After taking a giant step forward in head coach Rick Hutson’s first year at the helm, the Highland Baptist Bears seek to make more progress in 2020.
The year before Hutson arrived, the Bears didn’t win a game.
Last season, they posted a 4-6 mark with a junior-laden team.
“We only lost two seniors,” Hutson said. “One on offense and one on defense.”
The Bears graduated last year’s leading receiver in Cade Boudreaux, but the remainder of the offense returns from a unit that averaged 47 points in HBCS’s four victories.
Dual-threat quarterback Myles Liggans (5-11, 175) should thrive once again in Hutson’s wide-open offense.
“We have high expectations with this being his second year running the same system,” Hutson said of his senior signal-caller.
“He has a much better grasp of it. I remind him sometimes of how he looked early last year. He said he couldn’t stand to watch it because he was so bad.”
Liggans is likely being too hard on himself, considering that he passed for 162 yards and ran for 101 in a 50-6 rout of Houma Christian in Week 1.
Although Boudreaux graduated, the Bears still have tremendous depth at receiver.
“We’re chomping at the bit to get started,” Hutson said. “Our second and third-leading receivers last year were Kylyn Jones and Keelan Preston.”
Jones (6-1, 200, Sr.) has added 20 pounds to his frame since last season.
Preston (5-11, 165, Sr.) missed the first four games on the offensive side of the ball with a broken finger.
“Preston only played defense in the first four games,” Hutson said.
Kale Decuir (5-11, 175, Sr.) is another returning starter at receiver.
“We have a bunch of receivers who are capable,” Hutson said. “Last year, we only felt comfortable with four or five receivers. This year, we have eight.”
Troy Freyou and Matthew Elrod provide additional depth at wideout for HBCU, which will utilize a stable of tailbacks.
“We’ll be a running back by committee,” said Hutson, who will often utilize the services of Sadler Delahoussaye (5-8, 185, Sr.) and Luther Laughlin (5-10, 180, Sr.) when the Bears hand off.
“We have four capable backs,” Hutson said.
Delahoussaye (LB) and Laughlin (CB) are also key returning starters on defense.
“We’re going to try to avoid playing kids both ways all of the time,” Hutson said.
The Bears were decimated by injuries in 2019. Hutson lost four starters early in the season.
“From that time on, we were short-handed,” he said.
The entire offensive line returns and all five are underclassmen.
The unit is composed of Corb Sprague (6-3, 255, Jr.) and Bronson Charles (6-2, 175, Soph.) at tackle, Drake Turner (5-11, 270, Jr.) and Nick McGee (5-11, 265, Jr.) at guard and Carroll Oliver (5-10, 255, Jr.) at center.
The defensive line will be anchored by junior Rorry Rideaux (5-11, 300) and Tyreke Collins (6-1, 240, Sr.)
Freshman Ty Olivier (5-8, 170) will join Delahoussaye at linebacker.
“Ty is a unique combination in that he’s a starting linebacker and also our backup quarterback,” Hutson said. “He’s a football-smart kid.”
Cornerback Derrick Wright (5-9. 155., Sr.) and free safety Jarworski Joseph (5-11, 165, Jr.) are veteran returning starters.
“Keelan Preston played all 10 games at defensive back last year,” Hutson said. “We’re hoping to find someone to replace him and Luther in the secondary so they can concentrate on offense.”
The Bears may be scrambling for a Week 1 opponent.
“We’re supposed to play Grand Lake,” Hutson said. “We haven’t heard anything from them yet, but we’ve also heard they won’t start school until January because of Hurricane Laura.”