Denham Springs High School is dealing with the tragic loss of offensive lineman Remy Hidalgo last month from heat-related causes.
Westgate High School head coach Ryan Antoine knows the Yellow Jackets will be inspired when the teams meet today in Denham Springs for a non-district football game. The Tigers are still dealing with their own tragedy after the heart-wrenching loss of well-liked assistant coach Stephen Schaub in a car wreck in July.
“It’s going to be an emotional game,” WHS head coach Ryan Antoine said. “It’s going to be their first home game. They have a new coach (Brett Beard), but you can tell they’re getting it. We know they’re going to come out with a lot of emotion early on in the game, and that’s something we’ve got to be prepared for and also be able to withstand. The game’s going to be packed, and they’re dealing with a tragedy.
“We understand that too because we dealt with one of our coaches (dying) this summer. It’s going to be bigger than the game. What they have to deal with, with the player, we’re still dealing with, with the coach. That’s always a big void that we recognize and that always hits us at certain times, because we always expect him to do certain things or just to be there. We understand the emotions that go with it.”
The coach said he wants his team to set the tone early, something they didn’t do in a narrow 27-25 loss to New Iberia to open the season. Instead, the Tigers let NISH dictate much of the pace and style of the game.
That was remedied quickly in a 64-8 win over Tara last Wednesday. The game was moved up to get it in before Hurricane Delta hit the state’s coast on Friday.
“I was impressed that with a two-day practice week, that our guys were able to come out here and be physical and just swing early and not let the game come to us, we kind of dictated the whole entire game,” Antoine said. “I was proud of our guys for that.”
The coaches felt the team didn’t start out the first game playing the way they wanted to, and it cost them.
“I wanted to make sure we did a better job of setting the tone, and being more the thermostat and not the thermometer,” he said. “It’s kind of how we talk to our kids. We want to set the tone, set the temperature, and not just go out there and just go with the flow and wait for somebody else to make the play.”
Denham Springs is a Class 5A program, and the Tigers are expecting a tough game in a tough environment. Last year Westgate played one of its most complete games in a 70-21 win at Denham Springs.
“I’m sure they don’t want the results to look the same as last year, so that’ll be another thing they preach over there, that they don’t want their guys to go out there and lay down and not play the way they feel they should play,” Antoine said. “They’re 0-2. We’re 1-1. We also know that it’s going to be a tough environment. We have to go out and set the tone and be ready to withstand whatever emotions are going on. Also it’s going to be a big environment and they’re going to give us their best punch to win the game.”
Under Beard, the Jackets are running a lot more than last year, when DSHS threw the ball around a lot more. Denham Springs also looks to be more physical in its approach and more talented, Antoine said.
“We just want to go out there and hopefully they don’t catch their stride against us,” he said. “We just want to make sure we go out there and do what we need to do and play the way we feel we should play, and we’ll let the chips fall where they may.”