De La Salle, U-High meet in most anticipated state title game
You could see it coming.
All season long, the anticipation was that De La Salle and University High were on a collision course for the Division II state championship.
Both teams fulfilled their vast potential, going undefeated and reaching the championship game.
Now, the two titans square off for the championship Friday at 3:30 p.m. in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. You can listen to the game on ESPN 100.3 FM and at ESPN1003.com.
The Cavaliers have marched through the season without much competition, outside of a monstrous win over defending 4A state champion Karr. De La Salle also knocked off St. Charles Catholic, Riverside, St. James, St. Augustine and St. Thomas More, an impressive resume.
“We have certainly met every challenge,” said De La Salle coach Ryan Manale. “We played a very challenging, ambitious schedule and handled it well. There is no doubt that it prepared us well for the playoffs. Now, we have another huge test in front of us.”
The Cubs are a junior-laden team with a great present and an amazing future.
They have an outstanding quarterback in junior John Gordon McKernan, who has completed 127-of-199 passes for 1,908 yards and 20 touchdowns with seven interceptions. Junior Michael Hollins leads the running game with 166 carries for 1,439 yards and 29 touchdowns. Junior Christian Harris is the leading receiver with 35 receptions for 642 yards and seven touchdowns. Junior Makiya Tongue has 34 catches for 438 yards and four scores.
“They are balanced on offense and very talented,” Manale said. “You certainly cannot focus on any one player or aspect. Hollins is an excellent running back. You have to slow him a bit and tackle well.”
University has victories over three teams playing this weekend in state champions, having defeated Catholic of Baton Rouge, Zachary and West Feliciana. The lowest margin of victory for the Cubs was 19 points.
The Cavaliers are led by senior quarterback Julien Gums and junior running back Kendall Collins. Gums has rushed 117 times for 1,141 yards and 15 touchdowns. Collins has carried 136 times for 981 yards and 16 scores. Gums has been very efficient passing, completing 63-of-90 passes for 1,096 yards with 12 touchdowns and just one interception.
“Julien has simply been outstanding,” Manale said. “He is a natural leader. His ability to run the football is extraordinary and he has really thrown it well for us, as his numbers would indicate.”
Senior BJ Randle is the top receiver with 24 receptions for 429 yards and five touchdowns while senior Aaron Marquez has 21 receptions for 510 yards and five touchdowns.
The dominance of the two teams has been apparent since week one. University has defeated its 12 opponents by an average of 33.8 points per game while De La Salle has beaten its 11 opponents by an average of 31.6 points per contest.
Manale took over a downtrodden program and a school with a diminished enrollment in 2012. Enrollment is up now, as are the fortunes of the football program.
“This has been a process,” Manale said. “We envisioned that we could build this program into a winner. To be in this position now is rewarding. We always believed that it could be done. Now, we are hoping to get it done one more time this year.”
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…