by Taylor Williams
October 22, 2009 – As the month of October progresses, bringing with it the allure of postseason baseball, a separate wave of athletic promise is steadily rising. Its football season, a time of nationwide fervor and intensity, and New Orleans is no exception. Anyone from Louisiana knows that fans down here are amongst the most loyal- and demanding- in the country. While the early successes of the Saints and LSU Tigers have certainly generated a buzz throughout the city and the state, high school football is bubbling with equal intensity. Just ask Jay Roth, the longstanding head coach at Archbishop Rummel, a 5A Jefferson Parish High School and major contender in the notoriously competitive Catholic League.
Coach Roth, a former graduate of the Catholic school and seasoned veteran of Jefferson Parish football, has thus far led the Red Raiders to a 5-0 start in a highly competitive division. No easy task in this league, which has a longstanding tradition of intense rivalries between coaches who have played together, worked together, and developed friendly yet competitive relationships over time. When asked about the key factors of the Raiders’ initial success, Coach Roth’s answer was simple and concise: defense. This comes as no surprise to longtime Raider fans, who have seen Coach Roth’s defensively oriented coaching philosophy yield positive results for years. What is somewhat anomalous to the untrained eye, however, is that Coach Roth is also the Raiders’ offensive coordinator, yet nonetheless places a premium on defensive leadership. But true Raiders’ fans understand the necessity of this approach, given the uncertainty at the quarterback position, and the relative inexperience and injuries of the offense, which Roth presently describes as a “claw and scratch” unit. Comeback drives, fourth quarter victories, and low scoring games have characterized the Raiders’ offense this season, but surprisingly not to Coach Roth’s chagrin. Simply put, it is the Raiders’ outstanding defensive prowess that has won games for them so far, and that’s just how the coach likes it, especially considering the heightened level of competition this season. But the Raiders’ defensive structure is far from simplistic. Drawing from an experienced group of seniors, the Raiders exemplify outstanding leadership on the line, in the secondary, and especially in the line backing corps. Led by all district stars Philip Helmstetter and Chris Randle, the Raiders’ line backing corps gives the 4 man defensive line a powerful boost in coverage schemes and pass rushes. Throw in hard hitting safety Carvin Johnson (also a double threat as wide receiver) and you have a defensive unit best described as an offense’s nightmare. Depth, experience, versatility, and leadership are hallmarks of Coach Roth’s defense, and they’re playing with the intensity needed to win championships. Having already proven themselves as the core of the team, the Raiders’ defense looks to continue its high level play as the season progresses, with the ultimate objective of dethroning reigning division champs Brother Martin.