Road to the Dome: LHSAA Class 3A 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.
#1 Sterlington Panthers (11-0) vs. #16 Donaldsonville Tigers (8-3).
Game Preview: Even though the Sterlington Panthers won 63-20, they do realize that if they want to continue defending their Class 2A state championship title, they must execute better down the stretch. This is a football team that knows what it takes to win a state championship and the team does return a lot of players such as QB Carson Clowers, LB Dawson Snell, DE Brooks Rushworth, OL Whiff Buffington, DE/LB Tanner Coley, and LB Chase Carter, the team also had to undergo a new coaching change as Jason Thompson stepped down as the Panthers head football coach before the season, but luckily, the Panthers were able to get a veteran head coach in Lee Doty, who led the St. Mary’s Tigers to a Division IV state championship appearance in 2015. Like in last year’s run, the Panthers may not beat you with their dominating athletic ability, but will beat you with their leadership, depth, and execution. A team, that can beat a lot of other teams solely on athletic ability, is the Donaldsonville Tigers. They have some big time players on the interior such as DE/LB Tahj Brown (Houston commit) and Davon Wright (Tulane commit) as well as skill players in QB Jaylin Williams, RB Jemon Pleasant, and WR Christian Bell. Second year head coach Brian Richardson has done a great job with the program leading the team to a 7-3 regular season record. However, the Tigers did get a scare from Union Parish in their opening round. The Tigers jumped up to a two possession lead after they took a 21-14 lead at halftime when Christian Bell returned the second half kickoff for a touchdown to extend the lead at 27-14, but the Farmers rallied to take the lead late in the fourth quarter when Trent Ginn ran for a long touchdown to give the Farmers a 29-27 lead, but there was still enough time for the Tigers to orchestrate a last minute touchdown drive in which they did. QB Jaylin Williams threw the game winning touchdown to Ladarius Jackson to put the Tigers up top 35-29. The Tigers will make the drive up to North Louisiana to play Sterlington. The Tigers will have the starters to compete with Sterlington, but the question will be if they can finish in the fourth quarter and will depth become an issue for Donaldsonville if they want to pull the upset against the #1 seed and defending state champions.
Lee’s Take: “Donaldsonville can upset Sterlington, but I am going to go with Sterlington barely. That shows a lot of respect to Donaldsonville. A lot of people would think that it won’t be close, but Donaldsonville has got a good football team. They got good linemen, skill guys, a good quarterback, and a good running back. They are going to give Sterlington all they can handle. Sterlington only wins this football game because they got a 100 players and they got great coaching. If Donaldsonville would just have a couple of more players, I think they could pull it out.”
#2 Iowa Yellow Jackets (10-0) vs. #18 Crowley Gents (7-4).
Game Preview: The Iowa Yellow Jackets, under first year head coach Tommy Johns, continue their incredible undefeated season with a dominant victory over the Wossman Wildcats. The biggest strength of this Yellow Jacket team is its secondary that is led by an All-State caliber defensive back in Darius Daniels and another talented player in the secondary in Cole Fleming. Both players showed up as they helped to force four first half Wossman turnovers which helped put the game out of reach early. Fleming started the trend when he intercepted the first pass. Then, on back to back possessions, Daniels did what he does best and that is force turnovers after the Jackets grabbed a 7-0 early lead. The Wildcats also fumbled the football, which resulted in another turnover. While the defense was getting it done, the offense was doing the same and they did it with their star player Darius Daniels, who scored a touchdown on offense. Also, the offensive unit got a big upgrade when their quarterback Dyami Huntsberry returned from an injury that has plagued the quarterback all season long. Huntsberry threw for a couple of touchdowns to help put the game out of reach at halftime at 31-0. Iowa would eventually win with the score of 39-8. The Crowley Gents, led by Jephta Hall, were able to get a hard fought victory over a very good Albany football team under the direction of Blane Westmoreland, but it did not look like it was going to be so early. The Gents faced an early 12-0 deficit, but to Crowley’s credit, they did not let the early 12-0 get to them as they never backed down even though it could have been a lot worse with Crowley fumbling the football after a long drive, but luckily the Gents recovered their own fumble and scored a couple of plays later to make it 12-6. Ever since the touchdown, the Gent offense got going on the ground and through the air with running backs Keith Wilson and Donald Francis combining for 150 yards and three touchdowns. They also made some plays in the air when they needed to. Crowley TE Rapheus Joseph had four receptions for 108 yards and a touchdown. Defensively, Crowley had a tough time trying to stop the running game of Albany, which is highlighted by their star running backs Brad Lewis and Kamryn Mayers, who both ran for a combined 400 yards. Still, it was not enough as the Crowley Gents held on to win 36-26 over the Albany Hornets. In this game that features the Yellow Jackets and the Gents, the intriguing matchup is to see how the Crowley offense attacks the Iowa defense. Iowa has a very strong secondary and Crowley does have a balanced attack, but the question will be if Crowley will throw the football down field against Daniels, Fleming, and the rest of a ball hawking secondary.
Lee’s Take: “Both of these teams know each other really well. Crowley is a sleeper team, but they got themselves some players. This is going to be a really close game, but I am going to go with Iowa in this game. Iowa has got some great receivers that can catch the football. I think Iowa can kill more clock. Crowley has got some players, but they are still young overall.”
#30 Westlake Rams (5-6) vs. #14 Northwest Raiders (9-3)
Game Preview: It comes to show you that seeds do not mean a thing when it comes to actually playing the game on the field as the biggest upset of the first round in any of the brackets occurred in the 3A bracket when the #30 seed Westlake Rams, under Phil Fontenot, upsetted the #4 Jena Giants, led by Jay Roark. The game didn’t start as if it there was going to be an upset as the Giants went right down the football field and scored a touchdown on a RB Trelon Jones touchdown run as well as a two point conversion to put Jena up 8-0, but the Rams did not back down as they scored a touchdown on a RB Brevan Ned touchdown run and the two point conversion to tie the game at 8. The Rams would get a stop and their offense scored a touchdown to gain the lead at 15-8. It seemed like Westlake was going to run away from Jena early on, but the Rams fumbled the football and as good teams do, they took advantage of the turnover with a RB Chico Savage touchdown run to tie the ballgame again to put the Giants within one point due to the missed two point conversion. Ned would score for the third time in the second half after a Jena turnover to put the Rams up at halftime with a 21-14 lead. After a scoreless third quarter, the score remained at 21-14. Both defenses played hard in the second half, but it was the Giants defense that faltered giving up another touchdown, which was another touchdown by Ned. The two point conversion was no good to make it a 27-14 lead in the fourth quarter. The Giants would be able to score again, but after that, the Westlake Rams did not give anything else up as the Rams move on to the next round with a 27-20 win. You could tell the loss of Jena WR and LSU commit JaRay Jenkins really hurt the team in the end not only on offense but on defense as well as he is a two way player. Still, the Westlake Rams still pulled off an improbable victory against an inferior program and that type of win will definitely carry over for the Rams ending this year and starting next season. The #14 seed Northwest Raiders, under Chris Edwards, avoided an upset against the #19 Avoyelles Mustangs led by Andy Boone as the Raiders move on to the second round of the playoffs for the third consecutive year, which is pretty tough to do. However, it did not come easily as the Raiders trailed the Mustangs 22-20 at the half. The Mustangs had a field day rushing the football with over 300 rushing yards, but most of that came in the first half with Avoyelles only scoring six points in the second half. Luckily for the Raiders, their offense came to play as well running for over 220 yards and converting all of their fourth down conversions. The Raiders were led by two of their two way players in RB/LB Kelvin Shorter, who had 18 tackles, and RB/DL Keshawn Jackson, who ran for over 80 yards and two touchdown. To top it all off, Raiders QB Montaze Sam threw for two touchdowns while running for 100 yards. With a group effort, the Raiders were able to prevail against the Mustangs 40-28. Westlake took advantage of a lot of miscues and turnovers in their huge upset victory over Jena and they are going to need that type of game again if they want to beat the Northwest Raiders.
Lee’s Take: “I think Northwest could lose this game to Westlake. Westlake is a sophomore heavy team that is coming. I am actually going to take Westlake again. I think Northwest has not played a team like Westlake. Westlake is a sleeper team out of Lake Charles. They got some players.”
#4 St. James Wildcats (8-3) vs. #20 Madison Prep Academy Chargers (5-6).
Game Preview: The St. James Wildcats, led by Robert Valdez, had their big moments and low moments this season, but the very good St. James football team came to play in a big time team performance with a 39-0 win against J.T. Dunbar and the Marksville Tigers in the first round of the playoffs. Fortunately for the Wildcats, their quarterback Demarcus Williams has returned after dealing with knee and ankle injuries for most of the season. He got the scoring started with a 20 yard touchdown pass to ironically Shamar Smith, who was playing quarterback while Williams was hurt, to give St. James an early 7-0 lead. The defense was dominant against the Tigers also as DB Glen Brown returned an interception 63 yards for a touchdown to give the Wildcats a 13-0 lead. Once again, Williams threw another touchdown to Smith to extend the lead at 20. Before anybody knew it, the score was 33-0 at halftime pretty much sealing the game before the second half even started. The Wildcats did most of their damage in the first half as they went on to defeat the Tigers 39-0. Shamar Smith was definitely the dynamic factor in this game as he scored a touchdown in any way imaginable besides scoring on special teams or on defense as he had two passing touchdowns, two receiving touchdowns, and a rushing touchdown. The Wildcats will have to play against a young, but very talented Madison Prep football team that went all the way to the Class 2A state championship game. Overall, it has been a rough year for the Chargers in their move from 2A to 3A. First of all, the Chargers had to replace a lot of missing pieces including an incredible 13 players that moved on to play college football and then, their head coach Michael Roach was put on leave with interim coach Landry Williams as the team started off 0-4. but Coach Williams has done a great job getting the team together as the Chargers have won five of their next seven games including an upset playoff victory over Caldwell Parish. Madison Prep’s star player Tyrese Walker stepped up when it mattered most as he ran for an incredible 235 rushing yards on 25 carries and three touchdowns. The Charger defense also did a great job of containing J.D. Abrams and the Caldwell offense only holding them to eight points as the final score was 28-8. The St. James Wildcats have been up and down, but there is no doubt that the Wildcats have the skill players to compete against anybody, and if the Wildcats show up, they should be able to move on to the next round even though they will face a Madison Prep team that we thought we were going to see all season.
Lee’s Take: “Madison Prep didn’t have a great team this year because they are very young and they had a lot of players from last year’s team that signed with a college. Their coach is also on leave. I am shocked that Madison Prep even went past the first round this year. With that being said, St. James is just too much for Madison Prep to handle. St. James is loaded and Coach Valdez will have his guys ready to go. If Madison Prep had the talent they did last year, I would say Madison Prep, but they don’t.”
#5 Kaplan Pirates (9-2) vs. #12 Iota Bulldogs (9-2) .
Game Preview: The Kaplan Pirates, under Stephen Lotief, made sure that the #28 KIPP Renaissance Bobcats, under Corey McCloud, would not get any momentum in this game to start and they did that easily by doing what the Pirates know best, which is run the football and play good defense. In the game, the Pirates dominated on the stat sheet running for almost 400 yards and only giving up 120 total yards to the Bobcats with only six of those yards coming on the ground. The Pirates had a three headed monster at running back with tailback Mac Thibeaux, who ran for 159 yards and a touchdown, FB Braylon Romero, who ran for three touchdowns, and RB Matt Roden, who ran for over 60 yards and a touchdown. The three running backs scored all of the team’s touchdowns. The Pirates not only dominated in yards, but in time of possession as well as the Bobcats only had the ball for eight plays in the entire second half as the Pirates made sure the Bobcats would not get into this football game with a 35-7 win. The Iota Bulldogs, under Josh Andrus, continue their impressive turnaround after winning two games the year before. The Bulldog offense scored 42 points with the help of RB Kaleb Guillory, who came in the game with over 1,000 yards rushing and 30 touchdowns. The Iota defense played well throughout the season, but the Patterson offense has their share of big time plays as the team scored 28 points, but it was too much Iota as the Bulldogs advance with a 42-28 victory. Both Kaplan and Iota both like to run the football so this is going to be a game that both teams want to control the time of possession as well as the line of scrimmage. Whoever wins that matchup will most likely advance to the next round of the playoffs.
Lee’s Take: “Iota is on a Cinderella run as this is their best season in twelve to fifteen years, but I think Kaplan will be too much for Iota to handle. Kaplan is not loaded with depth, but they just come at you and they are physical. Iota has accomplished a lot already, but I think their run ends here as I am going to go with Kaplan to win this game.”
#6 West Feliciana Saints (10-1) vs. #11 Berwick Panthers (8-3)
Game Preview: The West Feliciana Saints, under Robb Odom, started their postseason run as the team is hungry for a state championship after falling so close in the last couple of seasons. The dynamic trio of Derek Turner, Davon Harris (Louisiana Tech commit), and Derius Davis (TCU commit) came to play with Derek Turner setting the tone early in the football game as he scored using his legs for a touchdown to put the Saints up top 7-0 and then on the following North Webster possession after the touchdown, Turner scored this time on the defensive side of the football as he had a pick six. Davon Harris would score a touchdown on the next West Feliciana possession and before you even know it, the Saints had a 21-0 lead in the first quarter. Turner was the impact player in tonight’s game as he had over 100 yards rushing and two touchdowns while throwing for 88 yards and a touchdown. If you add the pick-six, Turner had an incredible night with five touchdowns. Harris and Davis combined for over 100 yards and three touchdowns. Meanwhile, the defense dominated holding the Knights to only 13 points and making sure that the dynamic ATH TJ Hawthorne was not going to make any plays. With all those factors in mind, the West Feliciana Saints won in very big fashion with a 42-13 victory over North Webster. The Berwick Panthers, under Eric Holden, cruise by the #22 seed Eunice Bobcats 34-14. The Panthers’ passing attack with the likes of LSU commit Kenan Jones, Josh Jones, and Travis Whitehead with Mitchell Sanford throwing these playmakers the football were too much for the Eunice Bobcats to handle as they advanced to the next round with a 34-14 victory. This is the matchup that I will be attending and boy, what a matchup it is. These are two of the most talented Class 3A teams in the state. Both of these teams realize that this could be their best shot at the state championship in a while as both teams will rebuild next year replacing a lot of DI players. Both offenses are really effective, but are really different from each other. The Panthers will throw the football all over the field while the Saints like to run the option and get their speedy playmakers the football in the running game. It is probably going to come down to which defense is able to make more plays in the end.
Lee’s Take: “It should be a great game. Berwick has Kenan Jones, who is the LSU commit, along with three other great receivers and a great quarterback. They got a lot of good young players. Coach Holden has done an excellent job, but this is West Feliciana’s final year really to make a run at the Superdome. I think they will get there, but Berwick will give them a rough time. This could be a 48-45 type of game. This might be the biggest track meet type of game over the whole weekend.”
#7 Church Point Bears (10-1) vs. #10 Jennings Bulldogs (9-2).
Game Preview: What an offensive performance for the Church Point Bears in the team’s first playoff game as the offense ran all over the Carroll Bulldogs with almost 700 yards rushing and a season high 61 points. Yep, you heard that right. Church Point’s leading rusher throughout the season Rodney Dupois, who entered the game with over 1,000 yards rushing, ran for 183 yards and two touchdowns. Church Point’s second running back Tyrin McDade ran for 159 yards on 12 carries and two touchdowns. Their third running back even had almost 100 yards, but it was the fantastic rushing night of QB Breelyn Jones, who only ran eight times, but ran for 215 yards and five touchdowns on those carries. With the incredible offensive night, the Bears cruised by the Bulldogs with a 61-24 score. The Jennings Bulldogs faced off against the Bogalusa Lumberjacks in this 3A first round matchup. Jennings may not have Travis Etienne (Clemson) running the football for the Bulldogs, but the offense was really clicking against the Lumberjacks. After both teams turned the ball over on their first possessions, the Bulldogs started to put the points on the scoreboard with a Darrian Achane touchdown run to put Jennings up 7-0. It started an offensive onslaught with two straight 40 yard touchdown passes by Jennings QB Kole Mayers to help give the Bulldogs a 20-0 lead. That really helped put the game out of reach. Mayers had himself a field day even though he only completed five passes, but four of those passes went for touchdowns. Jennings WR Davian Madden was on the receiving end of two of Mayers’ touchdown passes. Bogalusa’s QB Diante Lenoir had a good game with over 200 total yards of offense and two touchdowns, but the big pass plays given up by the Bogalusa defense was the difference in this game as the Jennings Bulldogs led by Rusty Phelps. Both teams will run the football a lot in this game and both teams do have multiple backs to use so it is going to come down to the line of scrimmage and what team can defend the run better.
Lee’s Take: “This is a tough call to make. Both teams know each other and aren’t far from each other. They are also both identical as they are both tough football programs that put up the same number of players. I am barely going to go with Jennings, but Church Point could also win this game. I am flipping a coin with this game and I am going to take Jennings.”
#8 Richwood Rams (8-3) vs. #9 Loranger Wolves (7-4)
Game Preview: The Richwood Rams, under Robert Arvie, had a lot more trouble with North Vermilion than people realized in the team’s first round matchup. Both defenses gave everything that they had as the Rams held only a 14-9 lead with one of their touchdowns coming on a pick six by Basheen Hutcherson. A key play in the third quarter occurred on special teams when the Patriots pinned the Ram offense backed in their own endzone with a beautiful punt. The Patriots took advantage with the good field position as Richwood quarterback Joseph Smith tried to exploit the one on one matchup with WR and TCU commit Hidari Ceaser, but the pass was defended perfectly. The Rams went three and out and punted the football to North Vermilion, but the Patriots drive faltered as well giving the Rams the ball back. The Rams drove down the field, but were faced with a fourth down situation. Coach Arvie decided to go for it on fourth down and it turned out to be the right decision as Smith was able to use his legs to pick up not only the first down, but the touchdown to put the Rams up 20-9. Just when it seemed that the Rams had the game in hand by the way the defense was playing, the Patriots scored a touchdown of their own as well as the two point conversion to make the game at 20-17, but in the end, the Rams held on to their lead to win 20-17. If Richwood fans were worried about their game, then Loranger fans had a heart attack after seeing their game against Washington Marion. It was a back and forth game as Loranger’s D.J. Hookfin was able to hit Luke Colona twice for touchdowns while Washington Marion was able to give the ball to their workhorse running back Carrington McClinton for 46 carries, 228 yards, and two touchdowns. It came down to a couple of plays for Sam Messina and Loranger to pull off a victory including the game winning fourth down touchdown pass from Hookfin to Cyntonio McClain to help put the Wolves up top 21-20. This should be a very intriguing matchup as the Wolves are currently on a pretty good win streak and have a bunch of really good skill athletes. The Richwood Rams have a very big offensive line that averages over 300 pounds across as well as some pretty good football players such as Ceaser, Quanderrius Johnson, Geor’quarius Spivey (Mississippi State commit), and Jarviar Wade just to name a few. It will be interesting to see how Loranger’s speed matches up with Richwood’s size.
Lee’s Take: “Richwood has got themselves some players. I don’t know if Loranger can handle 300 pound offensive/defensive linemen. Richwood’s nose guard Quanderrius Johnson is phenomenal. They got the really good tight end in Spivey and three different running backs that are all 190 pounds that can rotate. I just think that Richwood is going to play keep away from Loranger because Loranger does have skill guys. I think this is going to be a close game, but I am going to have to take Richwood in a really close game.”
Jace’s Final Take: The Class 3A bracket has some very interesting matchups from West Feliciana-Berwick to Richwood-Loranger. All the games have some sort of intrigue and a lot of these teams are very familiar with each other. It should be very interesting to see what teams rise up to the challenge and what teams can play spoilers. I actually have all the higher seeds moving on to the next round in Sterlington, Iowa, Northwest, St. James, Kaplan, West Feliciana, Church Point, and Richwood, but like I said earlier, you never know what you are going to get in Louisiana high school playoff football.
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