GF Media Day 2023 Preview: Live Oak High School (Watson, LA)

For the second straight Media Day preview in a row, a veteran head coach that has led teams to success at the 5A level is leading a new program. Entering the 2023 season, the Live Oak Eagles are beginning the Hutch Gonzales era.

“I think anytime that you go anywhere, any place that is special has to be the people that are in it. The beautiful buildings and facilities that we have are great, the football players we have are good ball players and are perfectly capable of winning us a bunch of football games, but I just think the people, the administration, the leadership, and the parents in our community are what makes this place special.”

Live Oak Head Coach Hutch Gonzales

Prior to being at Live Oak, Gonzales had success as the head coach at Mandeville where he led the Skippers to two Class 5A Quarterfinal finishes in 2019 and 2020. Having head coaching experience in the past certainly helps Gonzales transition to Live Oak.

“Every stop that you are at, you learn things that you like and you learn things that you didn’t like. You know things that you want to do again and things that you never want to do again. I bring a lot of those lessons from Mandeville over here. It is very different. There is a different mindset when I walked in and a different mentality in the program, but that is changing. The only thing to instill confidence in the kids is to make sure they see the results of all the things that you are telling them that are going to work. This first season is going to be about seeing those into fruition and they are going to be buying in even more than they already have.”

Live Oak Head Coach Hutch Gonzales

Coach Gonzales has already gone through his first spring with the Eagles, which ended with a spring game matchup against Brusly. Instilling his vision to the guys and teaching his message to the team, the spring proved to be a good time in order to do just that.

“It was so quick. You tell the boys that it’s going to go fast and you don’t prepare yourself in how fast it is going to go, but we had a phenomenal spring. It was my first spring with Live Oak honestly and we have kids that work hard. Brusly came out and played well in the spring game. It was good competition and we were able to matchup over there and use Denham’s field because it was all torn up. It was fun. We had a good time. From there, we went right into our summer lifting. Our strength and conditioning coaches are phenomenal. We’ve seen a lot of changes in our kids since the spring until now. We have a lot of guys that are going to play both ways and we have to get them ready for that. We are looking forward to see how it pays off for us in getting to that scrimmage and strapping it against everybody else. We’re excited about it.”

Live Oak Head Coach Hutch Gonzales

It is one thing for the coach to preach the message, but it is another for the players to buy in, and Coach Gonzales brought three guys with him to Gridiron Football’s Media Day that are going to represent how Coach Gonzales wants to play football.

“That’s why you bring these guys because they are all great representatives of what we stand for. If you look at Blake Rosenthal, he is going to play our H-Back/fullback and we will throw him in there at defensive tackle. He has played multiple positions on both sides of the ball and he is just that type of versatile defender. He is very fast and explosive, but he just gives everything that he has on every play. That’s the type of player that we are trying to replicate at Live Oak. If we are going to be successful, we are going to need guys that are going to go hard and fast on both sides of the football for us to win.”

Live Oak Head Coach Hutch Gonzales

“When you talk about kids that represent Live Oak and the perception of Live Oak, you can’t skip over Jacob Cowart, who is our big defensive end. He is just a big, country strong kid that is big, physical, nasty, and plays with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder. He doesn’t take anything for granted and he is exactly what Live Oak is to most of the people in the community. He is a good representative for sure.”

Live Oak Head Coach Hutch Gonzales

Jack Peterson is new to us. You never know what to expect when you get a new guy in, but he’s pretty buttoned up. He showed up, started to run around, and we were impressed. We asked him what position he played and he said wide receiver. We thought he was a safety too, and he said that he would do both. He has and he has done both really well for us. Again, he is another selfless kid, and stepped into a leadership role very quickly. We’ve been super impressed with what he has brought.”

Live Oak Head Coach Hutch Gonales

Those three players are talented in their own right and will certainly lead the way. When it comes to the quarterback position, Coach Gonzales has two players in Cayden Jones and Kingston Johnson that have gotten a lot of reps and have showcased what they can do during spring.

““As expected, there are both young guys that try to make plays. Sometimes, they do a little too much, but I thought they did well enough to get the job done. I would have liked to see it be a little bit cleaner from those guys, but they are young kids. One of them has gotten no high school reps and the other has gotten limited amount of reps so they are going to figure it out and they will be just fine.”

Live Oak Head Coach Hutch Gonzales

What will help the passing offense is that whoever will be taking snaps will get the opportunity to not just throw the ball to Jack Peterson, but also a very talented young tight end in Hayden Ray, who is already starting to raise some eyebrows at 6’3, 240 pounds.

“He’s special. Anytime you have a kid that is 6’3, 240 pounds that has soft hands, breaks tackles, and can run after the catch. It’s fun for us and fortunately, he is going to be a sophomore and we will get to watch him for the next three years. I’m excited to see what he has to offer all of these people that have come to watch him play.”

Live Oak Head Coach Hutch Gonzales

Gonzales has also enjoyed his fair share of success as a receiver where he was a standout pass catcher at Covington High School and Southeastern. The former Lions receiver also had stints in the CFL and in the Arena Football League with the New Orleans Voodoo before getting into coaching. Although Gonzales enjoyed catching a lot of passes back in the day and getting involved in the passing game, he would rather win games the old-fashioned way.

“I think it is going to be us being physical and running the football. We are really built to go out there and throw 45-50 times a game. That’s fun to watch when you can do that, but I think we have to be more physical in grinding out and running the football in order to be successful on Friday nights.”

“It is going to be different from what they saw last year. It is probably going to be different than what people expect from me. It is different from what you saw at Mandeville. Playing for Hal Mumme and the air raid, you think I want to go out there and throw it 60 times, but I think your personnel dictates your scheme. If you show up to a school and you don’t have five wideouts, you can’t run five wideouts so we are going to be a lot more physical. We will use the H-Back with guys like Blake in the backfield and try to pound the ball offensively a little bit. You know we have to be smart defensively and pick our spots when we can send pressure. I think we have coaches that are well equipped to scheme it up. We have guys that are very experienced on staff. Our administration has allowed me to put together a solid staff. We are excited about it. We are going to play physical football on both sides.”

Live Oak Head Coach Hutch Gonzales

The Eagles will test that style in a tough schedule. Live Oak will start with non-district games against Belaire, Dunham, Bonnabel, St. Helena, and John F. Kennedy before starting off district play against Denham Springs, Dutchtown, East Ascension, Walker, and St. Amant.

“It’s tough competition in non-district and of course, our district is going to be solid and it is going to be difficult to play against Denham Springs and Coach Beard. We have to also play against Chad Mahaffey and his athletes at Walker. It is going to be a grind from Week 1 all the way through.”

Live Oak Head Coach Hutch Gonzalez

Coach Gonzales is trying to build a winning program at Live Oak and bring them to the similar amount of success that Brett Beard did when the current Denham Springs head coach led the Eagles to the Quarterfinals back in 2017.

“Live Oak is in a really good place right now. Athletically, the kids we got in and the administration has been really supportive in trying to win football games and putting together a winning program. We have a phenomenal coaching staff that have put together this process and you know you can see the investment in the kids through the community and the way that the facilities look and what they are able to offer us. It’s on a steep upside right now if I had to say.”

Live Oak Head Coach Hutch Gonzales

Click HERE to check out all of our Media Day 2023 previews!