Road To State: LHSAA Division IV First Round Playoff Preview
by Jace LeJeune and Lee Brecheen
It is the most wonderful time of the year, and I am not talking about the holidays. I am talking about the LHSAA Playoffs, which start this week. 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 in mind and that is to be one of nine teams in the end holding a state championship trophy in the end. For the third year in a row, we got you covered as for the next couple of weeks, we will go through all of the private and public 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 13th-14th. Louisiana Football Magazine’s recruiting expert Lee Brecheen and editor Jace LeJeune give their insight on which teams will survive and continue their march to the State Championship. Today, we preview the Division IV playoff bracket.
#1 Vermilion Catholic Eagles (9-1) vs. #16 Ascension Christian Lions (3-7)
Game Preview: The Vermilion Catholic Eagles enter the Division IV playoffs as the number one seed in the bracket. Head coach Kevin Fouquier is a longtime college coach and he is showing what he can do at the head of a high school program leading the Eagles to a 9-1 regular season record in his second season at the helm. The Eagles are led by one of the best junior quarterbacks in the state in junior Drew Lege. The 6-2, 200 pound signal caller has thrown for over 2,326 yards and 21 touchdowns this season along with close to 6,000 yards and 54 touchdowns during his career. Lege has some good receivers at his disposal as well with Andre Leblanc, Moe Maxile, John Pupera, and Blair Joseph all as receiving weapons. The Eagles are also playing better on defense forcing two shutouts in the team’s last two games led by senior linebacker Jacques Touchet running the defensive unit. Most importantly, the Eagles are hungry to close the deal and get their first state championship title since 2013 after falling just short in the semifinals last season. For the Ascension Christian Lions, welcome to the LHSAA playoffs as the Lions will play in their first playoff game in program history under the leadership of Josh Puryear. Like the Eagles, the Lions are a pass heavy team with Zach Diaz also throwing for over 2,000 yards and 20 touchdown passes. Like Lege, he has some talented receivers to throw the football to in Brady Gucho, Nathan Bledsoe, and Aidan Leblanc. This matchup could be an exciting game with plenty of points on the board.
Jace’s Pick: Vermilion Catholic
Lee’s Pick: Vermilion Catholic
#8 Metairie Park Country Day Cajuns (4-4) vs. #9 Central Catholic Eagles (5-4)
Game Preview: Do not underestimate the Metairie Park Country Day Cajuns as this is a team that can easily make a run at the state championship, especially with senior Tulane quarterback commit Justin Ibieta leading the way. In his senior season, the 6-5, 215 pound pocket passer has thrown for 1,778 yards and 25 touchdowns while running for 650 yards and eight more touchdowns. Under head coach Joe Chango, the Cajuns will put up plenty of points. Wide receivers C.D. St. Helaire and Tyler Williams have combined for 70 receptions for over 1,000 yards and 20 touchdowns. The Central Catholic Eagles, under longtime head coach Tommy Minton, will try and slow the game down with their big offensive line that is all over 270 pounds across the board along with the team’s star running back Davidyione Bias carrying the football. This matchup will come down to who dictates what they want to do on offense. If it becomes a high scoring shootout type of game, the Cajuns could win the game. If the Eagles slow the tempo down, they have a good chance of winning the football game.
Jace’s Pick: Metairie Park Country Day
Lee’s Pick: Metairie Park Country Day
#5 Ouachita Christian Eagles (9-1) vs. #12 Sacred Heart Trojans (5-5)
Game Preview: The Ouachita Christian Eagles are once again a state championship contender under head coach Steven Fitzhugh, who grabbed his 200th career win at the program earlier this season in a win against St. Frederick’s. The Eagles also have impressive wins on their resume as well against playoff teams in Jena, Delhi, Cedar Creek, Arcadia, and most impressively, a 40-21 victory over Oak Grove. Their only loss came against a great Sterlington football team. The Eagles have a well balanced team that can win in all three phases. The offense has scored over 40 points in each of the team’s nine wins this season. The unit is led by QB Hunter Herring, RB Will Fitzhugh, who is a versatile player and the son of Coach Fitzhugh, RB Dillon Dougan, and WR Eli Extine. Defensively, the Eagles have been dominant at times posting three shutouts on the season. Then, there is the special teams unit, which is one of the best in the state led by punter Christian Gray and long snapper Garrett Folds. Finally, don’t forget the fact that Coach Fitzhugh has five state championships on his mantle. The Sacred Heart Trojans have been a solid program under head coach J.T. Harper. Even though the Trojans may not be as talented as some of the other teams on the bracket, this is a team that goes all out on Friday nights. The Trojans have impressive victories over Basile, Rosepine, Mamou, and even lost in a close game to number two seed Opelousas Catholic.
Jace’s Pick: Ouachita Christian
Lee’s Pick: Ouachita Christian
#4 Calvary Baptist Academy Cavaliers (10-0) vs. #13 St. Frederick Warriors (6-4)
Game Preview: You can make a strong argument that the Calvary Baptist Academy Cavaliers are the best team in this bracket as it is not hard to bet against their undefeated 10-0 record under head coach Rodney Guin. The last time Calvary Baptist won the state championship in 2013, the Cavaliers had a veteran quarterback in Shea Patterson (Ole Miss/Michigan) and two DI defensive backs in Andraez “Greedy” Williams (LSU/Cleveland Browns) and Rodarius Williams (Oklahoma State). If you are a Calvary Baptist fan, you like your chances as the Cavaliers have a veteran starting quarterback in LSU Eunice baseball commit Cade Hart, who has thrown for 2,406 yards and 33 touchdowns this season, as well as two DI defensive back commits in Ole Miss commit Eric Reed and Kansas commit Tanner Hooker. Still, there is a lot more talent on the team featuring bruising running back Isaiah Brown, who accounted for 1,680 all-purpose yards and an incredible 30 touchdowns this season, leading receiver Mason Woodle, who leads the team with 27 catches for 577 yards and five touchdowns, big defensive tackle Clifton Mosley, and finally, one of the best long snappers in the state in Eli Chism. The only drawback for the Cavaliers is that they have yet to be challenged this season outscoring opponents 536-75, most notably defeating Haynesville 70-0. The St. Frederick Warriors, under head coach Andy Robinson, must feel disrespected playing in a tough district, posting a 6-4 record, and having to go on the road to play Calvary Baptist in the first round. The Warriors do have some talent to rely on in order to hang tough with the Cavaliers with LB Gordon Bennett, WR/DB Pat Johnson, DB Will Ellender, and Bastrop transfer Denterrius McHenry leading the way.
Jace’s Pick: Calvary Baptist
Lee’s Pick: Calvary Baptist
#3 Ascension Catholic Bulldogs (9-0) vs. #14 Riverside Academy Rebels (3-7)
Game Preview: The Ascension Catholic Bulldogs must be glad that the team will not have to deal with Lafayette Christian Academy, which moved up to Division III as the Bulldogs fell short of two straight championships losing to the Knights in the Super Dome. Another change is that the Bulldogs brought in a new head coach at the start of the season in longtime Dutchtown head coach Benny Saia. Just like the previous two seasons, the Bulldogs once again look like a Division IV championship contender and once again, the team enters the playoffs with arguably the best running back in the bracket in Jai Williams, who has ran for over 7,000 yards and 101 touchdowns in his incredibly productive prep career. The numbers are so impressive that he has passed his dad Germaine “Juice” Williams (LSU) for most rushing touchdowns in program history and is now approaching his career rushing yards mark. Even though Williams is the main engine in this offense, there are plenty of other skill players in this offense including RB Demontray Harry, RB Dorian Barber, TE J’mond Tapp, who is a 6-2, 230 pound sophomore, WR Eric Simon, and WR Brock Acosta. The defense has also been great giving up only 84 points all season long. On paper, there is a chance that this Ascension Catholic team is better than their last two state championship runner-up teams. However, the Bulldogs will have to go through Riverside Academy in the first round. Under head coach Kevin Dizer, the Rebels are playing confident football despite their 3-7 record. Considering the Rebels just had a huge victory over Metairie Park Country Day in the final game of the regular season so this is a team not to be overlooked. The Rebels may not be big, but they can beat you with great athletes including QB Gage Lavardain, who has over 2,000 yards of total offense and 26 total touchdowns, RB Chamar Jackson, and WR Ahmonte Watkins, who can run an impressive 4.4/40.
Jace’s Pick: Ascension Catholic
Lee’s Pick: Ascension Catholic
#6 Southern Lab Kittens (7-3) vs. #11 St. Edmund Blue Jays (6-4)
Game Preview: The Southern Lab Kittens may not have Kardell Thomas (LSU) and Tyrion Davis-Price (LSU) suited up in the green and gold, but there is still a lot of DI football field suited up for Coach Darrell Asberry’s squad. With the Kittens’ only losses coming against bigger classification teams in Madison Prep, Central, and Scotlandville, the team is prepared to go on a championship run and making amends for losing in the semifinals last season. QB Angelo Izzard leads the way for the Kittens throwing for 1,679 yards and 25 touchdowns this season. Offensively, the Kittens’ biggest playmaker is Houston commit Reginald Johnson, who has 56 receptions for 1,096 yards and 16 touchdowns this season. However, you can also make the case for junior receiver Theodore Knox, who possesses elite speed. On the ground, the Kittens were able to replace Davis-Price’s production with two talented running backs in Dae’lon Hardy and Lutrell Pruitt, who both combined for 2,051 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns in 2019. Defensively, the Kittens are just as strong with Arizona linebacker commit Jabar Triplett, OLB Keion Kyser, CB Edmond Weber, and CB Michael Wicker leading the way. This team is arguably the most athletic in the bracket and if the Kittens put everything together, they may punch their ticket to the championship. The St. Edmund Blue Jays have done a nice job with new head coach James Shiver leading the team to six victories. A player to keep an eye on for the Blue Jays is do it all player Peyton Marcentel, who at 6-2, 220 pounds, has played four different positions including defensive back, linebacker, defensive end, and even quarterback.
Jace’s Pick: Southern Lab
Lee’s Pick: Southern Lab
#7 Catholic-Pointe Coupee Hornets (8-2) vs. #10 Cedar Creek Cougars (7-3)
Game Preview: Entering the season, Lee Brecheen was very high on the Catholic-Pointe Coupee Hornets even saying that this is one of their most talented teams since Jim Hightower and Dale Weiner led the Hornets to a state championship in the late 1970’s as young head coaches. The Hornets, led by head coach David Simoneaux, have had another successful regular season with a 8-2 regular season record and a District 5-1A championship. Despite losing to Ascension Episcopal and Episcopal, the Hornets also produced big wins against St. Edmund, Riverside Academy, DeQuincy, and most impressive, a 44-10 victory over number two seed Opelousas Catholic. A big reason for the team’s success this season is their three headed monster at running back featuring Nick Carriere, Matthew Langlois, who has ran for 1,055 yards and 22 touchdowns this season, and Collin Grezaffi, who has also ran for 1,000 yards and close to 20 touchdowns. The Cedar Creek Cougars, under head coach Shannon Brown, have a talented backfield of their own featuring quarterback Brooks Auger and bruising running back Lane Blue. The Cougars also have had an impressive season finishing just behind Ouachita Christian and Oak Grove in the very tough 2-1A district. This is an intriguing matchup between two great and well coached teams that can go either way.
Jace’s Pick: Catholic-Pointe Coupee
Lee’s Pick: Catholic-Pointe Coupee
#2 Opelousas Catholic Vikings (9-1) vs. #15 Hamilton Christian Warriors (5-4)
Game Preview: The Opelousas Catholic Vikings have to be disappointed to not become the number one overall seed in the Division IV playoffs, especially since the Vikings have a 33-21 victory over the number one seed Vermilion Catholic Eagles earlier this season. Coach Thomas David continues to do better each and every year as he has the Vikings as one of the favorites to win the Division IV state championship. After winning seven games last season, this year’s team made the next step by winning nine games in 2019. Senior quarterback Jesse Roy has become a pleasant surprise this season throwing for 2,084 yards and 33 touchdowns over the course of the regular season. The Vikings also have one of the best wide receiving duos in this bracket. The duo of Keon Coleman and Ronal Patin have combined for 59 catches for 1,218 yards and 19 touchdowns. The Hamilton Christian Warriors, under the direction of former LaGrange and Scotlandville head coach Jules Sullen, are not your normal number 16 seed as the team has posted a winning record of 5-4 in nine games this season. The problem is the five teams the Warriors defeated all combined for only eight wins this season. Still, the Warriors found a way to win those football games. Even though the team is low in numbers, they make up for it with talent. A key player to watch out for is WR/DB Adrian Brown, who at 6-2, 170 pounds, can run a 4.5/40.
Jace’s Pick: Opelousas Catholic
Lee’s Pick: Opelousas Catholic
Jace’s Bracket Breakdown: “This is going to be a great bracket to watch. This could possibly be the highest scoring playoff bracket we have of the nine just because of the quarterback play. It is going to be fun to watch guys like Justin Ibieta, Drew Lege, and Cade Hart trying to match tic for tac with each other. On one side of the bracket, I have Calvary Baptist advance to the state championship and on the other side, I have Ascension Catholic making the state championship once again. I believe that the Cavaliers are the best team in this bracket and even though the Bulldogs are talented once again, I have to lean with the Cavaliers in that matchup. Still, I could see Vermilion Catholic, Opelousas Catholic, Southern Lab, Ouachita Christian, and Catholic Pointe Coupee making a nice run at the state title game as well.”
Lee’s Bracket Breakdown: “I think it is going to be a tight finish to the end. I think Vermilion Catholic will lose to Country Day in the quarterfinals, and I think Ouachita Christian will play Calvary Baptist in the quarterfinals. In a semifinal matchup between Country Day and Calvary Baptist, I got to go with Calvary Baptist in that game to advance to the state championship on one side of the bracket. Ascension Catholic has made the state championship over the last two years. I don’t think they make it back, and I have Southern Lab upsetting Ascension Catholic in the quarterfinals. Then, I have Southern Lab defeating Opelousas Catholic in the semifinals. In the championship game, I have Calvary Baptist winning it all.”
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