Mustangs set to embark on ‘New Beginnings'
Fri. August 24, 2012 at 12:08 p.m. | By Brent St. Germain/Sports Editor
Key senior players for the Assumption Mustangs are offensive lineman Hunter Alleman (66), quarterback Cameron Bland (12), wide receiver Malik Mills (12) and linebacker Slye Ourso (30). (Photo by Brent St. Germain/Staff)
NAPOLEONVILLE — Assumption's motto for the 2012 season is fitting.
With a new coach and having to replace 26 seniors, the Mustangs are heading into a season of "New Beginnings."
Anthony Paine takes over as Assumption's head coach, replacing Don Torres, who retired from the school system.
Paine, a 1999 Assumption graduate, said the change has gone over smoothly as many of last season's assistant coaches have remained on the staff. He is also familiar with the team after serving as its defensive coordinator the past seasons.
The challenge, Paine said, is to find players to fill the shoes of the departed 26 seniors.
"Replacing 26 seniors is not necessarily the easiest thing to do, but we have a good group coming up behind them," Paine said. "It's not so much in the way of change on our team. We just have many new faces. I played for Don and worked under Don, so a lot of things have stayed the same."
Paine inherits a team coming off 10-2 season and a District 8-4A championship. It was Assumption's second-straight playoff appearance after a three-year drought.
Although there is a new coach on the sidelines and several new faces in the starting lineup, the goal remains the same for the Mustangs — return to the Class 4A state playoffs.
"Everybody thinks we are not going to do too good this season, so that is firing us up," senior wide receiver Malik Mills said. "We are ready to go out there and prove everybody wrong."
Paine said the Mustangs have worked hard throughout the offseason and fall drills and one of their main goals is to make it three straight trips to the state playoffs.
"It all depends on what we did in the offseason," he said. "We just can't be satisfied, and some our team goals include that. We want to be a playoff-caliber team, compete for a district championship and have a winning season. Those are things we want to keep doing, and we do that through our weight and conditioning program, structure, discipline and organization. Those things will help us achieve those goals."
Assumption enters the season looking to replace 12 starters — six each on offense and defense.
Paine said the biggest holes to fill will be in the offensive backfield where the Mustangs must replace a pair of first-team District 8-4A performers — quarterback Hunter Gauthreaux and running back Chris Johnson.
Filling in those role will be senior quarterback Cameron Bland, senior running back Acquindas Brown and sophomore running back Dontrez Wiggins.
Bland said he is ready for the challenge to replace the reigning District 8-4A and The Courier/Daily Comet All-Region Most Valuable Player.
"It's going to be hard since it is my first season starting," Bland said. "But I have been working hard all summer to keep our winning tradition going. I'm known more of a runner, but I don't want to just rely on that because I want to be able to pass the ball."
Defensively, Assumption has to replace several key first-team all-district performers, including defensive lineman Jerome Green, linebacker Chase Campo and defensive back Matt Theriot.
The Mustangs will try to fill that void with four senior returning starters — linebackers Slye Ourso and Arrion Sargent and defensive backs Eric Nicholas and Dewayne Jackson.
Nicholas said one of the keys for the upcoming will be the senior players filling the void left by last season's graduating class.
"The seniors will have to step it up this year," he said. "We will have to play a big role on both sides of the ball. Hopefully, we can get some of these younger guys to step it up and do the same."
Although replacing 12 starters will be a challenge, Paine said having the same philosophy on both sides of the ball will help ease the adjustments for the entire team. Also, he said, following in Torres' footsteps will be a big help.
"Don was extremely organized. Everything Don ever did he saved on his computer. He documented everything he did, so that has been a huge help," Paine said. "I also have him on speed dial, and I call him whenever I need him. Don's structure and organization really takes care of itself once you take care of the work on the front end. The back end will take care of itself."
Winning another district championship and returning to the state playoffs remains Assumption's goals for the upcoming season.
Paine said he believes the team took the necessary steps to accomplish those goals.
"We have a really good group of kids that worked hard over the summer," Paine said. "We had pretty good attendance all summer for our weight and conditioning program. We're just like any other high school … if we stay away from the injury bug, we'll have a pretty good season. Injuries will be our X factor this season so to speak."
Senior offensive guard Hunter Alleman, a first-team all-district performer, said the Mustangs are ready to continue their winning ways this season.
"I don't think that is going to be too much of a problem because we have some leaders in the group," he said. "We know what it takes to be a winning football team."