There aren’t many sports organizations that have achieved success in its first few years of existence, including football. For every Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars, you have the 1999 Cleveland Browns or ’67 New Orleans Saints. But there’s another organization from the Pelican State that’s been quickly rising since its debut: the Louisiana Knights, based in Zachary, La. Four Knights teams are gunning for postseason glory in only its third year. Three teams, A-C (13U, 11U and 9U), are currently undefeated, and the D-team (7U) is in the thick of the playoff race.
“We said year three would be the breakout year,” said Knights president and B-team head coach Jason Fisher. “We had a three-year plan―the first one we got established; the second we grew; and the third we saw the hard work we put in pay off. This season has truly been an amazing one.”
Last year, three teams made it to the semifinal rounds of the playoffs, and the C-team made a championship appearance. But this year, each Knights team has their sights on going even deeper in the postseason.
“I’m very pleased and excited,” Fisher said. “The kids put in a lot of hard work, and it’s finally paying off. We started off season working hard. Our goal was to finish the season with a couple of championships. It’s a motivating factor.”
As the wins pile up, the players’ excitement increases, as well.
“The kids love it,” Fisher said. “They come out working very, very hard, and seeing the work paying off, it makes them work harder.”
Fisher noted players who have been making key contributions to their teams include Delvin Whitaker, Jeremiah Vessel and Tyler Hamilton (A-team); Ja’Terrius Johnson, Treyvion Chaney and Teldrick Williams (B-team); Ty’Kimion Ford, Kayden Wilson and Thomas Carter, Jr. (C-team); and Zachariah Dorsey, Ramaj Flowers and Brennen Derozin (D-team).
When asked what he liked best about playing for the Knights, the A-team’s Hamilton said, “I like the coaches and their playing style—using the shotgun and lead option plays.”
For the B-team, Martell Major’s highlight of the season was the Knights beating the rival New Iberia Broncos under the lights. And, like any young player who loves football, Major enjoys one key element of the game. “I like to hit,” he said.
In addition to its goal of building leadership, self-esteem and motivation, the organization has a strong focus of developing strong student-athletes.
“Academics are the no. 1 thing,” explained A-team assistant coach Demetric Rogers. “We coach the kids to stay on [top of] their grades. We also offer tutoring on off-days.”
At the end of each season, the organization awards each student-athlete who had a high GPA or made the honor roll with a trophy or medal. “We give them a reward for it,” Rogers said.
“Academics are very, very important,” agreed Fisher. “We check report cards time to time, sometimes on a daily basis.” He also noted that the organization offers math intervention at nearby Advantage Charter Academy in Baker, La.
The perfect archetype of a student-athlete who played for the Knights is Prince Johnson. He is the starting quarterback for the Zachary High School freshman football team. Johnson is on his way to leading the team to another undefeated season, just as he did last season as the Northwestern Middle School starting quarterback.
“Prince is not only an amazing athlete, but he’s just as good in the classroom, as well,” Fisher said. “He’s the perfect example of a great student-athlete.”
From the classroom to the football field, the Knights have always been backed by a die-hard fan base.
“One of the things I’m most proud of is the support and dedication we receive from our parents,” Fisher said. “We’ve always had a great parental core of fans, from year one. They’re so supportive. They know we’re doing what’s best for the kids. Teams in our league have learned that when the Knights come in town, we take over [laughs]. It’s like a sea of red when you look in the stands, and it makes me proud to know that they have my back.”
“We’re very family-oriented,” Rogers noted. “When you join us, you join a family. We put the kids first.”
The team is also supported by its energetic cheer squad, which is led by coach Angel Walker.
“She's absolutely amazing, and we're very appreciative of her and the time she commits to our organization and the girls,” Fisher declared. “Our cheerleaders are the best! They are so supportive of our teams. We know most games it's extremely hot, and the girls are always there, right by our side, cheering us on to victory.”
Fisher was influenced by a youth sports organization he attended as a youngster―the Baton Rouge Raiders―and the core values of the Louisiana Knights are influenced by his positive experiences.
“I was involved in a great organization when I played youth football. It was a family-oriented organization with great coaches and leaders that didn't just focus on athletics,” he recalled. “It taught each player the basic fundamentals of football and also the value of teamwork. Most importantly, there was no favoritism―the best kid played no matter who you were related to. The organization focused on preparing each child for life beyond youth football.
“I felt like youth sports were missing great, quality organizations like I had the privilege of being a part of,” he continued. “There have been so many organizations established, but not many have been established for the right reason; just because dads want to coach their sons and the focus of the team is centered around the coach's son. That's not how things should be. I decided to create an organization and offer kids what I received as a youth football player.”
Fisher credits the coaches in establishing the Knights’ high standards.
“I feel so honored to be a part of an organization where I can now coach alongside some of the same coaches that coached me when I played youth football,” he noted. “Our head coaches, Chris McKinley, John Fisher, Robert Shavers and Willie Bell, have 25-plus years of coaching experience. It's not many organizations that can say that. They’re really great. [The kids] trust our coaching staff.”
With its experienced coaches and hungry, motivated players, the Louisiana Knights’ rabid fans and cheer squad should see an exciting postseason run from all four teams.
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