Road to the Dome: LHSAA Class 1A First Round Preview
by Jace LeJeune and Lee Brecheen
This week starts arguably the best time of the year for Louisiana High School Football as even though the regular season has ended, a new season has arrived and that is the playoffs. The playoffs are always unique in the sense that is unlike the regular season as you lose, there is another week to play. In the playoffs, there is no tomorrow because if you lose, you go home. Through all the classifications and all of the teams in the playoffs, there is one goal and mind and that is to be one of nine teams in the end holding a state championship trophy in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with the Queen smash hit “We Are the Champions” playing in the background. For Louisiana football fans, this is the most wonderful time of the year. This year, we got you covered as for the next couple of weeks, we will go through all of the matchups from 1A all the way to 5A each and every week leading up to the All-State Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Prep Classic from December 7th-9th. Louisiana Football Magazine’s expert Lee Brecheen has seen all of these teams play and gives his insight on which teams will survive and continue their march to the Superdome. Today, we preview the Class 1A public division playoff bracket.
Class 1A: (Note: All higher seeds hosts home playoff games this week)
#1 West St. John Rams (7-3) have a bye this week.
Team Preview: The West St. John Rams are pretty much the favorite to win the 1A state championship this year. Led by Head Coach Brandon Walters, the Rams won the District 8-1A championship with a 7-3 overall record and undefeated record in District play. The team’s only losses came against teams that play in higher classifications in Donaldsonville, St. James, and Plaquemine. The Rams don’t have a lot of weaknesses as they have a dynamic quarterback in D’andre Gaudia, a great rushing attack led by Kylan Duhe, great skill players such as WR Aason Moll, WR Alyjah Borne, a big, physical offensive line led by Calieb Batiste, and a dominant defense that is led by LB/DE Covan Barnes, DT Horace Lewis, and LB Kelon Gardner. This is a team that has all the tools to get to the Superdome. They will also have the luxury of having the only first round bye in the bracket. They will face the winner of the East Iberville-Delhi game next week.
Lee’s Take: “West St. John is the best team on either side of the 1A playoffs private or public. I saw this team play this year and last year. Nobody wants to play these guys because nobody has the athletes that this team has. This is a 5A team when it comes to size and speed. I don’t know if anybody can beat West St. John when they come to play.”
#2 Oak Grove Tigers (9-1) vs. #31 Northwood Lena Gators (1-9)
Game Preview: The Oak Grove Tigers, under Ryan Gregory, haven’t been to the Superdome since 2004, but this might be their year as they have had a total dominant season going 9-1 and winning a very tough district in 2-1A. The Tigers won the district championship by shutting down one of the best offenses around in Cedar Creek 42-0. The Tigers’ strength is their running game with a young athletic sophomore quarterback in Kameron Holloway, an experienced running back in Donald Gray, a very experienced offensive line led by John Bolding. Their defense has also been very dominant as well. The Northwood Lena Gators, under Denis Coody, improved on last year’s mark when the team failed to win a game. This season, they did manage to get that victory against University Academy and it shows that this team is moving in the positive direction.
Lee’s Take: “I think Oak Grove is going to be too much to handle for Northwood Lena. The Tigers have too much size for the Gators.”
#3 Kentwood Kangaroos (9-1) vs. #30 Tensas Panthers (1-9)
Game Preview: The Kentwood Kangaroos, under Jonathan Foster, won arguably the toughest district in all of 1A with such other teams like Southern Lab and Ascension Catholic also in that district. The Kangaroos won nine games this season and once again, will be a state championship contender due to the many skill guys that the offense has. Playmakers such as QB Jamarquea Diamond, RB Larry Carter, WR Larenz Morris, and WR Trey Palmer, who has already been offered by LSU as a junior, can score on anybody when they are out in open space. The Kangaroos also have some size in the trenches with OT Eric Dunn, who is 6-6, 250, and OG Justice Ulschak, who is also over 250 pounds. The Tensas Panthers, under Noah Johnson, had a rough season after having a winning season in 2016 with a 1-9 record this season.
Lee’s Take: “I feel for Tensas this game because it is a mismatch of talent against Kentwood. ”
#4 Varnado Wildcats (6-3) vs. #29 Ringgold Redskins (1-9)
Game Preview: The Varnado Wildcats, under Scott Shafett, had a good season finishing second in district 8-1A behind the West St. John Rams. The Wildcats can put up plenty of points as they only failed to score less than 30 points only twice all season. The explosive Wildcat offensive attack is led by WR Armontee Kemp, who is a four year starter and can run with the best of them, FB Jadarrell Magee, who is as tough as they come, and QB James Williams, who is another four year starter. The Ringgold Redskins, under Dedric Smith, have also had a tough season, but the team has some athletes that they can rely on such as QB Nick Noel, ATH Dasjuan Reed, and RB Arlondo Iverson to name a few.
Lee’s Take: “Varnado should win as they got a lot of great athletes, but they are not extremely deep. Ringgold is a sleeper team that dresses 25 kids and has some athletes. It could potentially go either way, but I think Varnado will win this one.”
#5 Logansport Tigers (10-0) vs. #28 North Central Hurricanes (1-9)
Game Preview: The Logansport Tigers are looking to defend their 1A state championship a year ago and continue a winning streak that is currently at 24 straight wins after posting back to back undefeated regular seasons. Kevin Magee has built a dominant program in only his fourth year as the team’s head coach and has taken this team to state championship prowess just when he was playing quarterback for the Tigers’ state championship team in 1995. The Tigers are led by veteran QB Dalton Shaw, who is the all time leading passer in program history passing his coach, and one of the most underrated big time recruits in the entire state in ATH John Stephens Jr., who is the son of the late John Stephens Sr., who played for the New England Patriots. Stephens is a TCU commit and can play just about any position for the Tigers including WR, LB, and even DE. He could be a difference maker in this bracket. The North Central Hurricanes, under Jacobi Thierry, have had a tough season, but that does not mean that they can give the Tigers at least a run for their money as they have an explosive playmaker in RB Wilshawn Williams, who has a lots of speed.
Lee’s Take: “Logansport should win this one. They should have no problems with North Central in this first game. Don’t get me wrong. North Central has done a good job, but I think Logansport is going to make a run to the Dome so they should win this game.”
#6 Haynesville Golden Tornadoes (8-2) vs. #27 Grand Lake Hornets (2-9)
Game Preview: The Haynesville Golden Tornadoes are one of the most historic football programs in the state and have won many state championships in the past. In fact, they are second to only John Curtis High School in state championship victories with 17. The Golden Tornadoes, under David Franklin, are making a run at their 18th state championship this season. They enter the playoffs with an 8-2 record and a 1-1A district championship. The Golden Tornadoes are a highly motivated team this season after losing to the Logansport Tigers in the Class 1A state championship last season 34-28. The Tornadoes are led by playmaker Kavacion Webster, who may only be 5-6, 160, but he is very exciting when he has the football in his hands. The Tornadoes also have a great defense, which is led by Louisiana Monroe commit Jalan Harris, who has a very high motor and can clinch football games when rushing the quarterback late in football games. The Grand Lake Hornets, under Chad Lavergne, had a down season with only two wins, but they have real solid football players such as senior FB Thomas Delaney, who is one of the best fullbacks in the state.
Lee’s Take: “I just don’t think that Grand Lake is ready for Haynesville. This is not Haynesville’s deepest team, but they are still one of the top three or four teams in this bracket so they should move on.”
#7 Basile Bearcats (7-3) vs. #26 Slaughter Community Charter Knights (2-8)
Game Preview: It has been a big time breakout season for Coach Kevin Bertrand and the Basile Bearcats. The team has had one of the best turnarounds this season even though they had a decent season a year ago winning three games and making the playoffs. However, this season, the Bearcats won seven games and have a chance to host a home playoff game. Players like QB Dawson Ashford, LB Andre Reed, WR Jaylen Thomas, RB/LB Logan David, and OL/DL Cameron Berzas will be guys that will lead this team. The Slaughter Community Charter Knights, under Devyn Baker, have also had a very impressive season in their first year competing for district honors in Class 1A. This is a team that is already on the rise after only their first year in the LHSAA and will be a team to watch out for in the next couple of years.
Lee’s Take: “Basile could lose to Slaughter as the Knights are trying to win their first playoff game in program history. This might be their first win as I am going to go with an upset just because I think that Slaughter has a little bit more team speed than Basile.”
#8 Jonesboro-Hodge Tigers (7-3) vs. #25 Plain Dealing Lions (3-7)
Game Preview: The Jonesboro-Hodge Tigers, under Terrance Blankenship had a great regular season winning seven games. The team always has great skill position players and the same goes for this season with guys such as QB Tayvionne Tate, RB Kameron Booker, WR Trinavous Belton, and WR Reggie Shallowhorn. They also have a big line as well for Class 1A with guys like DT Kelton Moss commanding the interior with his 6-2, 280 pound frame. The Plain Dealing Lions, under James Thurman, had a really good year considering that the team lost one of their biggest recruits to ever come out of the program in Keldrick Carper (Texas A&M). However, the Lions have two offensive players that the team has relied on to get them to this point in ATH Shavolyea McKinney and RB Derreon Washington.
Lee’s Take: “Jonesboro-Hodge should win the football game even though Plain Dealing does have some skill talent. I think the Tigers will wear down the Lions as they have pretty big guys on their football team.”
#9 Elton Indians (6-3) vs. #24 Sicily Island Tigers (3-7)
Game Preview: “The Elton Indians, under Doyle Carter, finished the regular season at 6-3. The Indians have one of the most underrated players in Class 1A in Keshawn Lyons. Lyons is utilized pretty much everywhere the Indians need him to be. He can do it all as he is the team’s quarterback, kick returner, and even was an All-State selection in 2016 as a punter. The Sicily Island Tigers, under first year head coach Donald Money, have improved greatly after not winning a single game last season. The Tigers are led by RB Jameon Tolliver, who has been playing for this team ever since he was in 8th grade. QB Tyreke Tolliver is another senior who has been a key player on Sicily Island’s team since was in 8th grade as well.
Lee’s Take: “These are two evenly matched teams regardless of who ranks higher. I think Sicily Island has a really good chance in this game because both teams don’t dress more than 25 players each.”
#10 Montgomery Tigers (6-4) vs. #23 Gueydan Bears (5-5)
Game Preview: “The Montgomery Tigers, under Brian Williams, have a big team in numbers for a 1A school and have a lot of experience coming back for this season. Those factors helped the Tigers post a winning regular season record at 6-4. RB Jarred Henry is a good runner for the Tigers’ offense and they have an experience quarterback in Logan Graves. The defense could be the strength of this team as they have great players such as DT Isiah Carraway, who is an All-District player, and LB Kashon Lasley, who is a really good pass rusher, just to name a few. The Gueydan Bears, under Robert Helo, is another team that has improved on their record from a season ago registering a 5-5 record this year after only coming up with one victory the year prior. Players such as QB Blaire Broussard, FB Spencer Broussard, RB Mark Clark, and RB Griffin Guidry have all played integral parts this season.
Lee’s Take: “Montgomery should win this game against Gueydan because they have a little bit more experience as well as more depth.”
#11 Oberlin Tigers (6-4) vs. #22 Block Bears (2-8)
Game Preview: The Oberlin Tigers, under Durell Peloquin, have definitely gone under the radar as a team that has been quietly doing great things. This is a team that won nine games as well as a playoff game in the 2016 season and once again, the team had a winning season with six victories on their schedule. QB James Kirklin is a good athlete that is pretty much an extra running back as he is a great running threat. He will have the luxury of having some big offensive linemen block for him including the head coach’s son OL/DL Trooper Peloquin, who is 6-2, 240, and OL/DL MacKenzie Carrier, who is 6-3, 300 and the District Defensive MVP as a sophomore in 2016. The Block Bears, under first year head coach Josh Loy, won only two games in the regular season, but don’t let the record fool you as they had to play a very tough schedule against teams such as Jena, St. Mary’s, and Logansport in the regular season. The Bears will match up with the Tigers big linemen up front as they will have a very experienced front group.
Lee’s Take: “I am going to go with an upset here and pick Block to win due to the fact that Block has played tougher competition in the regular season.”
#12 LaSalle Tigers (5-5) vs. #21 Homer Pelicans (3-7)
Game Preview: The LaSalle Tigers, under Derek White, had a decent season going 5-5 and considering that the team was young heading into this year with a lot of new players at the skill positions and on the offensive line. You got to give credit where credit is due and those young players have stepped up their game this season. Guys like DB Cullen Wise, OL/DL Eli Stringer, OT/LB Landon Phillips, WR/LB Blade Beaubouef, and DB Jason Baum have all player their part and would need to continue that if the Tigers want to make a playoff run. The Homer Pelicans, under Glen Kyle, had three wins in the regular season and the running game was a huge part in why the Pelicans are here in the playoffs now as Star Thomas and Courtney Lovett make a good tandem. The Pelicans also have a young, talented quarterback in Kemontavious Grant, who has played like he was a four year starter and not a sophomore.
Lee’s Take: “This game is a tossup and could be one of those games where home field advantage is real important. Both these teams don’t dress more than 35. It could be either team that could move on, but I am going to go with LaSalle to win the game in the end.”
#13 Arcadia Hornets (4-5) vs. #20 White Castle Bulldogs (2-8)
Game Preview: The Arcadia Hornets, under Dimitri Carr, is the highest seed to have a record that is below .500 but the Hornets are still a team that you do not want to deal with when the playoffs start. The Hornets have their everydown running back in Corey Russell, who had over 2,000 yards rushing and 28 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2016. Russell may not have ran for that much this season, but that doesn’t mean he can’t carry the offense on his shoulders. Russell does get some help from one of the best two way linemen in the state to help clear the path for him in OL/DL Brandon Rallins, who is 6-3, 290. The White Castle Bulldogs, under first year head coach Aaron Meyer, won two games this season largely because of the lack of depth that the Bulldogs have. However, the Bulldogs have some talented starters such as QB Javier Batiste, WR Demarius Stewart, and RB/OLB Eddie Ned.
Lee’s Take: “Arcadia should win this game, but they should not sleep on White Castle as the Bulldogs can beat them. White Castle does not have a lot of depth, but so does Arcadia. It could go either way, but I think Arcadia will win because White Castle is going to wear down.”
#14 Merryville Panthers (5-5) vs. #19 Centerville Bulldogs (5-5)
Game Preview: The Merryville Panthers, under Randy Jones, is another team that has improved dramatically over last year as the Panthers are now at 5-5 after only one win in 2016. A big reason for the turnaround is the offense. The Panthers have been very consistent on offense scoring at least 22 points in every game this season. The team’s best offensive player is Desmond McCain, who has had back to back 1,000 yard rushing seasons. The team can also throw the ball when they need to as well. The Centerville Bulldogs, under Mark Millet, is a program on the rise after making the move to play in the LHSAA three years ago. After back to back three win seasons, the team has taken the next step reaching five wins this year. They can really make some progress with a win over Merryville this week.
Lee’s Take: “I don’t think that there is a huge difference between both of these teams. These are two evenly matched football teams. Both teams don’t have any depth, but if I had to go with one team, it would be Merryville because they have more experience playing in these playoff games.”
#15 Delta Charter Storm (5-5) vs. #18 Lincoln Preparatory School Panthers (4-6)
Game Preview: The Delta Charter Storm, under first year head coach Blake Wheeler, are another really young football program that is just gaining its confidence as more and more players are getting invested into this program. With many returning starters on this year’s team, they have what it takes to take the next step and win a playoff game. The Lincoln Preparatory Panthers, under first year head coach Glen Hall, had a decent season winning four games in a tough 1A district. The Panthers have plenty of playmakers most notably Johlik Madison, who is a two way starter at running back and safety. The defense has some solid players too in CB Larry Gipson and DT Jordan Williams.
Lee’s Take: “I am taking Lincoln Prep in the upset. I think they are a lot better than people realize. They have a lot of team speed and I think they are like the old Grambling High School. They are a sleeper team.”
#16 East Iberville Tigers (5-5) vs. #17 Delhi Bears (3-7)
Game Preview: What Ron LeJeune has done in his first year at East Iberville is nothing short of incredible. This was a team that has won only one game total over the last four years. In LeJeune’s first season, the team won five games and has a chance to win their first playoff game in program history in front of their home crowd. The Tigers have some solid players such as QB Lyndell Joseph, Center Lester Joseph, OL/DL Justin Hollins, and TE Edward Smith. A problem the Tigers will have is dealing with the Delhi Bears’ high scoring attack. The Bears, led by first year head coach Ike Williams, have a good talented quarterback Brandon Williams along with big receiving targets Demarmion Leggins and Justice Williams.
Lee’s Take: “This game can come down to the wire as anybody can win this one. Delhi is used to going to the playoffs and that is probably the only difference. Delhi is not an extremely large team like West St. John, but they have some good players. It could be a huge victory for East Iberville, but it is going to come down on who makes more plays and Delhi has got some very good athletes.”
Lee’s Final Thoughts: At the end of the day, besides West St. John, I think that there are four teams that can get to the Superdome. Those four teams are Logansport, Kentwood, Haynesville, and Oak Grove. Those five teams are on a different planet with some of these other 1A teams. I think Kentwood is the most talented team in this bracket and I would put Logansport right behind them. Oak Grove and Haynesville are teams that are used to being there late in the playoffs every year.
Jace’s Final Thoughts: I do agree with Lee on this. There are five teams that can win the Class 1A state championship with my favorite being West St. John. I think the Rams have the total package as they have great skill players, big linemen, a lot of depth, and they have played against teams that are in 3A and 4A. They actually almost beat those teams, but you never know as Logansport, Kentwood, Haynesville, and Oak Grove will give them a run for their money. Who knows? There is maybe a sleeper team like Jonesboro-Hodge that can make a run. We will see as the Road to the Dome begins this week.
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