Boone brings unconventional, but proven strategy to revive Lakeview football

New Lakeview coach Andy Boone and several Gators stand at midfield of the high school’s brand new artificial turf playing field. (Photo by KEVIN SHANNAHAN, Natchitoches Parish Journal)

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

His 2021 Avoyelles team barely missed knocking Jess Curtis’ Many Tigers out of the playoffs in the state semifinals. Many rallied in the last two minutes at home, and went on to win another state championship.

His 2022 Mustangs led the state, in all classifications, scoring 53 points per game – an amazing 77 average on the way to a district championship. They scored 68 on Rosepine, a team that reached the state quarterfinals and narrowly lost to Many.

His teams never punt. They run nearly every down, and use four downs if needed to get 10 yards for a drive-sustaining first down.

His teams always, always onside kick. They try to steal possessions, then grind out the yards and the clock. The best defense is a good offense, right?

Lakeview Gator football fans hope so. Their new coach, Andy Boone, has used some very unconventional approaches to success with 81 wins in 15 years at Avoyelles, and after taking the Gators’ job last winter, he’s aiming to lay the foundation for winning football near the banks of Black Lake.

“We’re going to be good at a few things. We’re not going to be good at everything, but what we’re good at, we’re going to be really good at,” said Boone. “We’re going to be really good running the ball. Our offensive line is really good – they come off the ball, double team and drive the defense off the ball. We’re gonna get 3-4 yards every play.”

“And we’re gonna be really good at recovering onside kicks.”

That is a big part of his game plan.

The Gators have no more than 25 players – Boone hopes more will give football a try, offering post-practice meals and rides home from the rural campus – but for now he says 18 are going to see lots of action.

“We’re gonna be able to make a stop here and there on defense, but that’s a depth issue,” he said. “Right now we’re trying not to have them all go both ways, and we’ve put out best ones on offense. If we hold the ball, sustain drives, we can eat 10-11 minutes off the clock at a time (in a 48-minute, four-quarter game).

“I preach to them, make one stop in the first half, make one stop in the second half, and recover an onside kick, we’ll win. If my teams have done those three things, we’ve won 100 percent of the time in my career,” he said.

Last Friday, Lakeview played uphill, facing one of Natchitoches Central’s District 1-5A opponents, Southwood – which fielded about 90 players.

“The scrimmage was a little disappointing,” Boone admitted. “We fumbled the snap 5-6 times, but when we didn’t, we were running over and through them. Our offensive line looked really good, our running backs looked really good, our offense looked really good. We’re gonna be tough on that side of the ball.

“With a small roster, it’s really impossible to simulate game speed. The scrimmage was a glorified practice, and the jamboree is, too. A tune-up for the 10 games ahead. It’s really just a practice. You want good outcomes every down but you need to get game-speed reps most of all, and these first two Friday nights give us the opportunity for that.”

This Friday night, the Gators line up in Turpin Stadium in jamboree action at 6 o’clock to battle powerful parish small school rival St. Mary’s. Whatever the outcome, Boone is looking at the bigger picture.

“The biggest thing we’re focusing on is attitudes. We’re not going to get upset when we make a mistake, we’ve got to get over it. We’re not going to try to coach our teammates, not going to yell at them. We’re not going to throw fits on the sideline. We’re going to have good posture, good body language. All that means a lot. You develop mental toughness,” he said.

“When bad things happen, you’ve got to be aware – ‘oh, this is happening. Coach talked about this every day. Let me stop this.’ Everybody’s emotional. Last Friday, they did really well in that aspect. Nobody got down on themselves or each other. They had good attitudes and worked their tails off. That is a big encourager.”

It’s those things he’ll be watching mody when the Gators play Friday night. It’s the second step in a progression that leads into the regular season. Leading a program thay has just seven wins in the last three seasons, Boone doesn’t shy away from setting sky-high goals.

“Our first five games in the regular season are very winnable. Then we go to district and we want to be 5-0. To be 5-0, we’ve got to be 1-0, so right now we’re working to be ready to beat Darbonne Woods on September 1.”