For its size, New Orleans possesses a treasure trove of football talent. If you look around the semipro world, any league with a scintilla of a clue knows to include teams from Louisiana. In such a small relative area, players become familiar with each other. From middle through high school and college, the same pool of players grows up on the field together. The Louisiana Lightning and Crescent City Kings are no exception. While mutual respect exists, a healthy animosity also resides in this burgeoning rivalry. These two franchises boast players that played for the other team. If familiarity breeds contempt, expect a physical battle.
If you ask local about premier linebackers over the last decade in New Orleans, Barry Guy Jr.’s name rises to the surface. Guy, a cornerstone of the legendary Louisiana Blazin’ Bulldogs defense, enters his tenth season in the semipro world. In addition, Guy earned a reputation for being as brutal with honesty as he is with life-altering tackles. Now with the Lightning, Guy relishes the opportunity to continue his storied career.
How important is semipro football in New Orleans?
I feel as though semipro football is pivotal to the city of New Orleans. It helps to steer the lives of troubled teens/young adults in the right direction. Semipro over the past couple years kept many people off the streets and out of trouble. Football preoccupies guys and allows them to release the angers that life causes through positive and organized reinforcement.
As a veteran, what advice can you impart on your team going into the Kings’ game?
All I can do is have a pregame talk with them. They need to know that this game is no bigger than any other is. You take football one week at a time. We prepare during the week and we have fun on Saturdays. So, go out there, have your brothers back. The game will come to you. Most importantly, do nothing foolish. The second player is always caught.
In an area brimming with talent, why do so many teams form and ultimately fail?
Many is the magic word. For as big as New Orleans appears, the city is not that large. Therefore, the talent spreads out between 4-5 teams in only about a 25-mile radius. Under those circumstances, each team might have 3-4 breakout players.
Throughout your career, teams used false promises to lure players, how did you manage to stay clear of that chicanery?
I have always been a good judge of character. Over the years once I have affiliated myself with teams, I could just sense their intentions from the start. Only a handful of people really involve themselves with semipro for the right reason: to help guys to stay off the street and give them something constructive to do. In addition, most try to start teams only because of the “rumor” of a financial windfall.
What four keys must the Lightning follow to emerge victorious?
Coach within your limits.
Tune out noise and distraction.
Do your job and execute.
How does the Lightning locker room compare to others?
It is young and vibrant. A little too vibrant at times, However, I feel like these cats are hungry to play some ball.
If the Kings/Lightning evolves into a true rivalry, how would you improve the marketing of this game?
This game really should occur during Rivalry Week. Yet, this will be a hell of a game to start the season
With many titles, records and awards, why do you still play?
When the love of football runs deep in your veins, you cannot just sit on the couch and watch peers still strap it up. Especially, if you feel like you have something left in the tank. I love this game more than anything. Plus, to be able to still go out there and make an impact, you just have to go for it.
Lightning Victory Keys
1. Stem the Kings’ rush. Crescent City features a fast, attacking defense that lives in the backfield. The Lightning must keep their quarterback relatively healthy.
2. Dominate Special Teams. If the Lightning can flip field position with the kicking game and solid returns, this pressures the Kings into making uncomfortable calls.
3. Take shots. As a whole, the Crescent City defense never relents. As a result, they get stronger as the game progresses. In that case, do not be afraid to test the secondary vertically. Now is not the time for meekness or passivity.
Kings Victory Keys
1. Handle 99. Lightning defensive lineman Carlos Coler will disrupt a game and destroy scheme. If the Kings can make Coler veer from his strength, which is getting up-field, that will give their quarter ample time.
2. Creative Play calling. By now, the Lightning knows both Kings’ quarterbacks and their tendencies. Instead of running a predictable offense, throw caution to the wind. If the Kings deviate from what many expect their offense to do, the Lightning could be caught off-guard.
3. Eliminate Mental Lapses. If the Kings cut down on non-physical errors, that could seal a victory. By curtailing rounded routes, blown assignments and dropped passes, Crescent City can rely on their athletic ability and schemes to carry them over. Nothing short-circuits a game faster that a lack of mental preparedness.
In essence, the game features the two best teams in New Orleans. While bragging rights will win social media squabbles, the win remains far more important. With a victory, either one of these teams will own an early tiebreaker. As the arduous APDFL seasons continues that early March win could propel one of these franchises into the proverbial catbird seat.