News 25’s 25 Teams in 25 Days: D’Iberville Warriors
Not many high school football programs can sustain the loss of a Mr. Football and still expect to be just as good as they were the year before.
But the D’Iberville Warriors can and they do at stop number 16 on News 25’s 25 Teams in 25 Days.
Tight end/ wide receiver Colton Deshazo said, “Last year, a lot of teams had Justin. That was who they were going after. And this year, we don’t have a Justin. We have everybody. Everyone is almost just as equal, so it’s going to be hard for teams to really stop one player. If they stop one player, we’ve got five more, so it definitely brings more to the table.”
Much like his older brother Jaden, Justin Walley never saw a set of tail lights during his time as Mr. Football for class 6A. The now freshman cornerback at the University of Minnesota might have been an even better running back for D’Iberville clearing a thousand yards on just over 100 carries with 21 all-purpose touchdowns.
It takes a village to replace that kind of game-breaking, generational talent and that’s exactly what the Warriors have. Head Coach Larry Dolan said, “We’ve got about 35 seniors and so it’s a huge class. These guys were really successful as ninth graders and had an undefeated season, and they’ve kind of been a big part of what we’ve been doing the last few years. But now it’s their show and they’re going to have to do that. And yeah, we are going to have to kind of make up ground for not having a Walley back there, but I think we’re going to have some guys step up and take care of that.”
About ten starters coming back and a half-dozen backs in the mix for carries in Coach Dolan’s run heavy offense including Drey Lenoir, the team’s leading rusher among returning players and converted tight end Colton Deshazo now first-string half back. “Our backfield is the deepest it’s ever been probably in D’Iberville history. It doesn’t matter who’s in the game. We’re not worried. Teams aren’t going to know who’s going to get the ball. You can put anybody in at any time and they’re going to make a play.”
“Everybody thinks because the Walleys are gone, we aren’t going to have any weapons anymore, and they were great athletes, but I think the backfield we’ve got now is the best we’ve had in a while, and I think we can go all the way.”
The Warriors haven’t gone all the way since 2002, but they were certainly on the right track in 2020, winning their first playoff game since 2012 and running the table in league play en route to their first district title since 2016. Defensive end Kam Williams said, “It’s the best feeling in the world. I couldn’t explain it to you. You’ve just got to be there in the moment. We’ve got some great coaches that put us in the right spot every week, and we went out and just did it. And we know there’s a target on our back, and we’re at the top of the mountain right now – we’re trying to stay there – so we’re going to do whatever it takes to stay there.”
Region 4 still runs through D’Iberville until further notice, but when the dust settled, perfection came at a cost for the Warriors whose 10-0 start couldn’t mask the pain of their second-round home playoff loss to Northwest Rankin by just one point. Defensive end Tony Taylor said, “10-0 games, you know what I’m saying? We were on our high horse last year and we’re trying to get back on that again, that kept us up there. It was that last game, man.”
“We lost by one point. That’s a two-point conversion. That’s three yards, so when we’re trying to take that three yards that could be three extra reps on the field, three extra sets in the weight room or three extra sprints, so that three yards can be the difference and we’ll make sure we never forget those three yards.”
“I wish we could go back. If we would have made one last – one right decision – it could’ve been totally different. But everyone was hurt about it, and it’s a learning lesson for this year. We can’t go out like that again.”
Shoulda, woulda, coulda doesn’t bring back the opportunity to go to South State, but it is gas on the fire for the biggest senior class on the entire Gulf Coast and it’s burning desire to right the wrongs of what still could be. “I’ve got a bad taste in my mouth, and I want to get it out.”
“Like I said, in the freshman year we went undefeated, and we want to end undefeated too.”
“We want revenge, man. Everybody counting us out. We ain’t done yet. We ain’t even started.”
“It’s just revenge, that’s it. That’s all we talk about is revenge, and we’re all a family so we all want it just as bad. And the way we lost last year was just so devastating, especially for the seniors, so we don’t want revenge only for the people on the team still, but the 2021 class too.”
“They know what kind of football D’Iberville plays and we’re a tough brand of football – or we try to be – and they don’t want to be the group that lets that down, so they’re just trying to keep this legacy of D’Iberville football going and that’s one thing we kind of pride ourselves on is this is a place where pride still matters and it means a lot to our community and it means a lot to our kids, so we’re going to put a lot of effort into it.”
D’Iberville opens the season at St. Stanislaus on August 27th.