Old Rivalries to Be Renewed at Istrouma High’s New Stadium

The Central Wildcats face the Istrouma Indians in this year’s Spring Football Game at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, May 16 at the Istrouma field on Winbourne Avenue.
Central High head coach Sid Edwards is hoping Wildcat fans will turn out in large numbers not only to support Central but to help Istrouma raise much needed funds for uniforms and equipment.
The game represents Istrouma’s return to varsity football after a six-year hiatus. Istrouma High was taken over by the State of Louisiana in 2010. In 2013, the State decided to close Istrouma permanently, and the school was slated for demolition. However, Istrouma alumni went to work to save the school, and new East Baton Rouge Parish schools Supt. Warren Drake was able to get the school back from the state.
After an investment of $30 million, Istrouma High reopened in the fall of 2017 with an entirely new administration and faculty. For the first time in 40 years, Istrouma opened as a traditional neighborhood school with Reginald Douglas as principal.
Since Istrouma High was considered a “new” school, the Louisiana High School Athletic Association required that it compete at the junior varsity level for two years before returning to varsity play. Jeremy Gradney was hired as head football coach. He led the Indians to a 5-1 record in the 2017 season. In 2018, Coach Gradney’s team finished 8-0, including victories over teams of underclassmen from two defending state champions — Zachary and West Feliciana.
This fall, Istrouma will compete at the varsity level for the first time since the 2012 season. They will compete in Class 4A in a district with Broadmoor, Lee High, Belaire, Tara, St. Michael, and Plaquemine.
The Spring Game between Central and Istrouma is the first varsity competition Istrouma will face.
Central High head coach Sid Edwards grew up near Istrouma High and graduated from Redemptorist High. He later coached his alma mater to three State Championships — two in football and one in basketball.
Today’s game is the first Spring Game for Central against another program in three years. The past two years, Central scrimmaged itself. Coach Sid said he’s excited about the game because it will give both programs a chance to see where they stand.
“Istrouma had a very successful junior varsity campaign. They are very talented, especially for a new school,” he said.
Perhaps more important, the two teams have a special relationship. Last year, the Central football team hosted the Istrouma team at Central High for a day. Players paired off with their counterparts by position. The players went to class together, then to lunch and to the weight room to work out. The Istrouma team followed Central to football practice and watched practice for their position. The visit helped the teams develop a special relationship. They root for one another — unless of course they line up against each other, as they will tonight.
For the Central Wildcats, players to watch include returning quarterback Sam Kenerson. Because Kenerson has played baseball, this is his first year to participate in spring training. Kenerson is a spark plug who makes things
happen for the Wildcats.
At running back, players to watch include Isaiah Rankins and Jonathan Swift.  The Wildcats lost most of its receivers, but Malik Hilliard, Juan Banks, Braxton Mayeaux, and Josiah Rankins should provide some excitement. Offensive tackle Logan Scott should stand out.
The Central defense will have a lot of new faces, but cornerback Germaine Spears and defensive tackle Javonte Whiten should be leaders. Linebacker Ryan Cotton should make a contribution but he won’t become eligible until early in the fall season.
The Central coaching staff will be mostly unchanged. Exceptions are that Ken Hilton will return as defensive coordinator, and Justin Hutchinson will handle special teams.
“It’s been a good spring,” Coach Sid said.
Istrouma head coach Jeremy Gradney said his team is looking forward to the Spring Game with excitement and trepidation. “We don’t know where we are or what to expect, but we think this game will help us answer some of the questions we have about ourselves,” he said.
Coach Gradney said, “We have some talent and a good core of players working in the weight room. Our problem is lack of depth. We don’t have as many kids on the team as we’d like. Some of our key guys will have to play both ways.”
The key to the Istrouma offense will be quarterback Don Crayton who makes things happen when he’s in the game. The core of the offense will be Crayton, lightning speed running Le’Veon Moss, and running back/slot receiver Ty’Quawn Stewart.
On defense, look for outstanding performances from defensive ends Roger Cook, Keshawn Collins, and Donovan Mosby.
The Istrouma coaching staff will include head coach Jeremy Gradney; offensive coordinator Xavier Johnson; former Broadmoor head coach Elliot Wilkins, running backs; Mike Jones, wide receivers; Anthony Mosley, offensive line; Juan Thomas, linebackers; Telly Wells, defensive backs, and Cole Click, assistant for offensive line.

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