DENHAM SPRINGS – It didn’t take second-year Denham Springs football coach Bill Conides very long to express his feelings for the 2018 season.
“This year we’re extremely excited,” he said to members of the Denham Springs Kiwanis Club on Thursday. “This is probably the most excited that I have been about a football team ever, and I’ve had some really good teams in the past.”
Conides’ excitement had less to do about the 12 returning starters from a 6-5 team that exited the Class 5A state playoffs at the hands of eventual runner-up Hahnville.
He was equally upbeat about the second year of his philosophy being woven into the team fabric, a daily reminder that’s been prevalent since the start of offseason workouts nearly seven months ago that has endured during the summer’s unrelenting heat.
“A lot of has to do with the kids buying into our message, what we’re trying to get across and what we’re trying to do on a daily basis,” he said.
Conides said this season’s theme – Climbing the Mountain – is not just about a program trying to find its footing under a coach in his second year, but represents the necessary steps a team must take in its growth and development.
“It’s not a destination,” Conides said of the team’s catchphrase. “It’s more of a fulfillment of potential as a team. How dedicated are you to your teammate? How good of a teammate are you on a daily basis?
“That’s very important and the only way you’re going to win,” Conides said. “To win football games, you have to have that. You can’t just show up and win. It takes hard work, dedication and being a good teammate.”
Conides said those core values were reinforced last week during a team retreat conducted on campus in the fieldhouse.
While the team practiced – including an early-riser of a session last Saturday at 5:30 a.m. under the stadium lights – the retreat also focused on off-the-field intangibles such as team chemistry and goal setting.
The team’s leadership, led by the seniors, is already headed in the right direction, Conides said.
“All of that combined to me is what creates great football programs,” he said. “Wins are byproducts of those things, what you do on a daily basis. We’re fortunate to have 105 (sophomores through seniors) young men that fully believe in that. They’re fully dedicated to our process and what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Denham Springs will feature a slight variation to last year’s offense, although Conides expects first-year starting quarterback Luke Lunsford to be more under center than Cameron Feucht, who operated more out of the shotgun.
Gone is the school’s career rushing leader Tyre Golmond to Gulf Coast (Miss.) Community College, but the Yellow Jackets will have a physical presence in 218-pound senior Treveon Muse running behind a big and experienced offensive line.
The Yellow Jackets will also feature a deep and talented wide receiver corps led by Northwestern State commitment DJ Williams.
“I think I’ve done a better job of adapting to who we have,” Conides said. “There are coaches out there that say, ‘this is what we’re going to do regardless of who we’ve got’. I want the kids to be successful, so I’m going to create a system to where they’re going to be the most successful.”
Southeastern Louisiana linebacker commitment Davion Nassri spearheads an athletic and aggressive defense that returns five starters.
Denham Springs will transition from fall camp to early-season competition with a scrimmage at Catholic High on Aug. 17 at 5 p.m. and jamboree at Dutchtown, Aug. 23 at 6 p.m.
The Yellow Jackets will host seven of their 10 regular-season games, but open the season Aug. 31 against Hammond at SLU’s Strawberry Stadium.
“We are extremely talented,” Conides said. “We did lose some seniors that played very big roles on our team offensively and defensively. We feel we’re replacing those gaps with kids that not only have good experience, but character. They’re going to go in and do their job, take coaching and ultimately they’re going to battle through adversity.”