The Westgate High School Tigers are simply looking to improve upon what they did in a jamboree/scrimmage against Southside High School last week when they travel across town to meet New Iberia Senior High in the teams’ annual Bayou Berry Bowl on Thursday.
“We saw some good things, we saw some bad things,” Antoine said. “We’re still trying to figure some things out and trying to get some guys in certain spots. We just want to go out there and try to improve on what we did last week and try to get better each week. We know this is not a sprint, this is a marathon. We know this is an in-town game, but it’s not a game that’s going to make or break us. It’s not the biggest game of our season.
“We want to get better each week and try to keep all our players healthy and be ready for the push late.”
The Tigers will continue to do what they did all summer and prepare for the end of the year and a run to and into the playoffs, he said.
This year’s game is different in that a limited number of fans will be in the stands because of the state’s and Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s COVID-19 guidelines, and in that it is the season opener instead of being played in the middle of the season or towards the end as it has been in the past.
“By this time last year we already had played four games with the scrimmage and the jamboree and the first two weeks, so this would be going basically into our fifth game,” Antoine said. “But everybody’s in that same boat right now. It’s going to come down to experience and guys doing the little things well. We didn’t do a lot of the little things well last week, so that’s what we’re going to harp on this week and make sure we’re a better team than we were last week.”
Antoine said he felt his team just tried to feel things out last week instead of going out and setting the tone. After a good start, the players seemed to sit back a little and waited until Southside punched back before reacting, he said.
“That’s something that we’re going to try to go out there this week and make sure that we’re not going to just get hit in the mouth and start playing after that,” he said. “Playing the type of team we’re going to be playing, a 5A program, NISH will be better than they were. They looked good in their scrimmage, and they’ll be ready to play, so we definitely can’t come out and play like we did last week or we won’t be on the right side of the column.”
Football is a game of momentum, he said, and the coaches want Westgate to play on an even keel emotionally.
“We’ve got to put all four quarters together,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure we’re not out there uncoordinated and not disciplined. We’re playing a type of offense (the Wing-T) where you’re going to have to stay disciplined to play against them. That’s what we’ve been working on and the thing we’ve been kind of harping on to make sure we play better than the week prior.”
New Iberia’s offense is a tough matchup early on with the kinds of deception and motion it puts into play, he said, and with Westgate still figuring out which players fill which roles best.
“We lost our whole defensive front (from) last year, so we’re replacing those guys, so we’re just trying to teach those young kids how to play and play our style, so other guys are going to have to step up for us to be successful and continue being successful for the rest of the year.”
Offensively, Antoine is looking to eliminate mistakes he saw last week.
“We threw three interceptions in one quarter last week, and we didn’t do a great job of blocking on the permiter,” he said. “We had a big play but we couldn’t sustain any drives. Making sure we’re able to move the ball and control the clock, and possess the ball, those are some of the things I want to make sure that we’re doing offensively.”
The Tigers have a big hole to fill on special teams with the loss of kicker/punter Connor Scott, the coach said.
“Connor Scott was a very, very big weapon, probably our best weapon last year,” he said. “He flipped the field with kickoffs. He also was a great field-goal kicker and also a great punter. We’ve got some younger guys there. Dylan Bourque, he’s a new guy that’s going to kick. His leg isn’t the strongest but he’s been working his tail off, so the guys know they’ve got to get the ball in position for him to be able to make those kicks. We’ve got Jordan Doucet who plays receiver for us doing our punting right now. He’s doing a good job of that. Those are the things I want to see live in a true game that we haven’t been able to see yet.”
The main thing for the Tigers is to focus a hundred percent on Westgate, Antoine said.
“Walking on the field, as long as we don’t beat up ourselves, we have a great chance of winning any game we play,” he said. “We mark the small things and we just try to go out and play with as much passion as we can. We feel our passion and the way that we love each other and the way that we play will carry us to the victories and the type of record that we want. Those are the things we’re going to stress.”
Though the game won’t have the big crowds of past matchups, the players are still looking forward to playing.
“The good thing is these kids are at least getting a chance to play football,” he said. “That was so much up in the air over the summer and going into the beginning of the fall where these kids didn’t know if they would be able to play or not. Just giving these kids a chance and give our community a chance to go out and see our kids do something positive for our community for both sides I think is a plus.
“These kids will remember these games for the rest of their lives. It’s just giving them the memories and giving them some type of entertainment and some type of getaway before they have to go back and deal with everything else they have to deal with.”