840 rushing yards with eight TDs, had a receiving touchdown and returned seven kickoffs for 139 yards. He also had 24 tackles on defense with four pass break-ups, and returned a fumble 35 yards for a touchdown.
Fleming led Highland Baptist to the Louisiana Christian School Athletic Association championship game. The senior QB passed for 362 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 670 yards and seven TDs.
Broussard was a bruiser on offense and defense, rushing for a team-High 713 yards and six touchdowns primarily from the fullback position. On defense he had 59 total tackles with seven sacks.
Honorable mentions on offense include West St. Mary quarterback Trevell Dixon (93-160, 1,568 yards, 15 TDs passing; 722 yards, 7 TDs rushing), offensive linemen Austin Carlin, Tremar Connor and Shawn Robinson, and running back Devone Robertson; Loreauville placekicker Zachary Galatas; Westgate fullback Alan Stansbury and offensive lineman Devontae Brown; Catholic High offensive lineman Jarrett Livingston; Hanson wide receiver Chase Businelle (23-517, 8 TDs) and athlete Beau Ancona (85-560, 10 TDs rushing; 54 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 INT, 2 fumble recoveries on defense); and offensive linemen John Watts and Avery Hanks of Highland Baptist.