School Spotlight: Grand Lake (Cameron Parish, LA)

Grand Lake High School is a 2A division 4 high school in unincorporated Grand Lake, Louisiana, within Cameron Parish. The football program, named the Hornets, is lead by four-year head coach, Jeff Wainwright. Wainwright is a native of Cameron Parish and played football and later interned as a coach at South Cameron High School, which no longer fields a football program. In fact, only one of the four high schools in the parish, that being Grand Lake, currently fields a team.

Coach Wainwright served as the head coach at Kinder High School and Sulphur High School for a combined sixteen years before returning to his native parish to take over a struggling Hornets team. Football hasn’t been offered as a sport for very long, as Grand Lake only sponsored the sport for a few years in the 1950’s, and then started offering it again ten years ago. Before Coach Wainwright took over in 2019, the program went 14-50 since its rejuvenation, averaging barely over 2 wins a season, with the best season being 4-7 in 2016. In just his second year, Coach Wainwright took Grand Lake to the 1A state championship game and unfortunately couldn’t quite pull out the victory, but it was still a huge step in the right direction for the team. In 2022, Grand Lake moved up to the 2A level and immediately started having success. Last season, Grand Lake finished 9-3, including 8-2 in the regular season. Their only two losses came to Welsh and Notre Dame, two very successful programs in the area. Grand Lake even won their first playoff game ever at the 2A level! Overall, Grand Lake has a 35-12 record under Coach Wainwright, for an average of just under nine wins a season. Very impressive!

Coach Wainwright is super proud of his team and what they’ve been able to accomplish. Sure, many of his players aren’t getting Division I looks, but he has a lot of talent on the roster and finds creative ways to use it. The Grand Lake team brings a certain level of energy and pride to the field, and he also is satisfied with how they carry themselves off the field and in the community, as well. He believes that there are three components needed to win football games: smarts, toughness, and talent, and whichever team holds the upper hand at two of these will usually win. Sometimes though, talent will rise above all else. Grand Lake hasn’t really had many players who are Division I material, with the exception of Bryant Williams, a former 3-star recruit and offensive lineman for the University of Louisiana Rajin’ Cajuns. That’s why Coach Wainwright’s offense is centered around the triple option.

The triple option is a very powerful and very fluid offense. There are several ballcarriers and nobody, including the coaches, and even the quarterback, knows where the ball will end up. The quarterback will make a read, and if the play is there, he will hand the ball off. If it isn’t, he’ll move onto the next ballcarrier, and the next one, until he finally either hands it off or takes off himself and runs. This is the same offense that the service academies, including the Air Force, Navy, and Army’s teams run, as this offense takes a lot of discipline to be effective. Coach Wainwright feels as though this is offense that best utilizes the talent his offense possesses, and it also keeps the defense on it’s toes. This leads to many high scoring games. Grand Lake put up 66 on one opponent this past season, and scored 39 or more in 7 of their 9 wins in 2022.

I asked Coach Wainwright about how often they pass the ball, and he informed me that they pass around 30 times a game. Then he went on to joke how 25 of those are in warmups! That’s right, Grand Lake only averages around 5 pass attempts a game. But when they pass, they usually catch the offense off guard, and this leads to many wide-open receivers and a very high YPC (yards per catch) total. So, as you can see, Grand Lake rushes the ball for the vast majority of their offensive plays.

On defense, the Hornets use multiple defenses to combat all of the modern offensive formations they face every year.

Coach Wainwright emphasizes these three mottos with his team: “Let’s be the best version of Grand Lake”, “Don’t worry about the scoreboard, but the man behind it”, and “Can you make a meal out of crumbs?” Coach Wainwright wants his players to realize that they need to play with passion and grit and to never give up.

Coach Wainwright would, for next season, to improve on depth, especially on defense. There were 6-two way players last season, and Coach Wainwright would like to cut down on that. He’s happy with his presumed starters for next season; many are returning starters, but he is concerned somewhat about his backups. Coach Wainwright is also hoping to improve his team’s kicking and punting game, as he isn’t quite satisfied with their performance from last season, and fells as though they are an underrated unit on a winning football team. Coach Wainwright believes that the Hornet’s will be just as good in 2023 as in 2022, and have a very real possibility of improving and advancing further into the playoffs.

Coach Wainwright talked about some of his returning players who will make the biggest impact on this team. Last years backup quarterback, Kaden Taylor, is the presumed starter next season. He also started at defensive end last season and will most likely continue to do so. Brent Hardesty and Brycen Guillory were the teams two leading rushers and will both be returning as well. Brycen also starts as one of the teams Safety’s on defense. Ian Vigo, the teams fullback, returns as well. The fullback is used heavily in the triple option, but has been fizzled out in the modern offenses. Vigo is heavily used in short-yardage situations and is a very tough runner, Coach Wainwright said. Ezra Fontenot is the leader on defense; he plays middle linebacker and was specifically mentioned by Coach Wainwright as well. One more player mentioned is Wyatt Wilkerson, whom Coach Wainwright called the anchor of both the offensive and defensive lines.

Be on the lookout for this up-and-coming team in 2023!

Pictured above is Ian Vigo. He plays one of the most important roles in the offense as the starting fullback. He will be a senior in 2023.
Pictured above is Brent Hardesty. He is one of the leading rushers and plays the running back position in the offense.
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