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De La Salle senior QB/ATH and Nicholls State commit Julien Gums will try to lead the De La Salle Cavaliers to the Division II state championship game as the number one seed. (Property of LAFM)

Road to the Dome: LHSAA Division II First Round Preview

Road to the Dome: LHSAA Division II 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 3A/4A private division, which is Division II.

Division II: (Note: All higher seeds hosts playoff game at home)

#1 De La Salle Cavaliers (9-0) have a bye this week.

Team Preview: Regardless of classification, the De La Salle Cavaliers, led by Ryan Manale, are considered as one of the best teams in all of Louisiana, and who would argue against that by the way they have been playing. With wins against Edna Karr, St. Charles Catholic, St. James, Riverside Academy, St. Augustine, Donaldsonville, and plenty more, it is safe to say that the De La Salle Cavaliers deserve the number one seed in the Division II playoffs. Their star quarterback is Julien Gums, who is really a bruising running back at 5-11, 225 as the offense does like to run the quarterback power play with Gums in the offense. When they do throw it, they have excellent receivers in BJ Randle, Aaron Marquez, and Ahmad Munoz. In the trenches, they are really strong with DT Jamiran James, who is a Tulane commit, his brother OT/DT Jeremiah James, OT Donte Lewis, OG Walter Johnson, and center Nick Guthrie. There is also DE Accord Green, who is 6-2, 230, and the nephew of former LSU DE Jarvis Green. SS Lance Robinson makes up a great secondary. There is not a glaring weakness on this football team and as long as they play their style of play, nobody is going to beat this team. The Cavaliers have a bye this week. They will play the winner of the Archbishop Hannan/Vandebilt Catholic game.

#2 University Lab High School Cubs (10-0) have a bye this week.

Team Preview: It looks like De La Salle and University Lab will be on a collision course to the Superdome, but they still have to go through a couple of tough football teams. However, the way that the Cubs, led by Chad Mahaffey, are playing, nobody wants to play the U-High Cubs. The Cubs have one of the top offenses in the entire state regardless of classification. John Gordon McKernan has done everything that the coaches have asked him to do and is doing a great job of efficiently running the offense. The Cubs have one of the best running backs in the Baton Rouge area in Mike Rollins, who is a powerful runner and a touchdown machine. The junior running back had an incredible 26 rushing touchdowns in the regular season. In the passing game, McKernan will look for wideouts such as Christian Harris and Grant Bonnette, who is the son of LSU SID Michael Bonnette. Up front on the offensive line, the Cubs are strong with guys such as Dylann Rathcke, Ethan Macloud, and Zach Gremillion. The defense has also been very good and will be led by a great front seven that features MLB Bryton Constantin, who is almost 230 pounds, OLB Dallas Wright, DT Donald Berniard, LB Leland Jones, and so much more. Also, don’t forget the Special Teams unit that features Bonnette at punter and Aidan Gale at kicker. Like De La Salle, this is a team that does not have a glaring weakness. The last time, the Cubs had an undefeated regular season, they went on to win the state championship. We will see what the Cubs can do next week as they have a bye this week. They will face the winner of Teurlings Catholic/Loyola College Prep.

#3 St. Charles Catholic Comets (8-2) have a bye this week.

Team Preview: What we all know is that to never count out Frank Monica in any game. The legendary head coach seems to beat teams that are much more talented and deep than the Comets, but it is going to be really hard to prepare more than this team. The Comets have had a lot of injury problems including missing their versatile quarterback Lloyd Nash and OLB Dellary Oubre, but the good news is that the Comets just got back their quarterback last week in a win against St. James. When Nash is at the quarterback position, this team is a much different team. The Nicholls State commit is one of the best athletes Coach Monica has ever coaches and that is saying a lot. The offense has two tough runners in Phillip Tran and Narquez Jones. The offensive line is also a very experienced unit. Even though the Comet defense lost their best player in Oubre, the unit still has some great leadership on that side of the football with guys such as LB Gavin St. Pierre, DT Mason Narcisse, DT DeAndre Keller, and CB Trey Joseph. The Comets made it to the Division III state championship last year by beating an overmatched Notre Dame team in the semi-finals. The question is if they can do it again against most likely U-High. The Comets start their playoff run next week against the winner of the E.D. White/St. Louis game as the team has the third bye in this bracket.

#4 St. Thomas More Cougars (9-1)  vs. #13 St. Michael Warriors (3-7)

Game Preview: The St. Thomas More Cougars, led by legendary head coach Jim Hightower, are trying to defend a state championship for the first time in school history after their Division II state championship victory in 2016. Offensively, the Cougars rotate two good quarterbacks in Peyton Landry and Scott Holstein. The short quick passing attack has always been very efficient at St. Thomas More, but the Cougars now have the ability to run the football with RB Chris Primeaux, who is one of the most underrated running backs in the entire state, and with a big offensive line that is led by OT Grant Young and OG Jonathan Harding. Even though the Cougars are known for their offense, it has been the defense that has been most impressive this season posting three shutouts most notably against Plaquemine High School and not giving up more than 20 points this season. The Cougars have a great defensive line led by the tandem of DE Brandon Gannon and DT Sam Greenwood. The Cougars are also great against the pass as FS Cade Broussard and CB Jude Joseph have been great in the secondary. The St. Michael Warriors, led by first year head coach Justin Hutchinson, are a really young football team this year. The team has some nice young players that are up and coming, but it looks like that they can’t match up with the Cougars talent wise and depth wise. If the Cougars advance, they may find a state championship rematch between Parkview Baptist in the next round.

Lee’s Take: “This game is going to be over by halftime with St. Thomas More winning big.”

#5 Parkview Baptist Eagles (7-3)  vs. #12 Lusher Charter Lions (4-6)

Game Preview:  The Parkview Baptist Eagles, led by Jay Mayet, had a great season winning a tough 6-4A district with the likes of Plaquemine and Lutcher in the state district. What was more impressive is that they accomplished that feat without a lot of their star players such as senior RB Connor Joffrion, who is one of the best in the state and was injured early in the season, and plenty of others. Even though the Eagles may be a little banged up, they still have some depth at a lot of key positions. Although the Eagles lose their best offensive player in Joffrion, the Eagles still can run the football with Parker Kirby, Cole Mayet, who is the coach’s son, and Terry Tolliver. QB Colton Jumonville has done a great job as a passer and is one of the best pure passers in this Parkview offense in a long time. The defense is stingy with the likes of two way starters such as Mayet, Kirby, and WR/DB Kyle Washington. The Lusher Charter Lions, led by Louis Landrum, have some big time sleeper recruits such as RB Ari Broussard, who is 6-0, 215 and has a great combination of size and speed when he runs. There is also a guy in OT/DT Tamir Bryant, who is 6-2, 260 and plays with a lot of enthusiasm. This is a team that the Eagles can’t take lightly if they want to look ahead to a rematch with the team that the Eagles have played for the last two state championships.

Lee’s Take: “They are going to beat Lusher Charter, but they are very beat up. I still think Parkview will win the game, but they might not go to the Superdome like in years past.”

#6 E.D. White Cardinals (9-1) vs. #11 St. Louis Catholic Saints (3-7)

Game Preview: The E.D. White Cardinals, led by Chris Bergeron, had a much improved season after winning only four games a season ago and did it while moving up to 4A, which is really hard to do. There is no question that the Cardinals want to run the football in this game. The Cardinals have  a big offensive line led by OT Hudson Domangue, who is 6-2, 285, as well as a very talented running back in Nick Shanklin, who is a 1,000 yard rusher. If the Cardinals control the tempo of the game, this is a team that is very hard to stop. The St. Louis Catholic Saints, led by Charlie Cryer, are a solid football team that does not have a lot of depth for a 3A team, but plays really hard. The Saints also can run the football with Jaleel Goodwin, who has the talent to be as good as he wants to be, but they can throw the football with a veteran quarterback in Bailey Hardy. LB Kade Koury will lead the defensive side of the football while kicker Adam Ieyoub will try to give the Saints an advantage on special teams.

Lee’s Take: “I am going to go with E.D. White. St. Louis does not have the talent like E.D. White has and E.D. White has a good team.”

#7 Teurlings Catholic Rebels (6-4) vs. #10 Loyola College Prep Flyers (5-5)

Game Preview: Dane Charpentier has done a great job of filling his father’s shoes, who accomplished many great things when he was head coach at Teurlings. The Rebels keep on producing great quarterbacks as they have another special player in Wesley Blazek. With talented wideouts Connor Talbot and Cole Champagne, The Rebels can get it done in the passing game, but also in the running game as two different running backs get majority of the carriers in Jakyre Journet and Zander Garber. The offensive line may also be one of the best in school history with Thomas Perry, who is a DI player, and Justin Matthews, who also has the chance to be at that caliber. The defense has a great linebacking core led by Cole Newland, who can disrupt an entire offensive gameplan because of his quickness off the football, Beau Leblanc, and Jake McGuire, who are all vocal leaders for this team. This could be a big time sleeper team in this bracket. The Loyola College Prep Flyers, under Steven Geter, may have lost one of their best players in the program’s history in RB Ethan Stansell, but the Flyers still managed to win five games with the help of their experienced offensive line, an athletic quarterback in Jacob Allen, a young, but improved defense, and a good special teams unit. If the Rebels overlook the Flyers, it could be an upset.

Lee’s Take: “I think Teurlings Catholic is too talented for Loyola. I don’t think this is even close and I believe this is a mismatch of seeding. It is going to be tough for Loyola College Prep to hang with Teurlings in this game by halftime.”

#8 Archbishop Hannan Hawks (8-2) vs. #9 Vandebilt Catholic Terriers (7-3)

Game Preview: This is one of the most intriguing 8/9 matchups you will see. The Archbishop Hannan Hawks, led by Scott Wattigny, have had a special season winning eight games in the regular season. The Hawks were on their way to an undefeated season and a district championship at a 7-0 record, but finished the final three games at 1-2, which cost them a district championship. However, this is still a very confident football team that can win football games in the trenches as this is the best offensive line in school history led by Arkansas State commit Christian Hoz and TE Seth Caillouet, who is a Texas State commit that also plays on the defensive line. The Vandebilt Catholic Terriers, led by Jeremy Atwell, came into the game with one of the best running back duos in the state in Brennan Rogers and Michael Lecompte. Both backs do a great job of complementing one another, but that duo is cut in half after Lecompte suffered an injury earlier in the season leaving Rogers with the bulk of the carries, but the passing game has taken the next step in Lecompte’s absence with one of the most talented young quarterbacks in Andrew Robison, who is very exciting to watch and will be a special player the rest of this year as well as next year.

Lee’s Take: “I am going to take Archbishop Hannan in this one even though Vandebilt Catholic has a great quarterback. I think Hannan has played a tougher schedule. It will be a close game, but Hannan will win this game in the end.”

Lee’s Final Thoughts: “Nobody is going to beat U-High not even St. Charles Catholic. If they had Dellary Oubre and all of their players, I would say St. Charles, but they don’t. I really think Teurlings Catholic can play more of a factor than St. Charles Catholic. On the other side of the bracket, St. Thomas More can play spoiler against De La Salle, but I have De La Salle going to the state championship against U-High.”

Jace’s Final Thoughts: “It is most likely going to be a #1 vs. #2 seed state championship game with De La Salle against University Lab, but don’t pencil the state championship game in stone yet as many teams can contend with the Cavaliers and the Cubs in St. Charles Catholic, St. Thomas More, Parkview Baptist, and even Teurlings Catholic. We will see if the matchup we promised for comes true as the Road to the Dome begins.

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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.