Road to the Dome: LHSAA Class 2A Semifinals Preview
by Jace LeJeune and Lee Brecheen
28 teams are down and there are only four more left to go. Four teams remain standing and all four of these teams have one goal in mind. That goal 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 semifinal playoff matchups. This week, we will find out which teams will be battling it out for the Class 2A state championship.
#1 Welsh Greyhounds (10-1) vs. #4 Many Tigers (11-2)
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 would play a very familiar team in the Kinder Yellow Jackets. The Kinder Yellow Jackets has always been Welsh’s kryptonite in the playoffs in years past and if the Greyhounds wanted to achieve their goals, they had to go past the Yellow Jackets. The Greyhounds let out their frustrations in years past against Kinder from the opening kickoff as Welsh’s Austin Benoit returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. While the offense was clicking through the air with Hayes and Migl connecting for two touchdowns, the defense was suffocating only giving up just under 80 yards of total offense. The Greyhounds were able to pull off a huge 44-14 playoff win against their rivals to advance to the semifinals to take on another Class 2A powerhouse team in the Many Tigers. 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 big time 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. In the quarterfinals, the Tigers had to face the Northeast Vikings, in which they had to defeat in 2015 to get to the state championship game. Just like the previous two football games, the rushing attack of Carter and Collier was totally dominant as the big, power back AJ Carter ran for over 326 yards and four touchdowns while the speed back Shacori Collier ran for 132 yards and two touchdowns. Even though the Northeast offense had its share of big plays, it was not enough to keep up with the Tigers as Many would roll past Northeast 49-20. This sets up a matchup between the Tigers and the Greyhounds. The Greyhounds have never won a state championship, but with a win, they will make the state championship game for the third time in school history. The Tigers will be looking towards making their third state championship appearance with a win tomorrow.
Lee’s Take: “Many has more than AJ Carter. Their other running back Shacori Collier is just as good as he is 5-10. 200 and has a lot of burst while AJ does not have that type of burst. AJ has the power while Shacori has the burst. That is going to be a heck of a challenge for Welsh to stop those two guys. Many has a 6-5 quarterback, but he only throws the football about three times a game. If Welsh can force Many to throw the football, Welsh will win the game because they have a heck of a quarterback in Zach Hayes as well as a great fullback/tight end in Pearse Migl. This one is tough to call, but I am going to go with Many. I just don’t think Welsh will stop the running game. Everybody knows AJ Carter, but they are going to have to prepare for Collier as well. I think they will wear Welsh down. The Tigers are also deep and have a very big line. I think the only way Welsh wins the football game if the defense forces Many to throw and if the Greyhounds can win the turnover battle.”
#2 Ferriday Trojans (11-2) vs. #6 St. Helena College and Career Academy Hawks (11-2)
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. The Trojans’ next challenge would be the Red River Bulldogs and the Trojans were ready for that challenge as they were able to dominate the Bulldogs 52-0. Next up, the Trojans will face one of the biggest upcoming football programs in the state in the St. Helena Hawks. 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 were 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. They indeed got it winning a very close game 35-32 against the Warriors thanks to four interceptions by the Hawk secondary including one by Troy Hurst to ice the game and four combined touchdowns by Troy and Aaron Hurst. Both of these teams have a lot of DI talent on their prospective teams, but the game could come down to which team plays well on the line of scrimmage. After taking over a 2-8 team a couple of seasons ago, Brandon Brown is trying to make a complete turnaround in just a couple of years and that is leading the Hawks to the state championship while Ferriday is trying to play for a state championship for the first time since the 1980’s.
Lee’s Take: “I think St. Helena is the better football team. Ferriday has the big recruits in Dare Rosenthal and Dantrieze Scott, but St. Helena is just as big as Ferriday. This should be the biggest lineman game that you will see. There are five or six guys that are over 6-5, 350. I wanted to go see this game just to see all of the linemen play. St. Helena is better skill wise and I think that will give them the advantage. It will be a very close game, but I am going to pick St. Helena to play in the Superdome.”
Jace’s Final Thoughts: “I agree with Lee as I think both Many and St. Helena will move on to play in the Class 2A state championship. I originally had Many in the state championship game against the Amite Warriors and since the Warriors did lose to St. Helena, I have to go with the Hawks to play in the state championship. I think that Many’s rushing attack and their size up front could be the difference in their semifinal game while St. Helena’s experience in these type of games as well as their great athletes at the skill positions could be the difference as well.”
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