The Warren Easton Fighting Eagles have proven to be one of the best programs in the entire state of Louisiana regardless of classification. Located in New Orleans, the Eagles are one of the many football teams in the area to produce collegiate talent every year including the likes of guys such as Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Tyron Johnson, UL Ragin’ Cajuns quarterback Lance Legendre, and Tulane running back Ashaad Clayton just to name a few. Under the leadership of head coach Jerry Phillips, the team has always been in the conversation of contending for a state championship. In fact, since 2014, the Fighting Eagles have been at least to the semifinals every season and also made the state championship game four times during that span including last season. However, the team is still searching for its first state title since 1942. Heading into the 2022 season, the Fighting Eagles definitely want to get that elusive monkey off their back, but right now, the team is only focusing on what they can control today just to get themselves ready for the upcoming season. I got the chance to catch up with Coach Phillips and see what the Fighting Eagles have cooking for the fall.
The Fighting Eagles have had themselves a very busy offseason, and because of that, the team is right on pace to start off the season where they want to be.
“We did a few seven on sevens. We went to Southeastern, LSU, South Alabama, and UL. We got a lot of seven on seven work this summer because we have a lot of new guys at receiver that need to catch the ball as much as possible, but I think we have had a productive summer. Spring has also been really good for us too so I think we are back on the right track.”
This weekend, the coaching staff is taking the team on a team retreat in order to build even more camaraderie before the start of the season. For the coaches, it is another opportunity to grow this team even more while continuing to preach their overall message to the players.
“It is all about sticking together and accountability. They have done a great job in doing that. They are holding each other accountable and this just seems to be one of these teams that are really bonded. It means a lot when the players are holding each other accountable.”
The team will certainly be challenged in the first three games of the season as Warren Easton will be playing against Louisiana powerhouse programs including Ruston High School, Catholic High School (Baton Rouge), and Edna Karr High School before even getting into the meat of the schedule.
“It’s a tough schedule and it’s hard to schedule teams now as the premier teams have to play each other now a days. We have a tough district schedule too so hopefully, playing some of those tough teams will help us down the road when we get to playoff time.”
After losing in a heartbreaker in last year’s 14-13 Class 4A State Championship game to Westgate, this year’s Fighting Eagles squad has had a lot of time to reflect on last year’s painful ending.
“They are using it as fire going into the spring and going into the summer, but it is what it is. It’s over and done with. It happened. You can’t change it so we are just moving on. Of course, it left a sour taste in everybody’s mouth, but if we win it this year, nobody is going to talk about that. That’s the approach that this senior class is taking.”
Like other great Warren Easton teams in the past, this year’s version has a distinct style in which they want to take over games this season.
“We are going to play some good special teams. We are going to play some good defense and we are going to run the football. It is not a secret. That is what we have been doing the past two to three years, and I don’t see it changing anytime soon.”
What is changing is that Warren Easton’s longtime rival Edna Karr is making the jump to 5A. With both teams being the class of the field the last decade in Class 4A along with Neville High School, Coach Phillips knows that his familiar opponent is set to do great things moving up in class.
“Coach Brice and his staff does a phenomenal job. I don’t think they get the credit that they deserve. Those guys are going to adjust. I think they are going to do a phenomenal job in the Catholic League.”
Still, for Coach Phillips, his focus is on his own team and what they can accomplish. As long as the team is focused at whatever is directly ahead of them, the sky is the limit for the Warren Easton Fighting Eagles.
“As long as we are getting better and striving for perfection every single day, that is all we can ask for. We are going to play Warren Easton football. It is going to be exciting. We are going to have fun. We stress that as a staff. Our kids work hard so when it’s game time, we are going to have some fun. There is never a dull game at Warren Easton.”
There is also never a dull season for Louisiana high school football. In order for the Warren Easton Fighting Eagles to accomplish all of their goals for this season, these will have to be the players to lead the way:
LB Jirrea Johnson is a Class of 2023 prospect and one of the best linebackers in Louisiana as an All-State selection. Coach Phillips says, “Jirrea is a really smart kid on and off the field. He is a hard worker and he demands a lot from his teammates. He is the leader on the team and just that guy. He told the team the other day that they needed to get their act together because he is not losing the state championship game again. That’s just the type of kid he is and is just a hell of a player. A lot of people see his size and that he is only 5’11. A lot of people are looking for these 6’3 linebackers, but this kid can play some football. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters.” Currently, Jirrea’s incredible sideline to sideline ability has garnered him offers from Alabama A&M, Alabama State, Arkansas State, Buffalo, FIU, Kansas, ULM, Liberty, Louisville, Marshall, McNeese State, Nebraska, Southeastern, Southern, Western Illinois, UIW, and UTSA. In the end, whoever does sign him will be getting an absolute steal.
Jirrea’s counterpart Archie Chambers is also one of the best linebackers in the area as he has received offers from Marshall, FIU, Georgia Tech, and Northwestern State as a Class of 2023 prospect.
DT Jameian Buxton is one of the most highly recruited defensive linemen in the nation for the Class of 2023 as he has received offers from the likes of LSU, Florida State, Miami, and Georgia just to name a few. Last season, Jameian transferred over to Warren Easton from Thibodaux High School because of Hurricane Ida and now, according to Coach Phillips, he has fully adjusted. “Jameian has adjusted to us. He’s never been through summer training with us so it was different and it was a lot for him, but the kid is a player and just loves playing football. His parents love what we are doing here at Warren Easton. They just love the school, the staff, and the entire program. He’s the man on the defensive line and everybody in the nation is recruiting him. Hopefully, he will make his decision soon so he can focus on going on a state championship run.”
CB Wallace Foster IV is another highly recruited player on this team, but for the Class of 2024. Like Jameian, everybody around the country is offering him including the likes of LSU, Florida State, Arkansas, Florida, and Miami just to name a couple of them. What is even scarier is that he will have another full year after this season. Coach Phillips says, “Everybody in the city of New Orleans and in the state knows that Wallace is the man on the back end of our defense. He has that typical cornerback mentality. He never stops talking, but everything he talks about, he backs it up. We got a lot of young guys that look at him for leadership, and they pretty much follow his lead. They all want to be like Wallace Foster. His dad has been on the staff so he has been coached up and been around football all his life. He always wants to line up against the best receiver, and that’s what makes him such a great player.”
At quarterback, the offense has two really talented options. The first is Keddrick Connelly, who was the starter last season and led the team to the Class 4A State Championship game. At 6’2, 205 pounds, Connelly has a tremendous arm and has the ability to run as a Class of 2023 prospect. Gregory Donaldson is the other as a Class of 2024 prospect. Greg is a transfer from Chalmette High School and although he is not as big as Keddrick at only 5’10, 180 pounds, he is a better runner than Keddrick and has a strong arm as well. Coach Phillips believes that he can win with either guy at quarterback. “Greg and Keddrick are doing really well. It is going to be decided coming out of camp who we are going to decide as the starting quarterback. They are both so talented that both will get the chance to play a lot for us this year. The good thing about it is that they support and coach each other up, which is a really good thing.”
Regardless of who is getting the snaps under center, the Fighting Eagles will run the football a lot behind their big offensive line led by ULM commit Carmelo Crump, who can play either guard or tackle for the team as a Class of 2023 prospect, and Class of 2024 running back Fredrick Robertson, who according to Coach Phillips, could be in for a huge season as the team’s workhorse running back.
The rest of the players are young, but talented so the future will still continue to be bright on 3019 Canal Street.