McDonogh 35 treks to Baker with semifinal berth at stake
For McDonogh 35, dropping down in class was unchartered territory.
The Roneagles were accustomed to competing in 4A with rivals such as Karr, Warren Easton and even Neville.
Those teams do not have to worry about McDonogh 35 this year and the Roneagles do not have to worry about them. The Roneagles are the concern of all 3A teams in Louisiana because they are playing superb football at the right time of the year.
McDonogh 35 (9-3) has ripped off nine straight wins after opening the season 0-3. Since beating 1A top seed West St. John 38-36 in week five, the Roneagles have given up just 65 points in seven games as the defense has excelled.
The offense, led by quarterback Manuel Armstrong, has really stepped up.
It has been all about giving the ball to Steveland Williams.
The reigning R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl Greater New Orleans Quarterback Club Prep Player of the Week has carried the Roneagles in recent weeks, rushing for 100 yards or more in eight straight games.
Williams rushed 28 times for 278 yards and a touchdown as the sixth-seeded Roneagles held off No. 11 Lake Charles College Prep 22-14 in the second round of the playoffs. McDonogh 35 beat No. 27 Mentorship Academy 29-6 in the opening round of the playoffs.
“Steveland has been here all year long,” Reese said. “It is nothing new. He is always there for us. He compares to Marshall Faulk. He is not as big but he can run, he can jump, he can run through tackles and run past tackles. His attitude is great. He always wants the ball. He wants to return kicks and wants to catch the ball as well. He is a great player who inspires other kids.”
As a 30th seed, Baker (7-4) has worn the Cinderella glass slipper in the playoffs.
The Buffaloes shocked No. 3 seed and previously unbeaten Loranger 28-21 before upsetting No. 14 Iota 18-14 in the second round.
Tremonte Spears has been outstanding at running back for Baker while senior Jaylin Pendleton is a big threat as well.
“They are similar to us,” Reese said. “They will run right, run left and spread you out at times. They look a lot like us. It is like looking in a mirror. They are a good football team. They have beaten higher seeds. We know we are in tough. They are building something good.”
Reese guided McDonogh 35 to the 4A semifinals in 2012 and 2016.
“We have been to the semifinals but never beyond,” Reese said. “We have had teams with more individual talent that this one but I told the kids that this might be the group that has a magic touch. We sure hope so.”
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As a New Orleans-area native, Jude grew up a fan of all sports and teams in the area. It’s a passion for the games that brought him into the fields of sports broadcasting and journalism. Whether he’s informing, reporting or entertaining, Jude brings his own special flavor to the task at hand. This Jesuit High School and Loyola New Orleans…