Cenla Summer Camp: Jena Giants

Making the playoffs has not been a problem for Jena, but this season they are ready to make it the Dome and win it all for the first time in school history.
Published: Aug. 7, 2023 at 6:34 PM CDT
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JENA, La. (KALB) - Last year, the Jena Giants did not start their season the way anyone expected, going 0-4, but it did not plague them very much, as they went undefeated in district to claim the title for the third straight year.

“We look back on how far we have come from last year,” said Giants’ senior running back Zerrick Jones. “We are bigger and stronger. So there is going to be a different record.”

The Giants’ motivation throughout the summer, and now fall camp is the bad taste of losing in the second round of the playoffs last season to Amite.

Jena’s head coach Jay Roark said what they have been able to do in the summer has prepared them for fall camp.

“It is exciting, we are excited to see what it looks like ‚” said Roark. “We have had a great summer, very proud of them. I’m sure they are going to be fired up to have a little contact.”

The Giants have never won a state title, the closest was to getting to the New Orleans was when they made their second quarterfinal appearance in 2020, but the expectations never change.

“We are not starting 0-4 again,” said Giants’ senior wide receiver and tight end Zykerrik Hunter. “We are going undefeated, going to the dome and winning all 15 games.”

“We feel like that does not define who we are,” said Giants’ senior quarterback Zach Barker. “Just like we did not let it define the end of our season last year. We know who we are, the weapons we have and we know we can win.”

Coach Roark heads into his 11th season as the Giants head man, and he will have experience on his side this year. The Giants’ have 15 seniors on their roster, including 2x District MVP Zerrick Jones, who rushed for over 1,600 yards and 19 touchdowns.

“There were a lot of growing pains early in the season, and they got a lot better throughout last season,” said Roark. “I feel like we are starting way ahead from a year ago.”

“I’m ready to get on the field, ready to see a lot of returning starters because we are a lot bigger and stronger,” said Jones. “I’m just ready to see what our expectations are looking like.”

Jena is known for their run heavy offense, but Coach Roark may have a few tricks up his sleeve this year with his veteran quarterback, Zach Barker.

“We like to control the clock and keep the other offense off the field,” said Roark. “It is kind of what we started several years ago, and it has been good to us, but it also sets up some good play action passes, and this year we have two really good targets in receivers. I’m excited to see it.”

Building chemistry on the defensive side of the ball was the one goal from last season, now fast forward to the upcoming season the Giants return eight starters.

“We have guys that have been starting since freshman year like Zerrick Jones and De Hammock,” said Giants’ junior linebacker Triston McLendon. “They are going to play the ball, and if so, we should have a great year.”

Making the playoffs has not been a problem for Jena, but this season they are ready to make it the Dome and win it all for the first time in school history.

KALB’s Cenla Summer Camp Series 2023 is presented by La. Farm Bureau.

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