DESTREHAN, La. -- Behind the south end zone of Destrehan's football stadium, there's a massive, attention-grabbing billboard.
In bold, red letters it trumpets the school's recent dominance: 2007 Class 5A state champions, 15-0; 2008 Class 5A state champions, 14-0.
But in high school football, where today's seniors were eighth graders for the Wildcats' most recent championship, that success feels like a lifetime ago. Destrehan entered the 2009 season on a 29-game win streak and proceeded to go 5-5, barely making the playoffs. The Wildcats haven't seen the postseason since, slipping all the way to an ignominious 2-8 last fall -- something no one wants to see repeated.
"That's the goal. That's what we're out here working for -- trying to get it right and bring the tradition back," said senior wide receiver Rickey Jefferson. "We've got younger guys coming up and they're looking up to us to turn it around for them. We don't want it to be the same as last year."
If they're to get back to their winning ways, the Wildcats certainly showed an uptick in confidence this week at practice. That probably has to do with the return of coach Steve Robicheaux to the sidelines. It was Robicheaux who engineered Destrehan's two most recent title runs -- the school's third and fourth, overall -- before taking a job with the St. Charles Parish school board. Robichaux posted a 100-23 record with the Wildcats in his first stint, and hopes are high for a return to form with him in charge once more.
"It's awesome. I mean, we've got the Destrehan tradition back -- he knows how to win," said junior linebacker RaeJuan Marbley. "He's teaching us the right way to practice, the right way to do things and the right way to get everything done."
Eye on the Tigers: It's fitting that Jefferson, a dual-threat at wide receiver and cornerback, is one of the focal points of the roster this season. His older brother, former LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson, engineered Destrehan's run to the 2007 state championship, throwing for 2,846 yards with 24 touchdowns to just three interceptions and picking up an offer from the Tigers along the way.
While his brother didn't become an LSU commitment until midway through his senior season, Rickey Jefferson took care of that back in July. After bouncing back from an ACL injury last October against Dutchtown, the younger Jefferson committed to LSU at the Tigers' July recruiting camp, freeing him up to focus on improving Destrehan's fortunes this fall.
"Practice habits, discipline and intensity -- those are all things that we're working on right now," he said.
Rickey Jefferson holds dynamic playmaking ability on both sides of the ball, and the Wildcats are determined to hold him to that potential. The senior wide receiver had a sluggish outing on Monday, as he dropped a handful of makable catches in the oppressive August heat. Every time he did, his coaches and teammates were on him, with a chorus of "Come on, Jefferson."
"I just had a bad day -- I usually don't have days like that," Jefferson said. "I'll just have to pick back up tomorrow. It's intense. It's got a college-like intensity to it this year."
All part of the attention that goes with a commitment to LSU.
For the future: Destrehan junior quarterback Donovan Isom not only looks like a college quarterback -- he looks like a middle linebacker.
The Wildcats' starting signal-caller is listed at a massive 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, and he looks every bit of it. Donovan showed off some solid arm strength and some reliable accuracy in team drills. When he wasn't on the money, which wasn't often, the gigantic pocket passer punished himself with 10 push-ups -- seemingly of his own initiative.
"It's been a great experience. I've got guys like Rickey, and I've got the rest of the offense pushing me hard every day," Isom said. "I've just been working on my mechanics -- getting onto the field and working with all my wide receivers and trying to prepare for the season."
Donovan said he's heard interest from big name programs like Arizona State, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Oregon, but he has yet to pick up any offers on the eve of his junior season.
"He's going to get them," said Jefferson with a smile.