Casnave gives Fontainebleau a fighting chance

The growing pains have been harsh for the Fontainebleau football program, which is still essentially in its infancy. But heading into the 2001 season, the Bulldogs are beginning to show signs of maturity and have a legitimate shot of challenging for the district title. Helping in that quest will be some of the school's first legitimate Division I talent.

Having only been in existence a few years, Fontainebleau embarked on its first football campaign with an inaugural season that featured a schedule loaded with opposition from lower classifications. Once the Bulldogs were planted in District 5-5A the following, they struggled to keep pace with the established programs. The lowest point came in 1999 when FHS failed to post a single win.

But light emerged at the end of the tunnel last season under first-year head coach Larry Favre (he's Brett's cousin), who enjoyed the luxury of working with a cohesive group of players who had been in the program for a couple of years and were starting to form an identity. The Bulldogs went 4-6 in 2000 and could have easily had a winning season if not for two losses by a combined total of four points.

This year, Favre has good odds of steering Fontainebleau over the hump, establishing the Bulldogs as a district contender and perhaps making the school's first-ever playoff appearance.

"We're probably going to have 3 or 4 players on our team who could play Division I schools," Favre said. "When you start playing with that type of talent, you can talk about getting into the district hunt and making it to the playoffs.

"I'm just in the right place at the right time. I'm getting here after all of the hard work of laying the foundation for the program was done."

Favre will also be able to reap the benefits of the talent that's accumulated on the north shore of Lake Ponchartrain. The name most often heard in recruiting ranks is that of Adam Hurst, a 5-foot-10, 180-pound running back. Although he was far from the biggest player coming out of the backfield, opponents still had trouble stopping Hurst during his junior season. He rambled for 951 yards on the ground and added 195 more in receiving, for which he received All-St. Tammany and All-District honors.

In the spring, Hurst emerged as one of the top sprinters in Class 5A, turning in winning performances in the short sprints with regularity. His stock continued to rise as a recruit, with colleges considering him as a prospect at wide receiver and cornerback.

"I have never seen an athlete work as hard at his trade as Adam Hurst," said Favre. "Whether it's at the gym with Kurt Hester (the former LSU assistant strength coach who runs a private gym in Mandeville) or working at camps, I've never seen a kid work so hard year round."

Hurst has continued his tour de force in summer camps, turning in impressive 40-yard times at Southern Miss, Tulane, Colorado State and at the LSU Nike Combine. Tulane and Southern Miss have come through with scholarship offers, as has Baylor. Colorado State informed Hurst they do not offer early, and LSU has made it clear it probably met their needs with athletes in Hurst's category with commitments from Skyler Green and Blair Irvin.

While Hurst is a known commodity entering his senior year, defensive end Greg Casnave (6-3, 280) is still probably a few years away from playing his best football. But even at his current skill and strength level, Casnave is attracting attention from colleges, including LSU, that think he can be an asset to their programs.

Casnave also works with Hester, who trains athletes from throughout St. Tammany, including players from St. Paul's, Mandeville, Covington and the Slidell area. According to Favre, Casnave is the strongest in the program.

"He's one of the strongest kids I've ever coached," Favre stated. "He's got great field speed. If you measured him in the 40, that's not going to show. But you can see on highlight tape that he is able to close in really quickly and can run down guys out of the backfield."

When it comes to recruiting, Favre says Casnave is not exactly sure what to think of all the schools taking an interest in him. Not having been a student of the game of football for very long, Casnave is still figuring out what to look for in a college program that will suit his particular skills and needs.

"He is really naïve about the differences in different programs," added Favre. "I know I have to explain a lot of things to him; he is just so happy to have the opportunity to play the game in college."

Georgia Tech has kept track of Casnave over the last few months, and LSU has stepped up their interest as of late. Southern Miss will also be taking note of his progress in the coming months as other schools are likely to do.

Favre says a couple of sleeper prospects worth watching will be offensive lineman Sean Blais and quarterback Kyle Driscoll. Both players could emerge as college recruits with strong performances during their senior season.

Blais (6-3, 311) quit the football team following a sophomore season that saw the Bulldogs go 0-10. With a change of heart, he is back on the team and will be counted upon to get the Fontainebleau offense moving.

"Will Muschamp recruits Fontainebleau for LSU, and evidently the offensive line coach (George Yarno) found out about Sean," explains Favre. "He wanted to know ‘why didn't we know about this kid?' It was because Sean hadn't played last year, so they'll probably be following him this year."

A few other schools are likely to be on Blais' trail as well after his showing at the Nicholls State lineman camp.

As for Driscoll, Favre plans to utilize him more as a passer than he did during his junior season. To help in that area, Hurst will probably see time in the slot as a receiver.

This versatility in talent should give Fontainebleau a legitimate chance of challenging the traditional powers in their district, and Favre says his Bulldogs are beginning to believe they can be the lead dogs in their pack.

"I just see our confidence growing almost every day," notes Favre. "At every workout, every 7-on-7 game, you can see that guys are believing in the program. The next step is believing they can do it on the field."

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