The past decade has been the most successful in the history of Isidore Newman’s football program and last season was another great addition to the list.
The Greenies finished the regular season undefeated and reached the state semifinals for the second year in a row. A narrow defeat at the hands of eventual state champion Lafayette Christian was the only obstacle that kept Newman from making his maiden trip to the state finals.
There is much to look back on with pride for head coach Nelson Stewart and his company; however, they are not happy with their 2020 campaign.
We couldn’t be more focused, motivated and ready to work and get better every day in preparation for fall, explained Stewart, the Newman alumnus and former Tulane quarterback.
The Greenies will be without a few key seniors from last season, including two-way star Sterling Scott, defensive tackle Joshua Koeppel and kicker/linebacker Will Hardie, along with wide receivers John Charbonnet and Pike Philbert. But the closet on Jefferson Avenue is far from bare.
We have a strong feeling that we will improve,” Stewart explains. “We have a lot of players coming back with gaming experience, especially big game experience.
Expectations are once again high for a powerful attack led by elite quarterback Arch Manning (64, 210). A name that should be known to most in the state of Louisiana and even the country at this point, the junior is one of the most sought-after recruits in the country.
Because of the way he is, he doesn’t really seek the limelight or really pay much attention to it,” Stewart noted. “We’re really focused on the team. We were focused on our work in the weight room, with good installations and special installations where we turned off the sound. We’re about being team-oriented.
Stewart is confident that not only can his quarterback handle the pressure he puts on him, but Manning is humble enough to thrive under it. After a stat of 1,922 passing yards, 21 touchdowns and eight interceptions while completing 67% of his passes in 10 games, more is expected this season. He also ran 38 times for 274 yards and eight touchdowns, proving he’s not just a pocket passer.
Manning will have a wide variety of weapons at his disposal, including last year’s lead receiver AJ Johnson (64, 205). The LSU committ faced many chances, catching 40 passes for 558 yards and five touchdowns.
Opposite Johnson is wide receiver junior Kai Donaldson (64, 195) who will build a solid second season of 26 receptions for 373 yards and three touchdowns.
Tight end Will Randle (64, 240) also returns for his junior year. Last season, he collected 19 receptions for 186 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Will Randle has gotten bigger, faster and stronger and we’ve been able to build things around him.” Stewart bragged. “I can’t say enough about him, he’s really grown into an even better player.
Randle also contributed to the defense, where he scored 28 tackles, 9.0 for losses and 3.0 sacks. Off-season, he has received offers from major programs such as LSU and Texas.
Stewart and Offensive line coach Jason Matthews will be much more sizeable than usual in the trenches this season.
Our lines have become much stronger and more physical,” said Stewart. “We should be 220 (lbs or more) across the board this year.
Ahead of the attack, the Greenies will rely on another LSU pledge, left-handed Bo Bordelon (66, 280). His younger brother Brett Bordelon (64, 240) starts as a freshman in the right tackle position.
The defense led by Coordinator Dustin Nothnagel comes off a remarkable year in which they kept seven of their 10 opponents on a single-digit points total. A regular group of returning starters from last year returns.
Senior defensive end John Guillot (60, 190) had a great year in 2020, making 25 tackles, 5 for losses and firing the quarterback 3 times.
Junior Ramaj Waiters (61, 230) joins Randle and Guillot in the defensive line, giving Newman a very strong and solid front. Waiters produced 45 tackles, 11 for losses and 2.0 sacks from the inside of the Greenies line. Brandon Wilkins (62, 290), who failed to qualify last year, adds a massive new presence to the defense line interior.
Ramaj Waiters and Brandon Wilkins were very excited that the two could work together. I’m very excited about our front seven defensively and we have a chance to be very strong against the run, Stewart said.
Chris Hunter (61, 175) will once again man the clear safety position, where he had 16 tackles and three interceptions for Newman last year. He will also do his part in the attack. Chris has had the best summer as a top to bottom wide receiver, he’s been great, Stewart added.
Jack Robert (510, 175) returns for his senior season at cornerback, giving the Greenies even more experience in the secondary. Not a typical corner, he excels as a running defender and sometimes chases the passer. Last year, he had 22 tackles, 4.0 for losses and 2.0 sacks from outside.
The Greenies have seven of their 10 regular season games at home, so they’ll be spending plenty of time in the friendly environment of Michael Lupin Field.
Newman opens the 2021 season with a matchup with uptown foe Lusher. Week 2 is the first big challenge for the Greenies, as they will travel to Reserve to take on the Riverside Academy Rebels. Last year’s matchup was a thriller in which Newman eventually emerged as the winner, 31-26.
Week 3 will be the start of a four-game homestand for the Greenies as they face the eternal might of West St. John, Metairie Park Country Day, Pearl River and Fisher on their own turf.
Newman heads to LaPlace to take on their district rival, the St. Charles Catholic Comets. Last year’s game was a low scoring affair as both defenses played exceptionally. Newman went on to win 14-7 from eventual second place in Division III.
Week 8 will be one of the biggest games in the history of the program as Berkeley Prep will travel all the way from Tampa Bay, Florida to face the Greenies in New Orleans. This game can be broadcast nationally. Newman had their game against Booker T. Washington broadcast on ESPN last year.
Newman takes on Cohen at home and concludes the 2021 regular season with a trip to Port Sulfur to meet the South Plaquemines Hurricanes.
It’s a well-balanced schedule, and I certainly hope we’ll know where we stand by then.” Stewart detailed: “In terms of the condition and knowing well what we need to work on.
Despite the years of success Stewart’s attack has brought to his program over the years, he believes there is still a lot of room for improvement.
Hopefully we can bring another layer of complexity to our passing game. We’ve gotten a lot of things done in this off-season, and I think we’re in a good position to expand what we’re doing across all three phases – that’s throwing, that’s football and our pace too.
Complacent isn’t something that describes Stewart’s Greenies, a group that still hasn’t peaked despite having lined up some great teams and players over the years.
The goal is to improve on every flaw we saw (last year), meaning our goal is clearly to win a state championship, and it should stay that way. We have been so close so many times.”
Having a complete team that can win in many different ways is the ultimate goal for Newman if they want to finally win a state title.
“What we have to do to reach that level of excellence, we have to play a great defense, we have to lead football and we have to win upfront, we want to be old school.
In fact, the most successful Greenie teams weren’t always the flashiest teams or the ones that won with finesse. Those teams were the grinders that could scrape every inch on the grid. Winning in the trenches is what has separated the good Newman teams from the great. This year’s team seems to have all the ingredients for it.
Having been in the semi-finals for three of the last four seasons and after a short loss to LCA, we are very focused and determined to get better,” Stewart said.
Newman doesn’t have that much to go on to turn better into the best.
Click here for more previews of CCS Prep Football teams (including archives of previews from last season).
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