Iota to square off with Vinton in season opener

IOTA - For the past two weeks, the Iota Bulldogs have appeared to be two different teams.

The first, a team that beat the heat and long night of a three-way scrimmage against Eunice and Kaplan showing progress and young players playing beyond their years.

The second, a team that lacked focus, failing to find a working pace on either side of the ball in the Bulldogs’ jamboree game against North Vermilion.

This week, as the regular season begins, Iota will need to channel their play from the first version of the team as they host the Vinton Lions Thursday at 7 p.m.

“It’s going to be a challenge,” said Neal Lege, coach of the Bulldogs. “We have some work to do on both sides.”

For the past several seasons, the Lions and Bulldogs have opened the season and this year will be no different.

The Lions will enter the 2011 season with the same basic offensive and defensive systems but with a new person at the helm, Tarius Davis. Davis is a former defensive coordinator at Iowa High, an assistant coach at DeQuincy and former player at McNeese State and Lake Arthur High.

Davis took over for Wendell LeJeune who went 4-30 in his seasons with the Lions. The team has not had a playoff berth since 2006 when they reached the 2A quarterfinals. LeJeune resigned as coach in January.

Vinton returns seven offensive starters, eight defenders and a special teams player, including the luxury of returning several playmakers on both sides.

Offensively, the returns of senior wide receiver J.P. Pickett and senior strong back Deion Sonnier along with the entire line could present problems for Iota.

“Our biggest challenge is to stop their kids in space,” said Lege. “They have a back that runs hard and several guys that can make plays.”

Defensively, three of four defensive linemen return as well as one of two linebackers. Possibly the most problematic for Vinton’s opponents this season, however, is the return of all five defensive backs--Pickett, Sonnier, seniors Jarrod Anderosn (who will also double as starting quarterback this season) and Carl LeJeune and junior D.J. Reed.

Yet, Lege says that his team will have to correct its own problems before worrying about what Vinton will do to the Bulldogs.

“We have to correct our problems,” he said. “We have to work on our execution, our miscues.”

Those problems doomed Iota in their jamboree game, problems Lege had not seen until that Thursday night.

The Bulldogs will not have any injury issues going into Thursday night’s contest, but heat, which didn’t help Iota’s cause last week, will be as the temperature for kickoff is slated to be around 85 degrees.

Vinton’s two preseason appearances have been up and down as well. The Lions dominated Oakdale in scrimmage play, the defense was the star, limiting the Warriors to 33 yards passing and a combined quarterback effort of 7-18.

The offense had its shining moments as well with a 65 yard run by Reed and a total of 259 yards, Oakdale only had 130. At the Vinton Jamboree as the Merryville Panthers defeated the Lions 20-0. Capitalizing on early opportunities, the Panthers also halted all of Vinton’s attempts to even the score.

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