To shake off the Spring Break rust, LaMarque coach Bryan Irwin put his athletes through an offseason routine called the mat. A combination of wrestling, aerobics and quick burst drills – the mat features some of the state's best athletes flying around a 30 X 30 rubber room while coaches shout instructions for an hour.
LaMarque , the superstore of high school athletes, is focused on a Class 4A state championship and players and coaches understand it all starts on the mat.
"We want to win state and anything else isn't good enough," senior receiver Lawrence Owens said. "It all starts right here. This is where we start our winning."
A year of suspensions and injuries marred 2004, but the Cougars still plugged through a few rounds of the playoffs. They signed three athletes to Florida State in Korey Mangum, Russell Ball and Clarence Ward, but only Mangum played for LaMarque last season. Ball blew out a knee in the first game while Ward transferred after a suspension.
The lack of seniors enabled Irwin to work in some younger athletes, which will benefit his program for the next two seasons.
This year's recruiting pool is headlined by quarterback L.J. Castille, a sleek, 6-4, 200-pound pro-style quarterback.
Castille currently favors Texas A&M, Texas, Texas Tech and Virginia.
"I'm just excited to see what happens over the next few months," he said. "I plan on going to the Nike Camp, Oklahoma's camp, Oklahoma State's camp and the Peyton Manning Camp. I also love basketball and I am getting some interest from Baylor."
Castille led his basketball team to the regional finals as a center, before losing to Wheatley. LaMarque hadn't been to the playoffs in basketball in 33 years and Castille was involved in making history for the school renown for football.
"Coach Irwin allowed L.J. to come over after football and get in some practice," LaMarque basketball coach Chris Jackson said. "He's a tremendous defensive player and has great upside offensively."
Castille hasn't decided if he will play AAU basketball or continue to hone his football skills this summer.
"I just know it will be a busy summer," he said.
Castille has two bookend receivers in Jared Perry and Lawrence Owens. Perry (6-1, 175-pounds) will be attending the Nike Camp and Oklahoma's one-day camp. He currently favors Kansas State, Oklahoma State, LSU, Oklahoma and Texas.
Owens (6-0, 170-pounds) likes Miami, TCU, Wisconsin, Missouri and Texas Tech.
"I'm looking forward to this next year," Owens said. "I really feel we are going to state and I will have several schools recruiting me."
LaMarque's stingy defense will be led by defensive ends Richard Jones (6-3, 260-pounds) and Gerald Celestine (6-4, 245-pounds). Jones is a bull-rushing end with Texas Tech, Florida, Virginia, Oklahoma and California atop his list.
Celestine, a razor thin edge end, likes Oklahoma State, Clemson, Baylor and Houston.
"I have a daughter, so I'd like to stay pretty close to home," he said. "I'd also like to move to safety in college. I feel I have the size and speed to be a good one."
Defensive tackle Shannon Simmons (5-10, 195-pounds) is also a linebacker prospect for the Cougars.
"Shannon could be our strongest and best defensive player," Irwin said. "We just have to have him on our defensive line."
LaMarque also has a solid junior-to-be class led by 2004 leading rusher J.J. Mullins and lineman Michael Ray.