Too often in the developmental football world, when a team faces too much adversity at once, it can result into a long string of losses, forfeits, or even the team folding. For the Louisiana Bayou Hurricanes, the adversity they faced early on seems to have them poised to make a playoff run.
After beginning the year 1-2, the Hurricanes are currently sitting at 4-2 and on a three-game winning streak
“We couldn’t catch a break to save our lives at the beginning,” Hurricanes general manager Derek Leger told Developmental Football USA. “We started off with four captains, then one went down in a motorcycle accident and basically ruined his knee cap. Shortly after that, another captain got in a car accident and he was thrown from a vehicle and thrown against a tree. He’s playing again now. He actually didn’t miss a game – from being in the hospital one weekend, to playing again the next weekend.
“Another captain pulled his hamstring really bad. I saw the hit when it happened, he landed in a sitting position and the pile was on top of him and it folded him completely up. My first instinct was a back injury, but it turned out to be his hamstring.”
Another Louisiana Bayou player has been playing through much of the season with cracked ribs. With some of the core players of the team sidelined, the Hurricanes dropped two games, including one to the Louisiana Eagles (5-1) who they will face in a rematch this Saturday.
“This team has never been immature,” Leger said. “They’ve never lacked mental toughness. They’ve always been a strong-headed group. It goes to show you how chemistry comes into play. With that 1-2 start you saw that guys were not quite on the same page, not quite gelling, not quite ready. You could see the potential, we were right there about to turn the corner. With that and the injuries, you drop a few ball games. I’ve never seen a team go through this many things, it seemed the world was setup to stop them.”
After having high expectations during the pre-season, the Hurricanes found themselves at 1-2 just three weeks into the season.
“A lot of people started to doubt this team and expected to see it crumble, because they saw all the things going on,” Leger said. “There was a point where these guys got together and I don’t know what exactly happened, but a switch flipped. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen. People that come to the games and sit in the stands tell me this doesn’t look like the same team that started the year, this looks like a different group of guys.
“This team has grown up so much, in so many ways. They were never an immature bunch, never was it guys that needed growing up, but there came a point where you saw players reaching out to one another and relating to things outside of football and interpersonal matters and they became a real brotherhood, to the point now where I don’t think a single day goes by that this entire team doesn’t communicate with one another.”
The Hurricanes began climbing out of the hole with a 54-0 road win over the Walker Warriors to pull themselves back to .500 at 2-2.
“Lafayette has had developmental teams come and go and I don’t necessarily know how many off the top of my head, I can point to five or six, but that was the record for most points scored from a team from the Lafayette area and also a record for the biggest margin of victory,” Leger said. “From there, it was a complete 180. The league looks at us differently now. If there was ever a group that didn’t count us out, it was the league. Even now the league is like, ‘Ok, they’re here, they’re back.’”
Saturday will be a good indicator of just how far the Hurricanes have come as their upcoming opponent, the Louisiana Eagles, is also on a bit of a hot streak themselves.
“The team they last beat, the Magnolia Knights, everyone believed they were the best team in the league and the Eagles manhandled them,” Leger said. “I hate when someone uses the phrase, ‘We beat ourselves.’ That’s an easy way of saying the other team was better than us, but on the drive home after they beat us, I reflected on so many things that were self-inflicted and we really did beat ourselves when we played them.”
Now with a chance at redemption, in a game with playoff-seeding implications, Louisiana Bayou is focused and ready to make a statement.
“Staring at one of the biggest games in the entire league in the face, we have a chance to take back that respect,” Leger said. “We had a bye week, you’d think the guys would be excited about resting up and spending time with family, but they’re focused. For them, it’s time to get back to work. A lot of times with developmental football, it’s like, ’This is what I do, I do this for fun,’ but not this team. These guys are on a mission.”
Four teams in each conference make the playoffs and right now the Hurricanes are in fourth place in their conference and a win Saturday would move them up to third.
“We’re in the toughest conference in the league and we’ve got four weeks to go,” Leger said. “It’s going to be a fight, tooth and nail, to get one of those playoff spots. There is no easy road to get there.
“In our league, they rank teams. They have typical conference standings then take the entire league and it works almost as like a USA Today Poll. Instead of votes, it’s really based on wins and losses, head-up matches and point margin. As of the last time I checked, there’s six teams in each conference and five of the top six spots in the overall league poll were five teams from our conference. It’s a dog fight. These guys are ready, they needed this and this is what they get up for.”
It’s often said that some situations can make or break you, and so far it’s looking like the adversity the Hurricanes faced early this year has made them.
“Maybe this is what this team needed all along is adversity,” Leger said. “Every single time they’ve had it, they’ve answered. It’s made it more enjoyable for me. As a GM I’m focused on a lot of different things, but at the end of the day, we do this because we love football. They’ve brought back the love I have for the game. I can go to practice or go to these games and take the hat off and say, ‘I’m just your biggest fan today.’
“Stay tuned. These guys are going somewhere and I wouldn’t want to have to play us right now.”
Looking at this weekend and the rest of the schedule, the Hurricanes will have their work cut out of them and will have to repeatedly prove as to whether or not they’re playoff caliber.
“It makes it a little difficult to say which teams are tough, because of certain match-ups,” Leger said. “When we played the Rampage, it was supposed to be a tough match-up for us. A lot of people didn’t expect us to win that game. When we played the Dragons, people believed it would be an easier game for us and that was one of our losses.”
Those two, along with the Eagles and the Warriors, Leger believes are some the toughest teams in the league.
“The Dragons are probably most slept on team in this league,” Leger said. “They have a pass rush straight from the depths of hell. It’s hard to block that team. The Eagles are a big strong physical team, they’re hard to line up and play with.
“The Warriors get better every week and I catch myself always checking up on them. They’re new and they’re getting a little better every week. Their target is set on knocking someone off. Every time we play the Rampage it’s always a dogfight, it’s always tough. From here on out, each week is going to be a difficult test, but this team is ready. We’ve grown so much that these guys see the goal, but they also understand what it takes to get to it.”