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Brad LaPlante Hopes to Continue Winning Tradition in Senatobia
August 28, 2013By Kevin Maloney of NORTHWEST MISSISSIPPI COMMUNITY COLLEGE
It's a fresh start for Northwest football.
Brad LaPlante, the youngest known head coach in the program's history, will usher in a new era.
LaPlante replaces Ricky Woods, the second winningest coach in school history, who led Northwest to a 35-13 overall record (24-6 north) in five seasons with two north division titles, two runner-up finishes and the 2012 Brazos Valley Bowl Championship – the school's first bowl win in 20 years.
"We're excited to start a new era of football under coach LaPlante," third-year athletic director Cameron Blount said. "His work ethic and past success speaks for itself. It's a great opportunity for our kids to excel with the plan coach has for his players moving to the next level. He's come from a winning program at Rochester and we hope that translates to success at Northwest and in the MACJC."
Prior to a short stint in the Texas high school ranks, LaPlante spent 11 seasons at NJCAA Division III Rochester Community and Technical College (RCTC) from 1999-2002 and 2004-10. He spent his first two seasons as the offensive line coach and his second two as the co-offensive coordinator before being named the head coach in 2004.
LaPlante had a cumulative head coaching record of 64-16 (53-10 conference record, 10-2 playoff record) from 2004-10 and led RCTC to four state championships in six appearances, five NJCAA bowl games and the 2007 NJCAA Division III National Championship.
"It's going to be great to get back to college football and build those relationships again," LaPlante said. "I think that this is one of the premier jobs in the nation and it has a great history. As a staff we want to continue to build on that."
LaPlante will face the tall task of replacing 19 of 22 starters and returns just a dozen sophomores off last year's 8-2 team who finished as north co-champions and won the Inaugural Brazos Valley Bowl.
Mike Beagle (offensive coordinator), Ricky Coon (defensive coordinator), Morris Lolar (defensive backs/special teams), Wilfred Thomas (linebackers), Marcus Windham (running backs) and Tres Sullivan (quarterbacks) will each begin their first seasons with the team, while receivers coach Scott Oakley will enter his 10th season.
"We demand a lot from each other as a staff," LaPlante said. "We want to do things right and we're going to hold our players accountable. We want them to have a future after Northwest and that's why we have study tables and grade checks. If you're doing things right, there's no way that success can't happen."
Northwest has won, shared or finished runner-up in the north division in six of the past seven seasons, and hopes to continue that trend. The Rangers have also finished in the NJCAA Top 10 in two of the past three seasons and continually are preseason ranked by the NJCAA and JC Gridiron.
"We'll be very young this year and will have a lot of freshmen," LaPlante said. "We may have as little as just a dozen returners. Our first couple of games will tell the story on how good we're going to be, especially on the offensive and defensive line."
Northwest finished the 2012 season third in the nation in total offense at 434.1 yards-per-game , a fourth straight year finishing in the Top 15 offensively. The Rangers averaged 38 points-per-game and scored 40 or more in seven of 10 games.
Guided by NJCAA Second Team All-American center Austin Douglas, the experience on the offensive line allowed sophomore quarterback Domonique Harris and freshman running back Damian Baker to have breakout seasons. Both players were named to the all-state team at season's end.
Harris, Offensive MVP in the Brazos Valley Bowl, finished second in the state with 2,361 passing yards, completing 59 percent of his passes for 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He also ran for 130 yards and two touchdowns. Baker led the state in rushing with 1,161 yards (8th most in single-season history) and 10 touchdowns, the first Ranger since 2004 (Eldra Buckley) to eclipse the 1,000-yard barrier.
Baker is the lone returner in a backfield that had four legit running backs a year ago to start the season. He has a chance to be Northwest's all-time leading rusher if he can go for 1,123 yards.
The offensive line lacks a single returner and loses a great sophomore group in the trenches. In addition to Douglas, who is battling for a starting spot at Ole Miss, the Rangers lose all-state selections Christian Chalmers, Martize Wallace and Deshondrick Hines as well as Thomas Campbell, Danterrius Young, Cor'tez Hibbler and Spencer Hudson.
The unit that boasts the most returners of any position is the receiving corps with five. The team went over 2,000 yards for a fifth consecutive season under coach Oakley's watch.
D'Montrise Swinney, an all-state honorable mention, was second on the team last season with 25 catches for 428 yards and two touchdowns. With the injury of Josh Hamilton midway through the year, Swinney stepped up with some big performances against Mississippi Delta and East Mississippi and became one of Harris' top targets.
The Rangers also return Derrell Lovelady (9 gm, 9 catches, 164 yards, 2 TD), Josh Gaston (10 gm, 7 catches, 77 yards, TD), Robert Liggins (10 gm, 3 catches, 47 yards) and Hamilton (5 gm, 11 catches, 172 yards, 2 TD).
It will be a completely different look on the defensive side of the ball with the Rangers returning just four sophomores from last year's team and one starter in Keith Reynolds Jr. The new staff will also implement a new defensive scheme as opposed to the 3-4 defense run the past five years under Woods.
Statistically, the Ranger defense improved from a year ago by allowing 24.6 points and 316.6 yards-per-game. Northwest held four opponents under 15 points and totaled 75 tackles-for-loss and 28 sacks (20th nationally). Twelve players combined to pick off an impressive 27 passes (third nationally) and four were returned for touchdowns. Randolph Williams and Taylor Rotenberry added two fumble returns for scores to give Northwest six defensive TDs (third nationally).
Reynolds started all 10 games last season at free safety and was second among defensive backs with 33 tackles, two interceptions and three breakups. Terrell White played in all 10 games in a backup role and was very productive with 31 tackles and a 33-yard interception return for a TD.
On the defensive line, Tarow Barney and Kendall Carr appeared in all 10 games last season. Barney had 20 tackles and four hurries while Carr had 15 tackles, two TFL and a sack.
Lost from last year's team are six all-state selections in Desmond LaVelle, Jerome McClain, Aaron Thompson, Randolph Williams, Jayson Saffold and Demarcus Pegues. Four of the six will be suiting up at four-year schools next season.
NORTHWEST SPECIAL TEAMS
Two-time all-state selection placekicker Chase Carpenter is also gone, so the Rangers will have to replace a dual threat on special teams. Carpenter closed his career in the Top 5 in school history in multiple categories including third in PATs made (88) and fourth in punting average (40.03).
Freshmen Matt Bratton (Lewisburg) and Boone Frederick (Center Hill) will split time handling kicking and punting duties this season and look to continue on a successful run of placekickers.
For the first time in six years, there will be new voices calling Ranger football in 2013.
"We're excited to welcome Graham and John to the Northwest family," sports information director Kevin Maloney said. "It was time for a fresh start with a new team and I think we found the right guys. We also want to thank Ronnie and Keith for their years of service and countless hours promoting Ranger football."
CONNECT WITH SOCIAL MEDIA
Fans can connect with Northwest football on various social media sites.
On Twitter/Instagram: @NWCC_Rangers
On Facebook: Northwest Rangers
On YouTube: NorthwestCC