Chango has turned Cajuns into ‘comeback kids’

That Joe Chango is the head football coach at Country Day is a very good thing for the school.

Give the credit to director of athletics Mike McGuire. And since McGuire is also the boys’ basketball coach, give the assist to science teacher Don Hattier, who worked at St. Charles Catholic with Chango in the late ’90s.

So, when Country Day was searching for a football coach after the 2014 season, McGuire said Hattier recommended Chango. McGuire said Chango, then an assistant coach at Jesuit, made a huge impression in his job interview.

“Joe played at a small school,” said McGuire. “He understands that you have to play both ways.”

On a Friday night at Newman, Chango said the Cajuns dressed out 32 players against the Greenies. The Cajuns were on the cusp of their first loss of the season. They trailed 28-7 in the third quarter, and 31-14 in the fourth. 

Country Day won 35-31.

“We have scored 80 percent of our points in the second half,” said Chango.

The Cajuns head coach said he implemented a running program used by the University of Oregon. The Ducks, who played very fast on offense, had to be in shape.

“Some teams condition after practice,” said Chango. “We condition during practice. We had to learn how to play tired.”

Cajuns opponents are growing weary of the comebacks.

Country Day trailed 23-10 in the third quarter to Amite but won, 24-23. The Cajuns, down in the fourth quarter against St. Charles Catholic, drove 81 yards for a touchdown and added the two-point conversion in an 11-10 win.

Chango says junior quarterback Justin Ibieta is the best quarterback he has coached, and one of the top five players he’s coached. And, he says there’s an overlooked aspect of his team’s success.

“Our coaching staff is very close,” said Chango. “We hang out together, and our players see that. They feed off of it.”

His staff includes defensive coordinator Bill Barwa, offensive line coach Adam Gardner, defensive backs and wide receivers coach Eric Alexander, defensive backs and wide receivers coach Matt Stone, line coach Mark Drago, defensive line coach David LeBeouf, and linebackers and running backs coach Sheldon Green.

Chango said the staff’s continuity and togetherness can lead to big things.

As an assistant at West Orange High School in New Jersey, Chango said the Mountaineers reached the playoffs in six of seven seasons and also played in two state semifinals.

The year before that coaching staff arrived, West Orange was 0-10.

“Our kids have a never-say-die attitude,” McGuire said. “They never believe they are out of it.”

And, on a Friday night, at Newman, they weren’t. 

 Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at edaniels@clarionherald.org.

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