St. Augustine, Catholic square off in Division I playoffs in battle of traditional powers
A pair of storied programs steeped in tradition and playoff success hook up Friday night at Olympia Stadium when fourth-seed Catholic High of Baton Rouge hosts fifth-seed St. Augustine in the Division I quarterfinals at 7 p.m.
Catholic (8-3) previously won the Division I state championship in 2015 while St. Augustine (7-3) won state championships in 1975, 1978 and 1979.
The Bears opened the playoffs with a 44-0 shellacking of winless 13th-seed Archbishop Shaw. Now, Catholic turns its attention to a much tougher Catholic League foe.
Parker Smith rushed for 85 yards and two touchdowns in the victory. Cameron Dartez passed for 90 yards and two touchdowns. Brandon Hubicz had a touchdown reception. Patrick Mensah returned a punt 48 yards for a touchdown and is a standout on defense.
After featuring the likes of Derrius Guice and Clyde Edwards-Helaire in recent years, the younger Bears have depended more on their defense in 2017, pitching three shutouts and holding six opponents under 10 points this season.
The Purple Knights feature a very strong defense as well. In their 27-0 victory over 12th-seed Jesuit a week ago, St. Augustine came up with five interceptions, including two by Donniel Ward-Magee. They held the Blue Jays to 111 total yards.
Josh White has taken over at quarterback and is most dangerous running the ball or when he scrambles on a passing play. Garland LaFrance and Ishmael Landers provide excellent depth in the running game for the Purple Knights.
St. Aug coach Al Jones feels his team has a sound approach on a weekly basis.
“We try to stress and emphasize that it doesn’t matter who we play or where, what matters if we show up or not,” Jones said. “You put emphasis on it being the playoffs, do or die, not who you are playing. We did a good job against Jesuit. We started slow on offense but once we got warmed up, our running game got it going and our defense did what it has done all year long.”
Jones expects a tough challenge from Catholic.
“They are well coached and disciplined and have athletes in key positions,” Jones said. “They run a trick play almost every series. They are good football team. They have been around for a long time as a successful program that is accustomed to playing deep in the playoffs. They are very much like a Catholic League team.”
Defense has been the staple of the Purple Knights in 2017. While many players have gotten deserved attention, one player has truly stood out for St. Augustine on defense.
“We call Chris Confident our quiet assassin,” Jones said of his linebacker and leading tackler. “He’s short and people don’t notice him. He is really good and plays hard-nosed football. Kyle Jackson has been really good at inside linebacker since moving from defensive end. Juan Monjarres and Dante Carter have been good from the start. Jamaal Scott is good in coverage, leading a good secondary. Donniel has done the job.”
Monjarres is a Tulane commitment. LaFrance is a Texas Tech commit.
A year ago, St. Augustine made the trip to Baton Rouge and took a lead into the fourth quarter before succumbing to Scotlandville in a 27-20 loss in the quarterfinals.
“We’ve got to make a decision as to whether it is our last game or our next game,” Jones said. “We do not want this to be our last game. We lost a tough one in the fourth quarter at Scotlandville last year. That is motivation to us. We want to take it further than a year ago. We are back in Baton Rouge again. We remember what happened last year. We don’t want that to happen again.”
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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…