GF Media Day 2023 Preview: Grand Lake High School (Lake Charles, LA)

Led by head coach Jeff Wainwright, the Grand Lake Hornets have won a lot of games based on grit and toughness installed in their program. Heading into his fifth season at the helm, Wainwright has posted a winning record every season including not losing more than three games the past three seasons. Overall, the Hornets are enjoying the best four year run of the program’s history with a 35-12 record including a 9-3 record last season. Prior to Wainwright taking over the program, the Hornets only posted a 14-50 record the previous ten seasons.

“It’s been a great turnaround. The community is really passionate about football and it makes it easier to go to work. It’s been a great success so far through the first four years and we are looking forward to another successful year this year.”

Grand Lake High School Head Coach Jeff Wainwright

The most perfect example and embodiment of how tough not only the Grand Lake football program is, but the Grand Lake school community is in general is when they overcame both COVID and a historic flood in Lake Charles to play in the Class 1A State Championship Game.

“This group of seniors were actually freshmen that year. My son was a freshman on that team and like most other families, we were living in our garage because that was the only place we had that was visible and we had some window units, refrigerator plugged in on the generator, and we all took turns filling the generators up. Pretty much, the whole team was in that situation. In the championship game, we had the supper before it and we asked if there was anybody back living at their place prior to the storm, and only three people were back living at their property prior to that game.”

“It was just a testament to Cameron Parish and the kids on the football team coming together working hard. That was a tough time. We still have a lot of those memories etched into this team and the grit and that dedication built into this team because the seniors now were freshmen then. A lot of that has carried over and it’s a highlight as far as grit and determination, but that is everyday down here in Cameron Parish. People are just tough and it is fun to work for.”

Grand Lake High School Head Coach Jeff Wainwright

As Coach Wainwright mentioned, this year’s senior class were freshmen during that special state championship run, and being a part of that success while overcoming adversity in the process, they know what it takes to get back there and compete for another state championship.

“This senior class is a really close group. I know without a doubt that they are going to play hard for us for 48 minutes. They are going to represent us in the way we want to be represented. The two guys that you saw in Ian and Kaden are special players. They are the heart and soul of our offense and defense. They are going to make a lot of great plays, but they are backed up and surrounded with good players. Everybody’s heart is in the same place and it’s really fun being around them.”

“We got off to a great start since summer and we really like where we at heading into the season.”

Grand Lake High School Head Coach Jeff Wainwright

As far as the players that are going to touch the ball on every play in Grand Lake’s heavy power flexbone offensive attack, the Hornets are very comfortable with their backfield led by two players that made the two hour trip to Denham Springs, Louisiana for Gridiron Football’s inaugural Media Day event.

Ian Vigo is our fullback. We run the flexbone offense. The ball goes through him pretty much every snap. It’s a really physical and tough position that you may carry the ball 35-40 times a game in between the a gaps if that is what the option tells us to do. That’s a lot of carries and he is pulling, trying to gain those extra couple of yards. His body goes through a lot on Friday nights. For him to do it and love it and watch him train for it is really exciting. Those dive backs just have a different mentality and he’s got it. Everybody feeds off of him when it comes to our offense. Our offense goes through him.”

Grand Lake High School Head Coach Jeff Wainwright

Kaden Taylor is going to play quarterback for us this year. We are looking forward to that. He has gotten to start in probably about ten games over the last three years. He’s done really good and is a really good outside linebacker for us. He calls our defense so he has a tremendous job this year on both sides of the football. He will have a more expanded role than in years past on offense as he rotated in, but he has a lot of experience on the defensive side of the football and has rotated in when he was a freshman. He has been out there for a long time and defense comes natural to him. Offensively, he has been doing a lot of work in stepping up and playing quarterback.”

Grand Lake High School Head Coach Jeff Wainwright

Led by a 1,700 yard rusher in Vigo and an experienced two way player at quarterback in Taylor, the backfield is going to be one of the best in the area and that is not including some of the other skill position players as well.

“Another guy that does a whole lot for us and does not get a lot of publicity is Brent Hardesty. He’s our slot and our corner. He’s also out there running the kicks. He’s a tremendous hard worker. He is a program guy and maximizes on all his capability. Brent is one of those guys that has big play capability and elite speed. When he gets loose, he is really electric. He does a lot of work for us.”

“Those are our three main seniors that carry the ball and play both ways. Ian plays some linebacker and will return kicks. Our offensive linemen that are seniors are new starters so they haven’t been out there so the guys that are returning on the offensive line are Zayne Armentor and Wyatt Wilkerson. On the defensive line, we are coming in with all new starters so we have a lot of youth, but a lot of good players.”

Brycen Guillory is going to be a junior and he plays both ways. He plays slot and free safety. For that junior class, he is a really special athlete.”

Grand Lake High School Head Coach Jeff Wainwright

With 35 players on the team and a lot of the key players starting and making an impact on two or even all three phases of the game, the success of the season depends on the health of the team. This is the program’s second season in 2A after making the transition from 1A last season. Playing bigger schools with higher numbers, it is pivotal for the Hornets to stay healthy throughout the season.

“The season being successful with wins and losses depends on how healthy we stay. As of now, we are really healthy. We don’t have any injuries, and we have a lot of experience returning in the backfield. Our offensive line has to grow up. We know that. We hope the backs can help carry us through the first part of the season until we find the five guys that are going to finish on the offensive line for us.”

“We are still just a normal 1A team. We don’t have 50-60 guys, but our guys are tough enough to play 2A. What hurts us in 2A is that we have to play the DeQuincys, the Welsh’s, the Vintons, the Notre Dames, and when we get banged up, the depth catches up to us at the end of the year. Last year when we played Mangham, we were there with band-aids and stitches and we got banged up pretty good in that game. Even if we would have won that game and have gone to the Quarterfinals, we wouldn’t have been healthy enough to compete at a high level. Our run this season is going to depend on our health.”

Grand Lake High School Head Coach Jeff Wainwright

The 2A district that the Hornets compete in will be tough as Grand Lake will have to face the likes of DeQuincy, Notre Dame, Welsh, Vinton, and Lake Arthur, but the pre-district schedule will also be very competitive and will help the young offensive and defensive linemen grow up in a hurry.

“We open up with Hamilton Christian, which has always been our rival and has always been a fast, competitive team. They have been pretty much our rival since we are so close to them locally in Lake Charles. That’s a fun, fun game. The intensity is pretty high in Week One.”

“In Week 4, we play Oakdale. Me and Coach Dietrich are really close. We have the same mentors in Coach Cook and Coach Davidson so we know a lot about each other’s football programs. That game last year, we actually beat them in overtime so we know that game is going to be a slugfest as well.”

“Pre-district, those two games are going to be tough, and there is East Beauregard. They are always super physical and that is Week 5. We got three brutal games. In Week 2 and 3, we got Pickering and Westminster. I know both have changed coaches this year so we really don’t know what to expect from them. In a way, it hinders us because we are not doing any preseason prep for those guys. These five games will be interesting, but like I said, I hope the backfield experience can get us through it and get our O-Line and D-Line the reps they need.”

Grand Lake High School Head Coach Jeff Wainwright

Being a tough, physical team, Coach Wainwright prides himself in making sure the trenches are ready once district play begins because that will also determine the difference in the win-loss record based on how they play.

“The teams in our district are big, tough football programs. Things have to go right for us to win those games. Our offensive line will have to play great in those games to give us wins, but our focus is on the first five games and having a winning record coming out of that. We will see what chips fall and who steps up as we will try and make a run the last five games of the year to get ready for the playoffs.”

Grand Lake High School Head Coach Jeff Wainwright

What is guaranteed is that the Grand Lake school community in Cameron Parish will back the Hornets football team just like they have done so every year in the past.

“They are definitely going to be there. That is something we can count on. We don’t have fair weather fans. We have sports fans. They come out and if our kids are playing ball whether it is football, basketball, or baseball, they are there. They will support them. It is pretty unique to have that opportunity as a coach because they know you are working and they are going to support you. We are working hard for them just to give them a new product so they are not wasting their money on Friday nights.”

Grand Lake High School Head Coach Jeff Wainwright

As hard and as tough as the Grand Lake Hornets, Coach Wainwright and the rest of his crew are going to make sure that every opponent is going to have to earn those 48 minutes every Friday night.

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