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Many senior RB and UCLA commit AJ Carter has already established himself as one of the elite running backs in this year's class and is looking to make his last couple of games at Many a memorable one as he chases a state championship. (Property of LAFM)

Road to the Dome: LHSAA Class 2A Second Round Preview

Road to the Dome: LHSAA Class 2A Second Round Preview

by Jace LeJeune and Lee Brecheen

16 teams are down and there are 16 more teams left to go. All 16 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 second round playoff matchups.

Class 2A: 

#1 Welsh Greyhounds (9-1) vs. #17 Independence Tigers (6-5)

Game Preview: The Welsh Greyhounds, under John Richardson, are coming off another impressive regular season this time finishing with an 8-1 season, 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.  The Independence Tigers, led by Keith Carona, are a talented team that uses two quarterbacks. Both are different from the other as Deangelo Gaines is more of the traditional quarterback while Marquell Jackson is more of the athlete that can line up at multiple positions. Michael Otkins is the number one receiver in the passing attack, but this is a running offense that features a couple of different runners featuring Stephen Jackson and Anthony McClain along with fullbacks Jermaine Singleton and Donald Drake, who are both tanks that can run the ball and pave the way for either Jackson or McClain. Carona has done an excellent job with the program as the team has improved from their 3-7 record a year ago. The Tigers were able to get the job on the road in the first playoff game against the #16 Lakeside Warriors with a 56-16 victory. Even though the Tigers play the #1 seed in Welsh, they will get a home game because they played on the road in their first game. It should be an electrifying atmosphere as the Tigers are looking to pull off a major upset, but the Greyhounds know from experience that they can’t overlook anybody including Independence.

Lee’s Take: “Independence has got some players, but they just don’t have any depth. Coach Carona has done a great job with the program and I think that this is the farthest that he has got this team to the playoffs since he has taken over as head coach a couple of years ago. This could be an upset, but I think Welsh just has too much talent. Zach Hayes is going to have a good game along with Pearse Migl as Welsh will move on to the next round.”

#2 Ferriday Trojans (9-2) vs. #18 East Feliciana Tigers (6-5)

Game Preview: The Ferriday Trojans, under first year head coach Stanley Smith, are 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. Their athleticism really helped the Trojans roll in the first round against a very respectable Oakdale team with a final of 60-14. Ferriday Sophomore QB Kobe Dillon had a really good night using his legs to run for a couple of touchdowns. There was too much talent for the Warriors to handle as the Trojans now take on another talented team in the East Feliciana Tigers. The Tigers, led by Cedric Anderson, had their ups and downs, but this is a very talented team in the end. Coach Anderson’s sons have played major parts this season as his younger son Caleb Anderson is the starting quarterback and his older son Cedric Anderson Jr. is the wide receiver. The Tigers have a lot of talented athletes at the running back and receiver positions including RB Ge’montae Franklin, RB Kirkland Hills, ATH Marvell Jackson, and RB Macarthur Brown. The Tigers were able to pull off the upset in the first round over Mansfield 38-28. Both teams headed into that game with winning streaks as the Tigers went 5-2 after starting the season 0-3 while the Wolverines won six of their last seven games. It was a back and forth game, but a late interception helped the Tigers pull it out in the end. They will need their playmakers to step up again as the Tigers will take on a Ferriday team that is one of the most talented in the entire state regardless of classification.

Lee’s Take: “This is actually going to be a close one as East Feliciana is better than their seed indicates, but this is Ferriday’s year because after this year, they are going to rebuild so because of that, I am going to go with Ferriday to win a close game.”

#3 Amite Warriors (10-1) vs. #19 Lake Arthur Tigers (6-5)

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. The Lake Arthur Tigers, led by Mark Deshotel had another 5-5 regular season. The Tigers will rely heavily in the trenches as most of the linemen on both sides of the football came back this season. As far as skill players go, the Tigers will rely on WR Tavaris Achane, who also plays free safety. The Tigers made one of the more surprising upsets in the Class 2A bracket when they were able to take down a Mangham football team that has been to the Superdome for three straight seasons from 2013-2015 under Tommy Tharp 27-21. To beat a very experienced playoff football team on the road is something that the Tigers should be very proud of, but the road does not get any easier as the team faces one of the best favorites to win in this bracket in Amite, but the bright side is that the game will be played at Lake Arthur.

Lee’s Take: “Amite caught a break not playing Mangham in the playoffs because I thought Mangham is a better team than Lake Arthur even though Lake Arthur pulled off the upset. I just don’t see Amite losing this football game based on the talent the team has. Even though crazy things do happen, I am going to have to go with Amite in this game.”

#4 Many Tigers (9-2) vs. #13 Pine Raiders (7-4)

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 from QB Demarious Coleman, who has great speed as well. 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. The Pine Raiders, led by Bradley Seal, have leaned on two position groups and that is the offensive line as well as its line backing core. The Raiders have one of the best offensive lines in 2A led by OG Brendon Kelley (6-4, 330), OT Raquan Handy (6-4, 350), OT Jakari Hart (6-0, 300), and Center Jarred Berry (5-11, 260). This unit blocks for a hard runner in Jakyran Handy, who is a 1,000 yard rusher. The defense relies on four talented linebackers in Hunter TemplesDakota BrooksDrew Knight, and Xavier Elsey.  The Pine Raiders, like the Many Tigers, thrive on running the football and playing good defense and that is what the team accomplished in their 42-0 shutout victory over West. St. Mary’s. QB Joey Seal, who is the coach’s son, accounted for all of the Pine touchdowns whether it was running the football or passing the ball. The offense rushed for over 300 yards while the defense pitched a shutout. The game will be played at Many and even though the Tigers are the heavy favorite, this is a Pine team that Coach Curtis and gang should not sleep on.

Lee’s Take: “Many is probably going to win big here. This is a mismatch in regards to talent. Pine is a good football team, but hasn’t faced a team like Many. Many is a 2A team that is deep and has 5A talent. Many can definitely win the state championship.”

#5 Vidalia Vikings (9-2) vs. #12 Northeast Vikings (8-3)

Game Preview: The #5 vs. #12 seed game features a matchup between two teams that feature the same mascot as well as two longtime coaches commanding the sidelines for both team. The Vidalia Vikings return a very familiar face as legendary headman George “Dee” Faircloth returns after coaching the Vikings from 1968-2009 and leading the Vikings to 249 victories. The Vikings had themselves a great year winning eight games in Faircloth’s first year in his second term as head coach. The offense is led by quarterback Tristan Weatherly, who has a good arm and great feet in the pocket, as well as many skill positions to spread the football around and a big offensive line led by OG Zach Nelson, who is 6-4, 285, and OT Trent Jordan, who is 6-3, 310. The Vikings have the size on both fronts to win the line of scrimmage battle. That is exactly what the team did in their first round matchup against The Northeast Vikings as the offensive line was dominant with both of their tailbacks Cam’Ron Randall and Devin Green running for a combined 230 yards and four touchdowns. The big holes in the running game opened up the passing game as Weatherly threw for 266 yards and accounted for four touchdowns himself. Vidalia would roll against the DeQuincy Tigers 56-14. The other Vikings in 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. 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 only aspect of the Vikings’ offense that is holding them back for this week is that they will be without the services of FB Curtis Keaton, who has been the team’s top rusher this season.  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. This should be a very good game as both offense can move down the football field and both head coaches are two longtime veterans that can win with any team that is given to them.

Lee’s Take: “Coach Faircloth is the oldest coach in these playoffs, and I am happy that they won a playoff game. They have a really good team, but the team they are playing has more talent. I wouldn’t count Coach Faircloth and I hate to see him lose, but I am going to have to go against them in this one.”

#6 St. Helena College and Career Academy Hawks (9-2) vs. #11 South Plaquemines Hurricanes (5-5)

Game Preview: 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. The Hawks’ next challenge is the South Plaquemines Hurricanes. The South Plaquemines Hurricanes are led by Lyle Fitte, who happens to be one of the greatest players in South Plaquemines’ history and was a part of two state championship title teams as a running back in 2008 and 2009. This is probably South Plaquemines’ most balanced team in over a decade with great speed in QB Daron Powell, ATH Eli Bourgeois, who can run a 4.40/40, WR Ulysses Barnes, and RB Trashaun Polius. The team also has a great defensive line led by DE Xavier Powell and DE Brandon Turner. The balance showed in the team’s 38-20 victory over Vinton as the offense was able to score five touchdowns and the defense did just enough to contain Vinton’s best offensive player in Tony St. Julien. The Hawks are looking to go over the hump and get to the state championship, but in their way, is a very good South Plaquemines football team, and they have a head coach that knows just exactly what it takes to get to the Super Dome when he was a player.

Lee’s Take: “I think this could be a very high scoring game as both teams have a lot of speed, but I think St. Helena has the better football team. South Plaquemines could be the biggest Cinderella team in this bracket. I think this is going to be a great game that might go into overtime. It could be one of those 40-37 games, but I think Ricky Travis could be the difference in this one. This is also St. Helena’s year to go all the way.”

#7 Rosepine Eagles (10-1) vs. #10 Red River Bulldogs (8-3)

Game Preview: In one of the best turnarounds you will ever see, the Rosepine Eagles, led by Johnny Cryer, had a winless season in 2016 and turned that into a nine win season as well as a district championship this year. Nobody saw this coming and Eagles fans have to be extremely pleased with what the team has done already. Three players that played a key part in the turnaround are QB Seth Ducote, RB Seth Shirley, and OT/DT Wesley Willis. Rosepine fans have another reason to be excited as their team has won their first round playoff game against Jeanerette. 31-20. They are looking to continue their playoff run against a team that could really be a sleeper team in this bracket 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 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. Whatever team wins this game has a good chance of sneaking up on one of the higher ranked 2A teams for a big upset.

Lee’s Take: “Coach Bachman has got himself a very hot football team that hasn’t been this far because Coach Prealow has been there for a long time previously. I think Red River is going to win this game. I think he has done a great job of turning this program around even though he has inherited a lot of good players from Prealow. I think Red River has a good chance of going to the Dome so I have to pick Red River.”

#8 Kinder Yellow Jackets (6-5) vs. #9 Rayville Hornets (7-4)

Game Preview: 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 Trent Johnson 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. The Rayville Hornets, led by Lent Bursey, had a great season finishing second in their district behind Ferriday. The Hornets did struggle outside their district, but that was only because of the tough matchups that they had to face, which will help them later on in the playoffs. The Hornets have a great athlete in Rashad Naylor, who could be a difference maker in the playoffs. He can do it all and has really been the Hornets’ number one option in the passing attack with over 600 yards and 10 touchdowns receiving. He will be the main offensive weapon that the Hornets will utilize, but there will be others that step up their game as well. They also have a tough defensive unit, which is led by Xavier and Zachary Griffin, who are both the opposite defensive ends, DT Sherman Watkins, MLB Darnyon Wilson, and CB Frederick Lee in the secondary. In Rayville’s first round matchup, the Hornets were able to put up plenty of points scoring 50 points and getting the 50-22 victory over Delta Charter. This could be a great matchup between the Rayville offense that features Naylor against the Kinder defense that features Cordova and McNeely.

Lee’s Take: “I think Rayville is going to move on to the next round. They got a lot of really good athletes including Rashad Naylor, and I really think that he could be a difference in this football game. I am going to have to go with the Hornets in this one.”

 

Jace’s Final Thoughts: “Many is the most complete team in my opinion. They can throw, run, and play good defense. The team also has experience playing in these games and are motivated after falling short of their goals a year before. I believe they will come out of one side while Amite will be in the Superdome for the second year in a row. I think it will be a matchup between the most complete team in Many against the most talented team in Amite. As far as teams that will advance to the quarterfinals will be Welsh, Ferriday, Amite, Many, Northeast, St. Helena, Red River, and Kinder. We will see how well I do with these picks as the Road to the Dome continues this week.”

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About Jace LeJeune

Jace is from Addis, LA and is attending Southeastern Louisiana University and majoring in Journalism. He is also a graduate from Catholic High School in Baton Rouge where he was the editor of the school newspaper the “Bearly Published.” While at CHS, Jace also announced their football, basketball, and baseball games for the Bruin Broadcast Network which is the Catholic High’s streaming website for their events. On weekends, Jace is the PA announcer for his middle school football games. At home, Jace enjoys time with his family and friends. Jace is also an avid football and drag racing fan.