‘New’ Southwood focusing on physical, mental toughness

TAKING CHARGE: Southwood coach Jesse Esters says Corinthian Walters (front right) has gained a lot of ground as leader of the Cowboys, who are looking to improve on last season’s disappointing record.

By HARRIET PROTHRO PENROD, Journal Sports

Corinthian Walters and Sean White stood in the middle of the practice field at Southwood High School just as the sun was coming up one morning this week when the two seniors were asked about goals for the Cowboys this season.

“We’re gonna play the way we practice,” said White, a 6-1, 260-pound offensive lineman, “and we practice hard. We’re going to prove people wrong about us. We’re going to show them a new Southwood.”

Walters, an incredible talent (6-1, 200) who will be used all over the field – quarterback, running back, wide receiver, defensive back, and linebacker – was a little more specific.

“Our goal is (to get to) the playoffs,” he said.

Meeting that goal would mean a turnaround of enormous proportions since Southwood is coming off an 0-10 season (including a forfeit to Captain Shreve in the fourth game because of Covid issues on the team).

It is evident these two guys believe that can be done. And, given the effort and excitement shown by both the players and coaches during this early morning practice, that feeling seems to be contagious.

Excitement, yes. But also realism.

“With our schedule, there are no easy roads,” said Jesse Esters, who is starting his third season as Southwood head coach. “Green Oaks (Sept. 2) has made improvements, Woodlawn (Sept. 9) beat us last year and will be looking to do it again, and Carroll (Sept. 16) is a tough Monroe team that has put together a good staff with young, quality coaches.”

Following those three season-opening games, the Cowboys will enter District 1-5A play against Natchitoches Central, Haughton, Parkway, Benton, Shreve, Byrd, and Airline.

“Every week is a fight for us,” said Esters. “The question is: once we experience success, can we maintain it?”

The Cowboys, who will be fielding 25 seniors and 32 juniors this season, are returning everyone on offense except one tailback. In addition to Walters and White, the strong cast of seniors includes defensive lineman Jaydan Stevenson (6-0, 280), defensive back Harold Mitchell (5-11, 180), wide receiver Javien Markray, and defensive back/wide receiver Corinthian Nicholson (6-2, 175).

The key to success for Southwood, according to Esters, is two-fold.

“First, we have to physically improve,” he said. “We have to get bigger, faster, stronger. Then we have to develop mentally, to have an attitude change. We have to develop good habits that define a winning team.”

To that end, the Cowboys have spent the summer concentrating on conditioning.

“Out of the 49 weekdays we were out of school (this summer), 47 of those were dedicated to strength conditioning and working out,” said Esters. “And 20 out of 25 players made it 40 days or better. That speaks to the character of the group we have.”

Taking advantage of the opportunity, Walters participated in all but one of the days (46 out of 47).

“The one day he missed, he overslept,” Esters said of Walters. “He showed up about 20 minutes late, but I didn’t let him stay. That was part of getting the picture – learning what you have to do to develop winning habits.”

“Corinthian has gained a lot of ground as a leader. He participated in powerlifting and ran track to get in better shape. He can play anywhere. He has the skills to play corner; recruiters who have seen him play say he would probably play safety.”

While Esters sees improvement throughout his squad, he says the Cowboys “still have a way to go.”

“The criticisms about the past are deserved, but that is in the past,” he said. “I’ll tell you this: nobody in Shreveport works like we work.”

Contact Harriet at sbjharriet@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 Photo by HARRIET PROTHRO PENROD

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