Overcoming Adversity, the Walker Wildcats Have Themselves A Great Finish to the Season
by Jace LeJeune
Anytime a team has to adjust to a new head coach during the season, it is a difficult situation, but the Walker Wildcats made the most of it winning eight games, finishing second in a tough Class 5A district, and making the playoffs. After the school had to let go of Head Coach Lester Ricard Jr., the football program was under the direction of former Hammond Head Football Coach Cecil Thomas. Coach Thomas did a great job of guiding the ship and leading the Wildcats to a very successful season. Coach Thomas knew how hard it was going to be for the kids, but he made sure to make it as smooth as a transition it could be.
“You know it is all about the kids,” Thomas said. “I wanted to put the kids into good situations and getting the game plan together. We tried not to change too much and keep the same offensive and defensive philosophies. There were a couple of tweaks here and there, but overall, I wanted it to be simple and put the ball in playmakers’ hands so that they can go make plays.”
Besides the coaching, it was the team’s ability to make explosive plays that helped put the Wildcats in the position to win football games. One of those playmakers was senior do it all safety Byron Lockhart Jr. According to Coach Thomas, Lockhart was a player that could do it all for the Wildcats playing running back, wide receiver, defensive back, returning kicks, punts, and even playing quarterback.
“BJ was such a big time playmaker for us,” Thomas said. “He was just so explosive for us and he is going to find a place to play at the college level.”
Louisiana Football Magazine’s recruiting guru Lee Brecheen has always been very high on the 5-8, 180 pound safety.
“BJ Lockhart is one of the best hitting safeties in Louisiana and covers like a cornerback for his team,” Brecheen said. “Lockhart does not play like he is 5-8, but more like he is 6-2, 220.”
Both Coach Thomas and Brecheen are looking forward to seeing Lockhart play on Saturdays. Right now, Lockhart has received offers from Louisiana Tech, Memphis, Southern Miss, Tulane, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Arizona State. Lockhart may be the biggest senior recruit, but he is not the only senior that can play at the next level.
According to Brecheen, guys like LB/DE Cade Seymour can play at the I-AA level. According to Coach Thomas, Seymour was not only a great player, but most importantly, he provided leadership to the team especially when leadership was needed the most.
“Cade Seymour was one of our senior captains this year,” Thomas said. “At times this season, Seymour played hurt with an ankle sprain, but he still gave us all he got. He is a very smart kid that was very physical for us. Overall, he was a really good player.”
Lockhart and Seymour were two of the main seniors, but other seniors including DE Ke’Andre Ventress, CB TJ Briley, OL/DT Kobe Baylock, WR/FS Calvin Watson, WR Trent Montgomery, OG/OT Isaiah Zachery, and OT Garrett Emmons all can play at the D-II or D-III level according to Brecheen.
Coach Thomas loves this group and is trying his best for his guys to get a shot with somebody at the next level.
“Ke’Andre Ventress has the athleticism to play at the next level,” Thomas said. “Ventress was a great pass rusher off the edge for us. He did a really good job of keeping contain, rushing the passer, and also being a great teammate. We are trying to get Kobe Baylock an opportunity to play somewhere whether it is D-II or D-III. He moved from defensive tackle to offensive line for us this season. He is a big strong body that can play. TJ Briley is going to focus on track. Another kid that has a chance to play is Calvin Watson. He has gotten some SWAC offers so far. Trent Montgomery, Isaiah Zachery, and Garrett Emmons have all been really good players for our program as well.”
According to Thomas, this senior class is one of the winningest senior class programs in Walker history and that they deserve a lot of credit for their success and the way they handled themselves this season. Garrett Emmons, who made 1st Team All-Parish, stated that Coach Cecil Thomas deserves a lot of credit for what he has done with the team this season.
“It was rough,” Emmons said. “We all had a rough time losing two amazing coaches and adjusting to start playing without them, but Coach Cecil Thomas never skipped a beat and neither did the team. We all knew what the goal was no matter what obstacles might be in our way.”
Next season, the Walker Wildcats return a bunch of talent including some talented underclassmen that also played a big part on Walker’s state championship teams on the basketball hardwood. With Coach Thomas now having a full off season, the Wildcats can have a fresh start and can make plenty of noise not only in basketball, but on the football field as well.
“We are blessed to have some great kids here,” Thomas said. “We do lose some good seniors this class, but we are going to have back some really good juniors, sophomores, and freshmen that are coming up. Our future looks really bright.”
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