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Braves getting past coaching changes


H.L. Bourgeois' Chris Harris (11) returns after leading the Braves in receiving last season. (Photo by Jim Cenac/Correspondent)


--10th in a 13-part series.

GRAY — For the second time in the last six months, H.L. Bourgeois is looking for a new head football coach.

After former coach Ben Powell resigned near the end of a 2-8 season last year, the Braves hired Jack Phillips Jr. as his replacement in December.

But Phillips' tenure at H.L. Bourgeois didn't last long. He was relieved of his duties on May 10.

H.L. Bourgeois principal Matthew Hodson said the school decided to move in a different direction from Phillips, who hasn't commented on the coaching change.

Hodson said the search for a new coach is ongoing. The school will accept applications for the job until May 31. After an interview process with the applicants, Hodson said he hopes to make a hire in early June, which will allow the new coach to take over the Braves' summer conditioning program.

Phillips' departure came during the middle of spring football practices this month, and once again, the football players at H.L. Bourgeois have been forced to ride through the effects of another coaching change. The new H.L. Bourgeois coach will be the program's fourth head coach since 2010.

H.L. Bourgeois quarterback Todd Adkins said it has been tough to go through so many coaches, but he believes the school's administration will hire someone who will bring stability to the program.

"I feel like they are going to find somebody who is going to bring us in the right direction," Adkins said. "Whatever the new coach thinks is good, we'll have faith in it. I just hope he stays with the plan and give us a good work ethic."

The Braves completed spring practices during a scrimmage with Vandebilt Catholic on May 17. During spring drills, Braves assistant coach Joe Riley handled the offensive duties, and assistant coach Randy Breaux took care of the defensive responsibilities.

Despite the uncertainty of what a new coach will bring, Braves senior linebacker Claude Verdin Jr. said the team has remained positive.

"It felt good to get back in the pads," Verdin Jr. said. "The team did their thing this spring. We all stayed together as a team and supported each other, and we did our best. We learned a lot over the couple of days that Coach Phillips was with us. We're just going to keep it going."

"We learned a lot with the way we executed," Adkins added. "We went through a lot of things, and we worked through everything. We're just working hard to get better."

Breaux, who has more than 30 years of coaching experience and has had stops at Central Lafourche and St. James, said he was proud of the players remaining upbeat throughout the spring. Breaux coached the final three games of last season as the Braves' interim coach.

"The kids did great," Breaux said. "We had over 100 kids out. Coach Phillips did a good job of getting the enthusiasm among the kids. We just tried to keep that going. We're trying to get our program going so we can compete on Friday nights."

The new Braves coach will also take over the team's new freshman program, which starts this fall.

"I know Mr. Hodson is going to make a good choice," Breaux said. "I know whoever comes in is going to be intent on building the program. We've got a good group of young players. That's a plus."

Riley, who was the Braves head coach from 2009-11, said he and the coaching staff focused on improving the player's fundamentals during spring ball. The biggest change was implementing a Wing-T offense for the spring game, which Riley said went smooth because the players were familiar with the system.

"The main thing is we were trying to get the best out of these 10 days," Riley said. "It's for the kids. We just wanted to teach them a little more football and be able to be competitive. They showed that. We're very proud of the kids. You look at these kids with all the adversity they've been through, and they are growing up right in front of your eyes. Whoever comes in as coach, we're just going to support them."

The Braves (2-8 overall last season) have gone 12-36 over the last five seasons, losing 23 straight district games.

Despite their struggles, Verdin said he is confident the Braves can turn the program around this year.

"It's just the mindset that we've got to stay together," Verdin Jr. said. "If we're down, we still have to play hard. That's how we would lose last year. We would break down in the games. We've just got to stay together and have a strong mindset, and everything will work through."

Coming Friday: South Lafourche.