Istrouma Indians (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The Istrouma Indians, the focus of Saturday night’s Sportsline Summer Camp, have been flying under the radar for a couple of years playing JV games.

But all that will change September 6 when they return to varsity action as a Class 4A team, opening with a non-district home game in their rebuilt stadium on campus against 3A Bogalusa.

SPORTSLINE SUMMER CAMP: Istrouma Indians - Part 1
SPORTSLINE SUMMER CAMP: Istrouma Indians - Part 2

“These kids are realizing, ‘Hey, something special is going on right here at Istrouma,’" said head coach Jeremy Gradney. "And they’re staying home and we’re building something special.”

For the last two years, Istrouma, which started with freshmen and sophomores only, has steamrolled through most of its JV competition. Gradney’s job is to rebuild the once-proud program 65 years after the late Billy Cannon played there.

The first varsity competition came when the Indians turned on the scoreboard May 16 to face the Central Wildcats. Senior quarterback Donald Crayton found wide receiver Tabyrus Smith in the end zone for a touchdown. And, sophomore running back Le’Veon Moss took a pitch and showed off his 4.3 speed in the 40 to go all the way for another score. The Indians certainly showed they’re ready to see what they can do with real competition on Friday nights this fall.

All 22 starters return from last year’s undefeated JV team.

“One unique thing is we only started with ninth and tenth graders at the school, so we didn’t actually have seniors, where these guys could come in and look at the seniors and a role model to kind of show them the blueprint of how this is supposed to work. So, these guys have been learning as they go,” Gradney added.

“First year was bonding,” said Crayton. “Get to know each other, seeing how everybody played. The second year was about proving everybody we could do it and this third year is about just seeing what we can do.”

“I must say. It takes a certain type of character for someone to come to a program that’s only JV and look forward to building something of their own,” Gradney stated.

Albany is up next on Sunday and the Woodlawn Panthers are slated for Monday.

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