Road to the Dome: LHSAA Class 2A Quarterfinals Preview
by Jace LeJeune and Lee Brecheen
24 teams are down and there are 8 more teams left to go. All 8 teams have their own strengths and weaknesses, but they all have one goal in mind. 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. It is our version of “March Madness”. 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 2A public division quarterfinal playoff matchups.
#1 Welsh Greyhounds (9-1) vs. #8 Kinder Yellow Jackets (7-5)
Game Preview: The Welsh Greyhounds, under John Richardson, are coming off another impressive regular season this time finishing with an 8-1 record, but the problem has been making playoff runs as the Greyhounds won only one playoff game a season ago. However, even though the team was very talented, they were very young as well. This year, the team is a lot more experienced as they are led by arguably the best quarterback in the Lake Charles area in Zach Hayes and one of the best fullbacks in the entire state in Pearse Migl. The team also has plenty of other talented players that have all made a huge difference in this team and they are playing with a lot of confidence heading into this game. The experience as well as the frustration losing early in the playoffs last season were huge motivation factors in their first round matchup against Springfield. The Greyhounds got going early as the offense was able to get big splash plays from Hayes, Alec Iguess, and Da’Ren Zeno, who had three touchdowns including a blocked field goal return. The scoring never stopped as they jumped out to a 27-0 lead in the first quarter and then an incredible 55-0 halftime lead over the Bulldogs. The Greyhounds put in their second and third string in the second half and a late touchdown put Springfield on the board, but it was all Welsh in a dominant 55-7 victory. In the team’s second round playoff game, the Greyhounds were able to pull out a 35-20 win over Independence to advance to the next round where they will play a very familiar team in the Kinder Yellow Jackets. The Kinder Yellow Jackets, led by Bret Fuselier, have been quietly a 2A powerhouse with two state championship wins and three state championship appearances over the last four years. The defense has one of the best tandems in the state in DT Joey McNeely, who is almost impossible to block on the defensive front, and SS Jordan Cordova, who is arguably the best defensive player regardless of position in the Lake Charles area because of his versatility of what he can do against the run and the pass. The defense is this team’s strength, but the offense can move the ball with QB Hayes Fawcett at the helm. Even though the Yellow Jackets lose one of their best players in school history in RB Taylor Johnson, they still have multiple running backs that can run the football. The Yellow Jackets started their playoff run with a 40-12 victory over General Trass in the first round of the playoffs. In the second round of the playoffs, the Yellow Jackets’ playoff experience in big games was a big factor in their 35-20 playoff victory over Rayville. The Yellow Jackets were down 20-7 at halftime, but the team did not panic completing the comeback as the defense forced four turnovers and the offensive attack led by Hayden Thomas as well as explosive plays from Cordova. The Yellow Jackets move on to the second round to play the Greyhounds for a chance to advance to the semi-finals. Both Kinder and Welsh both have their motivation to play really well besides playing for the state championship. For the Yellow Jackets, they are trying to get revenge against the Greyhounds after Welsh made a 20 point comeback to defeat Kinder earlier this season. For the Greyhounds, they are looking to get revenge on Kinder for preventing the Greyhounds to make it to the state championship game in 2015. It should be a very good team that will feature two really good football teams that are both highly motivated to win.
Lee’s Take: “Kinder has eliminated Welsh from going to the Dome two or three times before in the past. This is a huge rivalry game. I think that Welsh is finally tired of losing to Kinder so I think the spell will finally be broken. Welsh will beat Kinder in a close game. Even though Kinder is a good football team this year, I don’t think they are as good as the Kinder teams over the last two to three years. Welsh now has an experienced quarterback in Zach Hayes and they got guys like Pearse Migl around him. This could be the year that Welsh finally gets to the Superdome.”
#2 Ferriday Trojans (10-2) vs. #10 Red River Bulldogs (9-3)
Game Preview: The Ferriday Trojans, under first year head coach Stanley Smith, is one of the most talented teams in the state and feature some of the state’s biggest recruits in OT/DT Dare Rosenthal, who is a giant at 6-7, 315, and DE Dantrieze Scott, who is a great looking player at 6-5, 220 and can run a 4.6/40. Both of these highly recruited athletes are currently committed to play for the LSU Tigers. The Trojans also return a 100+tackler in LB Lewis Matthews on the defensive side of the football. However, all of Ferriday’s star players play on both sides of the football as there is not a lot of depth on the Trojans squad even though they are really talented. The Trojans started their playoff run with a 60-14 victory over Oakdale in the first round. In the second round of the playoffs, the Trojans defeated the East Feliciana Tigers 46-28. Now, the Trojans’ next challenge is one of the biggest playoff sleepers in the state in the Red River Bulldogs. The Bulldogs received news that former Calvary Baptist state championship winning head coach John Bachman was going to take over as the head coach before the season started and that move helped the Bulldogs take the next step this season. The Bulldogs have one of the best defensive lines in the state with DT Raphael Lemons, who is a All-State returning defensive end that can move for somebody that is 6-2, 250, DT Quinton Honsley, who is 6-0, 350, and Willie Wilson, who is 5-10, 275. The offense will be led by QB Gakerreon McDonald, RB Cardaryous Moody, RB Demontae Calhoun, who is the team’s best playmaker and a tree stump at only 5-9, but over 200 pounds. In the Bulldogs’ first round matchup against North Caddo, the Bulldogs managed to get a 16 point victory with the final score being 42-27, but it doesn’t mean that the game was hard earned as the Bulldogs overcame a 14-0 early deficit to get the victory. In the second round of the playoffs, the Bulldogs pulled off an upset defeating the higher #7 seed Rosepine 38-24. The Trojans have a lot of DI talent on their football team that includes the two LSU recruits, but Red River has a lot of sneaky good DI and I-AA players. If Ferriday just slips up a little bit, the Bulldogs are more than capable of pulling the upset. However, it will be very hard for Ferriday to do that as they are very motivated to go back to the state championship game after a 33 year drought.
Lee’s Take: “This is really going to be a good game. I am really upset that I won’t be attending the game because you got all those LSU commitments plus you got some of the guys from Red River that should be DI commits like Raphael Lemons and Demontae Calhoun. I hate for one of them to lose because these two programs deserve to go to the Dome. It’s been years since Ferriday has been and Red River has never been to the Superdome. I am going to take Red River in an upset to get the job done against Ferriday.”
#3 Amite Warriors (11-1) vs. #6 St. Helena College and Career Academy Hawks (10-2)
Game Preview: One of the favorites in this whole bracket is the Amite Warriors led by Zephaniah Powell and why not as this is a team that made the Class 3A state championship game last season and should have made another state championship appearance the season before. Now, they moved down a classification to 2A, which should help them. Even though the team lost major recruits in WR Devonta Smith (Alabama) and QB Elijah Walker (Louisiana Tech), there has been no lost step as the Warriors continue to dominate winning the 8-2A district championship over fellow Class 2A power St. Helena. The Warriors have two big time junior recruits in DT Ishmael Sopsher, who is one of the best defensive tackles that Lee Brecheen has ever seen over the past 30 years, and another big time receiver named Devonta in Devonta Lee, who could be a star at the next level. Unexepectedly, the Warriors had no trouble with Bunkie in their first round matchup pretty much ending the game by halftime with a 35-0 lead. The Warriors would win with a final score of 47-3. In their second round matchup against Lake Arthur, it was pretty much of the same as the Warriors rolled against the Tigers to take a 41-13 victory. This sets them up against the team that Amite defeated for the district championship, which is the St. Helena Hawks in one of the biggest Tangipahoa Parish games in recent memory. The St. Helena Hawks, led by Brandon Brown, have been one of the hottest teams over the last couple of seasons. It just seems that the Hawks continue to get better and better after every year. The Hawks came up short in the district championship against Amite, but this is a team that has what it takes to play in the Superdome. After all, they came up only one game short in the semi-finals against Madison Prep last season. The Hawks have plenty of athletes including QB Ricky Travis, who is a special player that can do it all with his 4.5/40 speed, RB/LB Aaron Hurst, who also has 4.5/40 speed and has great toughness, and there is also Aaron’s brother Troy Hurst, who is a special player that can play almost any position and is a Memphis commit. The offensive line is also massive as the whole line averages way over 300 pounds. St. Helena starts their state championship run with a dominant 54-6 victory over Loreauville. The running game was dominant in the victory as the dynamic athletes were able to make plays on the ground with Jeremy Griffin, Aaron Hurst, and Ricky Travis combined to run for over 250 yards and five touchdowns all together as the defense only held Loreauville’s star QB Zy Alexander to only one touchdown. In the second round, the St. Helena Hawks faced off against the South Plaquemines Hurricanes and once again, it was a dominant performance as the Hawks led 34-0 at the end of the first half and cruised by the Hurricanes with a final score of 54-6 to set up a big time matchup that a lot of people have been waiting to see in the 2A bracket. In the district championship game, the Amite Warriors defeated the St. Helena Hawks with a final score of 19-12. The Hawks are looking to get revenge on Amite for taking a district championship away from them. The Hawks are also looking to take the next step after losing in the Class 2A semifinals. For the Amite Warriors, they are just looking to prove that they can still get to the Superdome and win it without guys like Walker, Smith, and overs. Get your popcorn ready for this game as it should be a very entertaining one with a lot of great athletes on the football field.
Lee’s Take: “I am calling the upset here. St. Helena beats Amite. Amite was better last year when they had their quarterback Elijah Walker and DeVonta Smith. I know they have Ishmael Sopsher and Devonta Lee, but I don’t get caught up in recruiting as much when it comes to a game like this because this is an Amite team that I don’t think is as good. St. Helena is senior led and they almost beat Madison Prep to go to the Dome last year. St. Helena has some great players. Their quarterback Ricky Travis is one of the best in the state. Their speed and their running game could be the key.”
#4 Many Tigers (10-2) vs. #12 Northeast Vikings (9-3)
Game Preview: The Many Tigers, under Jess Curtis, are always in the state championship hunt. This team has always been talented and it will be a team that is more motivated than ever to get back to the Superdome as they lost a heartbreaking three overtime game to the eventual 2A state champion Sterlington Panthers. Offensively, the Tigers are led by one of the best running backs in the entire state in UCLA commit AJ Carter. Carter is a big running back at 6-0, 220 and can run a 4.5/40, which is really impressive. He will carry the offense, but they will get productive plays in the passing game from QB Brock Booker and WR Demarious Coleman. Also, Shacori Collier is another capable running back that can make plays when Carter needs a rest. The defense is also very experienced on the front seven and in the back end of the defense making this team one of the most balanced in this whole bracket. The Tigers showed what type of complete team they have against Ville Platte in their first round playoff game by scoring over 60 points and shutting out the Bulldogs in the game with a 62-0 dominating victory. In the second round of the playoffs, the Tigers defeated the Pine Raiders 41-22 thanks to the one-two punch of Carter and Collier, who both couldn’t be slowed all night. The Tigers will play against a team that doesn’t seem to make a playoff run at the beginning of the year, but always makes these types of runs in November and that team is the Northeast Vikings. The Northeast Vikings are led by longtime head coach David Masterson. This team has been under the radar in the 7-2A district behind the likes of Dunham and Episcopal, but this is a solid football team that always has the potential to score. They also have advanced farther in the playoffs than their 7-2A counterparts. The Vikings have a quarterback that has been performing at a high level in Ryshaun Steele as well as two star receivers in the making in Johnny Selders and Jascent Scott, who are both juniors and at least 6-2, 200 pounds. They also have another big receiver in Kendall Titus, who is also 6-3, but a little leaner at 170. The team also gets their leading rusher Curtis Keaton back from injury. However, the Northeast Vikings did just fine without Keaton in their first round playoff game in a very ironic rematch against the Port Allen Pelicans, which was a team that defeated Northeast earlier in the season, but was later forfeited due to an ineligible Port Allen player that played during the game. This time, Northeast was able to get revenge with a 29-12 victory. It was a great start for the Northeast offense that jumped out to a 22-0 lead at the half, but the Pelicans made a comeback by giving the ball to Norris Cummings, who ran for over 160 yards and two touchdowns to put the Pelicans within ten, but the Vikings were able to ice the game with another touchdown to advance. In the second round of the playoffs, the Vikings made the trip up to North Louisiana to face George “Dee” Faircloth and the Vidalia Vikings. The Northeast Vikings were the ones that came out victorious with a 44-28 victory. The Northeast offense jumped up to an early 22-0 lead, which helped set the tone for Northeast all night long even though Vidalia did put up a fight. Many was one of the favorites to go to the Superdome and as expectantly so, they are still in the playoffs. On the other hand, not a lot of people expected Northeast to advance this far, but Coach Masterson seems to always take these types of teams into deep playoff runs. The Many Tigers have the better team and more depth, but the Vikings’ eleven starters on both sides of the football are good enough to compete with Many. However, the question is if depth will become an issue especially if Many tries to run the football with AJ Carter late in the game with the lead.
Lee’s Take: “I seriously think that David Masterson will have to run some trick plays and kick some onside kicks to mess up Many. Otherwise, this is a mismatch of talent and depth for Many. Coach Masterson has done a phenomenal job of going this far with just eleven really good starters. I would think Northeast could upset them, but my heart says that Many is just too much for Northeast to handle.”
Jace’s Final Thoughts: “There are a lot of big time rivalries in this Class 2A bracket for the quarterfinals. There are familiar rivalries between Amite-St. Helena, Welsh-Kinder, and even Many-Northeast when Many defeated Northeast in 2014. All these rivalry games will just add fuel to the first for these teams to beat up one another. It is going to be an intense weekend with a lot of great matchups so just sit back, relax, and enjoy these type of games as this is what football is all about. My picks to advance to the Class 2A semifinals will be Welsh, Ferriday, Amite, and Many. We will see how well we do with our picks as the Road to the Dome continues this Friday!
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