Road To The Dome: LHSAA Class 1A 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 Super Dome. Today, we preview the Class 1A public division playoff bracket.
#1 West St. John Rams (7-3)-Bye
Team Preview: The West St. John Rams, under the guidance of Brandon Walters, have clinched the number one seed in the Class 1A playoffs despite having three losses on the season. However, considering the Rams’ three losses came against bigger competition in St. James, McDonogh 35, and Salmen, there is no wonder why the team has earned the number one spot. The Rams also won some big games as well against Plaquemine, Riverside Academy, and Country Day to name a few. The Rams have both experience as the team won the Class 1A title two seasons ago as well as plenty of talent. The offense is led by experienced quarterback D’Andre Gaudia, who was the starter as a sophomore when the Rams won the Class 1A state championship in 2017. He will look to end his senior season with another championship trophy after throwing close to 2,000 yards and 15 touchdowns. Gaudia will not have the running back depth to help him like in years past, but what he does have is talented receivers to throw the football to in Trenton Grow, who at 6-3, 190 pounds, has received offers from ULM, South Alabama, Southern Miss, Tulane, and UAB, Aaron Moll, who is also 6-3, and versatile playmaker D’Kyri Jackson. Defensively, the Rams are led by linebacker Wantrell Williams, DE Zyron Wilson, and a talented secondary. In terms of athletes, this is arguably the most talented in the entire bracket. The Rams will await the winner of LaSalle and Arcadia to see who they will play next week.
#16 LaSalle Tigers (5-5) vs. #17 Arcadia Hornets (4-6)
Game Preview: The LaSalle Tigers and the Arcadia Hornets face off in a first round playoff matchup between two evenly matched teams. Led by Derek White, the Tigers have had an up and down season hence their record, but the team does have some talented players that they can lean on including seniors: tight end Hunter Daigneault, who is 6-4, 230 pounds, quarterback Kade Hillestead, and running back Zack Dickey. Meanwhile, the Arcadia Hornets enter the playoffs with a 4-6 record. It was a great coaching job by Dimitri Carr considering that the Hornets had to try and replace the production of arguably the greatest players in its program history in running back Corey Russell (Arcadia). The Hornets may not have that one star player that they can lean on, but instead, there are a couple of talented playmakers that have the potential to score on any given play.
Jace’s Pick: Arcadia
Lee’s Pick: Arcadia
#9 Montgomery Tigers (7-3) vs. #24 Block Bears (2-8)
Game Preview: The Montgomery Tigers have become a consistent winner under Brian Williams, who has led the team to a playoff victory in back to back seasons. The Tigers would love to make it three straight years that they can accomplish that feat and then some. Even though longtime starting quarterback Logan Graves has graduated, it seems that the Tigers have become even more explosive on offense. In fact, the Tigers have scored 30 points or more in eight of their games this season including an impressive 90 points scored against Northwood Lena earlier this season. With an offense featuring explosive playmakers Kyland Nash and J.T. Turner, there is no wonder why the Tigers have been so explosive on offense. Benny Vault is back in his second season of his second tenure at Block and is trying to rebuild the program into a winning program. In only a year removed from an 0-10 season, year two seemed like it was the next big step. Block senior Chad Green is a player to watch out for in this game as he can play almost every position on the football field. Both the Tigers and Bears are familiar with each other as district opponents. Earlier this season, it was the Tigers that prevailed over the Bears 38-16.
Jace’s Pick: Montgomery
Lee’s Pick: Montgomery
#8 Logansport Tigers (5-5)-Bye
Team Preview: Over the last five years, the Logansport Tigers have become a Class 1A powerhouse under head coach Kevin Magee. In fact, the Tigers won a Class 1A state championship not too long ago in 2016. Compared to the last couple of seasons, this year’s 5-5 record may not be up to par, but however, the Tigers scheduled a tough non-district schedule to help them get ready for the month of November. The Tigers started off at a surprising 0-5 record due to the fact that they played bigger teams including Sterlington, North Webster, Bossier, Woodlawn (Shreveport), and Mansfield. Despite the slow non-district start, the Tigers picked up the pace in district play winning five straight games and clinching the 3-1A district crown. The Tigers’ strength on offense is the offensive line as two of their players up front are over 320 pounds and on the defensive side of the football, the Tigers have two great linebackers in Matt Woods and Lacadrian Gant. The Tigers will await the winner of Montgomery and Block to see who they will play next week.
#5 Centerville Bulldogs (8-2)-Bye
Team Preview: At the beginning of the season, Centerville Head Coach Mark Millet told us, “After back to back 5-5 seasons and losses in the first round of the playoffs, we are looking to take the next step.” Coach Millet and the Bulldogs seem to be making that step as the team has won eight games this season. In all of the Bulldogs’ wins this season, the offense has scored at least 35 points or more this season due to the fact that the side of the football returns an experienced senior at quarterback in Braden Gaspard along with a talented running back/tight end Dravin Guilbeau, who is 6-4, 215 pounds.
#12 Homer Pelicans (5-5) vs. #21 Slaughter Community Charter Knights (2-7)
Game Preview: Just before the season, it was announced that longtime head coach Glen Kyle decided to retire. It seemed to affect the Homer Pelicans early on as the team stumbled to an 0-3 start, but new head coach Richie Casey did a great job turning the season around leading the team to five victories over their final seven games. The Pelicans are entering the postseason playing their best football and another thing they have going for them is that they have arguably the best quarterback-running back duo in this bracket featuring Kemontaveous “Money” Grant and Star Thomas. The Slaughter Community Charter Knights are coming off their first playoff appearance last season, and now, the team hopes that gained playoff experience comes to play in this game. Under first year head coach Jacob Goudeau, the Knights won only two games, but thanks to playing in a tough district, the team was able to make the playoffs despite earning only two victories. A key player to watch for the Knights is senior DE Bryce Turner, who has the ability to take over games at 6-4, 200 pounds.
Jace’s Pick: Homer
Lee’s Pick: Homer
#13 East Beauregard Trojans (5-5) vs. #20 North Central Hurricanes (0-10)
Game Preview: Despite head coach Gordy Glaser retiring at the conclusion of last season, the East Beauregard Trojans benefited thanks to a movement down from Class 2A to Class 1A along with some experience from last year’s 7-4 squad. New head coach Ronald Simmons has done a great job driving the ship in his first year with the program. The Trojans may have struggled out of district, but the team was able to finish third in district play with five wins. The Trojans will heavily rely on both their veteran offensive and defensive fronts along with their talented four year starting senior quarterback Noah Gill. Meanwhile, it has been a tough season for the North Central Hurricanes as the team has gone winless on the season. However, there have been chances for the Hurricanes to be competitive or even win a couple of games including only losing to a playoff bound Grand Lake team by a mere four points in the first game of the season.
Jace’s Pick: East Beauregard
Lee’s Pick: East Beauregard
#4 Oak Grove Tigers (7-3)-Bye
Team Preview: Just a season ago, the Oak Grove Tigers made it all the way to the Super Dome for the Class 1A state championship just to lose to the Kentwood Kangaroos 40-21. Coming up just short of a state championship has been a major motivational tool for Ryan Gregory to use for his team. This season, the Tigers have posted a strong regular season record of 7-3 with the team’s three defeats coming at the hands of high quality teams including Benton, Sterlington, and Ouachita Christian. The Tigers even have more motivation knowing that the team also came up short of a district championship when the team lost to the Ouachita Christian Eagles. In this Class 1A bracket, there may not be a more intimidating interior defensive front than what the Tigers have up front in Kansas commit Kenean Caldwell and Louisiana Tech commit Bert Hale. Both players are immovable to block at over 320 pounds a piece. The Tigers are also strong on the offensive front with seniors Cole Pennock and Nick Sciara leading the way. The Tigers not only have size, but they have speed as well with most notably two way star Otis Moore making plays on offense and defense. The Tigers have a complete team and is more than capable of making a run at the Super Dome. The Tigers will await the winner of East Beauregard and North Central to see who their first playoff opponent will be.
#3 White Castle Bulldogs (6-3)-Bye
Team Preview: The White Castle Bulldogs have had one of their best seasons in recent memory under head coach Aaron Meyer, who was a former John Curtis and UCLA offensive lineman. The Bulldogs enter the playoffs as one of the most confident teams in the bracket with a three game winning streak entering the playoffs. The Bulldogs’ most impressive victory of the season was when the team went on the road and ended East Iberville’s undefeated season with a 22-20 victory. The Bulldogs have some great athletes including one of the most underrated athletic quarterbacks in the state in Javier Batiste. At 5-11, 185 pounds, the star basketball player brings his skills on the hardwood to the gridiron with tremendous ease. The dual threat has made defenders look silly with 1,296 passing yards and 13 touchdown passes along with 1,023 rushing yards and 13 more touchdowns. Other skill playmakers such as Tahj Favorite, Marcus Williams, Keith Landry, and others make this a scary and exciting team to watch out for. Another great sign for White Castle fans is that this is team’s highest seed since the Bulldogs won a Class 1A title back in 2010 led by another great athlete in Ronald Martin (LSU). The Bulldogs will face the winner of Plain Dealing and Delta Charter next week.
#14 Plain Dealing Lions (5-5) vs. #19 Delta Charter Storm (3-7)
Game Preview: After winning three games in back to back seasons, the Plain Dealing Lions got back to a .500 winning season with a 5-5 record and also hosting a first round playoff game. What is most impressive about their 5-5 record is that the Lions have to play in a tough district, which also features teams such as Calvary Baptist, Haynesville, and Homer. The Lions sneakily have one of the best athletic teams in this bracket under the leadership of head coach James Thurman. Benton High School transfer Kenneth Gay has energized an offense that has scored at least 21 points in each game this season except one. He has thrown for 2,013 yards and 20 touchdowns while running for 342 yards and six touchdowns. Gay will have plenty of great athletes to throw the football to in Artavious Washington-Carper, who happens to be the brother of current Texas A&M defensive back Keldrick Carper, and also, Ladarious O’Neal, who has a big frame and playmaking ability. The Lions’ explosive offense can put points up with just about anyone in this bracket. The Delta Charter Storm may have only won three games this season, but the team has shown that they are a better team than their record shows under head coach Blake Wheeler. The Storm has relied on four senior leaders in QB Kavarius Whitehead, RB Brennan Griffin, WR Mike Smith, WR/CB Chandler Harrison as well as one of the most underrated linemen in Class 1A in four year starter Cole Smith.
Jace’s Pick: Plain Dealing
Lee’s Pick: Plain Dealing
#11 Grand Lake Hornets (6-4) vs. #22 Merryville Panthers (2-8)
Game Preview: The Grand Lake Hornets have one of the best stories in this year’s playoff bracket. After winning only two games last season, the Hornets bounced back with a six win season along with hosting a playoff game. One of the most underrated coaching jobs accomplished this year that nobody is talking about is the job that former Sulphur Head Coach Jeff Wainwright has done in turning around the program. The Hornets’ bread and butter is the option attack, which features four seniors that can all run the football in Logan Granger, Luke McCord, Aaron Young, and Will Kelley. The Merryville Panthers may not have had a great season in terms of win and loss record, but this is a team that also can be easily 4-6 as they lost two games by eight points or less against Gueydan and Hamilton Christian. In order for head coach Randy Jones and the Panthers to pull the upset, they must rely on their best two offensive players in QB Blaise Duncan and RB Cam’Ron Williams to make plays. Both the Hornets and the Panthers are familiar with each other as they are both district rivals. The Hornets look to get the season sweep while the Panthers are trying to get revenge from earlier this season when Grand Lake defeated Merryville 46-20.
Jace’s Pick: Grand Lake
Lee’s Pick: Grand Lake
#6 East Iberville Tigers (7-2)-Bye
Team Preview: One of the most impressive program turnarounds regardless of classifications is what head coach Ron LeJeune has accomplished in three years at East Iberville High School. Before LeJeune accepted the job at East Iberville, the football program won only one game in four years. Now, since he has taken the job, the Tigers have won 21 games over a three year period including winning a playoff game in back to back seasons. Also, the Tigers have one of the best stories this season as the team has dedicated their season to defensive coordinator Gary Burnett, who passed away earlier this summer. The Tigers have used that motivation to have the best season in school history winning seven games and having their highest seed in program history. On offense, the Tigers have a lot of speed and athleticism with Junior Williams and Chris Boudreaux running the football. Defensively, this is a strong unit, led by defensive tackle Justin Hollins, that has allowed no more than 20 points except in their two losses against White Castle and Ascension Catholic. The Tigers have a balanced team that likes to possess the football and win the turnover battle. The Tigers look to continue a magical season run after the bye week where they will face the winner of Grand Lake and Merryville.
#7 Haynesville Golden Tornadoes (6-4)-Bye
Team Preview: A lot of fans are counting out the Haynesville Golden Tornadoes after the team lost to Calvary Baptist Academy Cavaliers 70-0, but this is still a winning traditional power with 17 state championships to their credit. It is hard to go against head coach David Franklin and the Golden Tornadoes even though it has been not quite the regular season to the program’s standards with four losses in 2019. Despite the shutout loss to Calvary Baptist, the Golden Tornadoes have played well after starting the season at 0-3 winning six of the their last seven games. The headliner of this team is LSU commit Cam’Ron Jackson, who is a physcial specimen at 6-6, 270 pounds. Also, on defense, there is the talented linebacker Ar’Darius James, who may not get the recognition that Jackson gets, but is a great defender as well. On the offensive side of the football, nothing has changed as the Golden Tornadoes still run their trademark Wing T offense this time with converted defensive back Miguel Turner handling the controls under center. The running game is as deep as always with players such as Kedrick Grider, Jontavion Brown, Tyrell Gill, and Draven Hice all rotating in the backfield. Even though the record is not as strong as in the past, but Coach Franklin’s bunch are never to be counted out. The Golden Tornadoes will await the winner of Basile and Lincoln Prep in the next round.
#10 Basile Bearcats (6-4) vs. #22 Lincoln Prep Panthers (3-7)
Game Preview: The Basile Bearcats are always a team we forget about in this Class 1A bracket that has the ability to make a Cinderella run in the playoff bracket. Coach Kevin Bertrand has done a great with this team considering they lost a lot of senior leadership from last season’s 10-3 team. The Bearcats are entering the playoffs just at the right time winning four of their last five games with their only loss coming to an undefeated Oberlin football team. The offense has two great running backs to lean on in Logan David and Isaiah Ceaser. The Lincoln Prep Panthers are also entering the month of November at just the right time winning their last two games to close out the regular season. There is a lot of positive momentum for head coach Glen Hall and the Panthers as the team has now over 30 players on the team. Not only there is depth, but there is some talent as well most notably two way players TE/DE DeAndre Livingston and FB/LB Xavier Dunn.
Jace’s Pick: Basile
Lee’s Pick: Basile
#15 Gueydan Bears (5-5) vs. #18 Delhi Bears (4-4)
Game Preview: A year removed from a 7-4 season along with a playoff victory, Gueydan head coach Roderick Moy has continued to set the foundation for this football program with another nice season and a chance to host a home playoff game. The Gueydan Bears are another dangerous team that are catching hot at exactly the right moment having won four of their last five games. Even though there are only seven seniors on Gueydan’s football team, all seven make a big impact on both sides of the football and provide necessary senior leadership for a team that only dresses 28 players. The Delhi Bears are coming off an incredible 9-4 record and a Class 1A quarterfinal appearance last season. Even though previous coach Toriano Williams left to become the head coach at Washington Marion, first year coach Storm Ridgway has done a good job picking up where Williams left off. Delhi has a great blend of size and speed featuring skill players WR Maquil Hicks, CB Montorio Thomas, WR Camryn South, and DB Ladarrian Washington as well as big linemen such as OL Latrell Loyd and DE Joseph Hardy.
Jace’s Pick: Delhi
Lee’s Pick: Delhi
#2 Oberlin Tigers (10-0)-Bye
Team Preview: Who would have thought that the Oberlin Tigers would be the only undefeated team in the Class 1A bracket? Well, Coach Durell Peloquin certainly knew that he had a special team in 2019 due to the fact that 15 seniors return from a team that won ten games and made the quarterfinals the season before. Not only there is a Peloquin leading the team from the sidelines, but there is a Peloquin leading the team on the field as well as the coach’s son Levi Peloquin has been one of those senior leaders at the quarterback position. Around him, other veteran players Collin Chatman, Jared Joubert, Trevor Rider, who has ran for over 1,274 yards and 15 touchdowns this season, and Alex Fontenot have become the key nucleus for a team that is looking for even more success in the playoffs. The Tigers will face the winner of the Gueydan–Delhi matchup in the second round.
Jace’s Bracket Breakdown: “This is a wide open bracket. Last year, there were four or five teams that you could see winning the state championship. This year, it can really be anybody. There is only one undefeated team and the number one seed has three losses this season. Even though the West St. John Rams have three losses, I like the Rams to win the Class 1A state championship. I do believe they have the most talent and I like the fact that they have scheduled bigger teams in their non-district schedule. On the other side of the bracket, I have Oberlin getting to the state championship. I like the experience and veteran leadership on their team. I think it will be West St. John-Oberlin in the Dome with West St. John winning the game. However, there are other teams to watch out for including Oak Grove, East Iberville, Logansport, Haynesville, White Castle, Montgomery, and even Homer that can make a run at it when it is all said and done.”
Lee’ Bracket Breakdown: “West St. John is the one seed, but I don’t think they are going to win it. I have Oak Grove advancing to the state championship over West St. John. On the right side of the bracket, I can see a couple of teams. There is a good chance a new team like a White Castle or an East Iberville can advance on that side to the Dome, but I think Oak Grove is the most complete team in this bracket and I have them winning the Class 1A state championship.”
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