Dutchtown-Slidell, Holy Cross-St. Paul’s among best first round playoff matchups
Since the split between select and non-select schools occurred in Louisiana prep football in 2013, there have been some bad, downright awful first-round matchups which have resulted in blowouts.
While that is a likely occurrence again in 2017, there are some compelling first-round matchups as well, including four involving New Orleans area schools.
Here are the best matchups to watch in the opening round of the LHSAA prep football playoffs in each of the nine classifications:
(17) Dutchtown at (16) Slidell
The Griffins (6-4) lost starting quarterback Ben Mays to an ankle injury in a loss to Catholic High on Oct. 27. Receiver Noah Gray took over at quarterback and is more of a runner while splitting time with Drelon Monroe, who is more of a passer. Senior running back Brock Beaman will now carry the load offensively for the Griffins. Guy Mistretta is a championship coach, having won state titles at Redemptorist (2005) and Livonia (2014). His father, Bucky Mistretta, won a pair of state championships at Ascension Catholic. Mistretta sports an outstanding record of 122-48 overall. Dutchtown’s losses have come to good 5A playoff teams in Walker, Covington, East Ascension and Catholic High, who are a combined 31-9.
The Tigers (7-3) are on the rise under veteran coach Larry Favre, who guided Fontainebleau to the 5A semifinals in 2004. The Tigers have held four opponents to eight points or less. Junior running back/wide receiver Tito Simmons is the best player for Slidell. He has rushed 151 times for 916 yards and eight touchdowns and caught 31 passes for 474 yards and three touchdowns. Junior quarterback Jacob Guidry has completed 92-of-156 passes for 1,348 yards and 10 touchdowns with just one interception. He has rushed 81 times for 319 yards and two scores. Sophomore Harlan Dixon is the top receiver with 55 receptions for 536 yards and two touchdowns. The Slidell offense has bogged down a bit of late, scoring just 44 points in its last three games.
(18) Tioga at (15) South Lafourche
It looked like it could be a special season for Tioga. The Indians (6-4) roared to a 5-1 start before stumbling to three straight losses. They snapped a three-game losing streak with a win over Buckeye last week in The Coffeepot game. Freshman quarterback Blake Mcgehee has a great future. He is good in the present, having passed for over 1,700 yards and 14 touchdowns while rushing for a pair of scores. Seniors Markenzie Taylor and Joe Lotts are the top rushers. Sophomore Kenneth Ravare and freshman Ethan Christman are the top receivers.
With respect to the Tarpons, it is a matter of which team shows up? After beating South Terrebonne 30-7, South Lafourche (6-4) closed the regular season with a clunker, losing 40-8 at East St. John, costing itself a few spots in the final power rankings. The Tarpons were plagued by turnovers in the non-district contest. Jake Galjour and Jeremy Rogers are top rushers for South Lafourche while Blake Bailleaux is the quarterback. Eric Thibodaux is the top receiver. The concern is the defense, which has yielded 25 or more points six times this season.
(20) Madison Prep at (13) Caldwell Parish
Just last year, Madison Prep was the overwhelming favorite and the top-seed in Class 2A but the Chargers were shocked 28-27 by Sterlington in the state championship game. While they are not the same team this season, they are not devoid of talent. Madison Prep (4-5) is battle tested, having played unbeaten University High, 5A powers Zachary, Division I power Scotlandville, 4A playoff-bound Salmen and 3A power West Feliciana. Those were there losses, to teams who have combined to go 43-6. Madison Prep closed the season with an impressive 42-12 win over Brusly. Tyrese Walker is one of the best running backs in the state. Major Burns must avoid mistakes after throwing three interceptions last week.
Caldwell Parish (8-2) is good but may be vulnerable. Despite an 8-0 start, the Spartans only received the 13th-seed, due to a lack of strength of schedule. Of course, the two losses were by a combined total of seven points to unbeaten Jena and to Marksville. Senior J.D. Abrams is a dual threat quarterback, more likely to hurt you with his running than passing. Abrams has rushed for 675 yards and 14 touchdowns. Of course, the Spartans have the leading rusher in Louisiana in senior Eric London, who has 161 carries for 2,456 yards and an eye-popping 36 touchdowns. Caldwell Parish is a scoring machine, averaging 48.2 points per game.
(21) Port Allen at (12) Northeast
District rematches are always very tough for all involved. Northeast is the higher seed yet Port Allen won the regular season matchup 42-34 at Northeast, where this game will be played again on Friday night. The Pelicans (3-7) are led by quarterback Harold Jones while Norisse Cummings is a good athlete and Rashawn West is a fine receiver.
The Vikings (5-4) closed the season losing two of their last three games. They have scored 40 or more points six times this season. Curtis Keaton and Greg Whitley are a good 1-2 running combination while Rashaun Steel is the quarterback. Johnny Selders is a top receiver. This one may well come down to who wants it more.
(18) Lincoln Prep at (15) Delta Charter
If the sequel is anything like the first meeting, this should be a classic. Delta Charter (5-5) won the regular season matchup 34-33 at home in week two on Sept. 8, scoring on the final play of the game to win in dramatic fashion. It was a game of wild twists and turns as Delta Charter jumped out to a 14-0 lead before Lincoln Prep scored 27 unanswered points. After the Kittens led 33-22, the Storm scored the final 14 points to pull it out. Freddie Mango has been a standout both ways for the Storm while Drake Smith has been solid as well.
Lincoln Prep (4-6) returns to the scene of the crime having won three of its last five games. The Kittens are capable of exploding, having scored 50 or more points three times. They will ground and pound it, having thrown only 36 passes all season. The Kittens have rushed for 2,417 yards, led by senior quarterback Johlik Madison, who has rushed 141 times for 887 yards and 17 touchdowns. Madison has completed 13-of-28 passes for 195 yards with no touchdowns and four interceptions. Senior James Caesar has rushed 87 times for 801 yards and 10 touchdowns.
(10) Holy Cross at (7) St. Paul’s
One side has a very good defense while the other made a change at quarterback late in the season in search of a spark. Something has to give.
Holy Cross (5-5) is a dangerous team that is better than its record. The Tigers have an outstanding running back in senior Landen Bates, who has rushed for 1,042 yards and nine touchdowns. Can the Tigers sustain a passing game? Jaden Moran is just 77-of-168 for 887 yards with just six touchdowns and nine interceptions. Kym Wimberly, a Harvard commit, has 32 catches for 389 yards and four touchdowns. Nolan Heitmeier is a good kicker despite missing one in a 14-13 loss to Live Oak a week ago. The Tigers have held six opponents to 17 points or less.
St. Paul’s coach Kenny Sears made a tough decision to switch quarterbacks, going with junior Jack Mashburn over Johntae McDowell a week ago and the results were positive in a 42-28 win at Fontainebleau. While gifted, McDowell had suffered 12 interceptions. Mashburn came in and went 12-for-22 for 216 yards and two touchdowns in the win over the Bulldogs. Senior Corey Williamson has rushed 172 times for 886 yards and 13 touchdowns. Senior Grant Grosch is the top receiver with 34 catches for 669 yards and seven touchdowns for the Wolves (6-4).
The two have a pair of common opponents. Holy Cross beat Jesuit 31-17 and lost to Covington 6-0 while St. Paul’s beat Jesuit 31-6 and lost to Covington 21-20. Sears is a Holy Cross graduate, making this matchup even more intriguing.
(9) Vandebilt Catholic at (8) Archbishop Hannan
Both of these teams are good, potent offensively but have struggled against the toughest opposition. Who will break through?
The Terriers (7-3) are coming off of an emotional 45-21 loss to arch-rival E.D. White Catholic. They have lost two of their last three games. Vandebilt Catholic averages 36.1 points per game but have given up 34 or more points four times. Junior quarterback Andrew Robison has completed 182-of-310 passes for 2,198 yards and 28 touchdowns with nine interceptions and he has rushed for 329 yards and three scores. Senior John Theriot has 47 catches for 648 yards and seven touchdowns. Senior Brennan Rogers has rushed for over 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns.
The Hawks (8-2) are back in the playoffs after a one year absence. Hannan made a magical run to the Division III state championship game in 2013 and the Hawks are hoping to recapture some of that magic this season. The Hawks started the season 7-0 but lost two of their final three games, giving up a total of 90 points. They are led by senior quarterback Chris Rabensteiner. Junior Brendan David is a solid running back while tight end Seth Caillouet is a good target. Dawson Millen is a key component in the attack as well. Hannan averages 31.7 points per game.
(9) Country Day at (8) Episcopal
Two familiar opponents have faced each other many times over the past several years. The games are always good.
That was the case earlier this season when the Cajuns downed the Knights 31-23 at Wenzel Field on Sept. 15. The Cajuns (6-4) have a talented sophomore quarterback in Justin Ibieta. Senior Price Petagna does it all for Coach Joe Chango. Buckner Heebe rushed for 132 yards and five touchdowns in last week’s win at Fisher. Kaleb Jenkins has made many big plays for the Cajuns. In the first meeting, Ibieta accounted for 425 total yards and four touchdowns and was the clear difference in the outcome.
The Knights (8-2) ripped off six straight wins after the loss to Country Day but closed the regular season with a 32-15 loss at Dunham. Episcopal has scored 38 points or more in eight of its ten games, averaging 40.7 points per game. Senior wingback Caden Dickinson has been superb while junior Austin Jemison is excellent as well. Chris Hatzis completes the formidable running game. Kade Edenfield is a solid leader at quarterback.
(9) Ouachita Christian at (8) Sacred Heart-VP
Anytime you see Ouachita Christian as a lower seed, beware!
The Eagles (7-3) are a traditional power, accustomed to making the playoffs and making deep runs. While this is far from their best team, they are capable of winning in round one. Sophomore Will Fitzhugh has rushed for 610 yards and nine touchdowns and passed for 478 yards and six touchdowns. He has 32 receptions for 568 yards and five touchdowns. Sophomore Dillon Dougan has rushed 406 yards and four scores. Senior Bryce Wallace has 33 catches for 479 yards and eight touchdowns. The Eagles are a hot team, closing the season with three straight wins.
The Trojans (8-2) are hot as well, having closed the regular season with four straight victories for coach Josh Harper. Junior quarterback Wesley Launey leads the Sacred Heart attack while junior running back J.T. Harper is a good one. Junior Alex Gotro is another good running back and the best receiver is sophomore Dru Scully. The Trojans can score points, having put up 70 in a win over North Central. They have scored 32 or more points in eight of their ten games.
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