Road to the Dome: LHSAA Class 1A Second Round Preview
by Jace LeJeune and Lee Brecheen
16 teams are down and there are 16 more teams left to go. All 16 teams have their own strengths and weaknesses, but they all have one goal in mind. That is to be one of nine teams in the end holding a state championship trophy in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with the Queen smash hit “We Are the Champions” playing in the background. For Louisiana football fans, this is the most wonderful time of the year. It is our version of “March Madness”. This year, we got you covered as for the next couple of weeks, we will go through all of the 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 7th-9th. Louisiana Football Magazine’s expert Lee Brecheen has seen all of these teams play and gives his insight on which teams will survive and continue their march to the Superdome. Today, we preview the Class 1A public division second round playoff matchups.
#1 West St. John Rams (8-2) vs. #16 East Iberville Tigers (6-5)
Team Preview: The West St. John Rams are pretty much the favorite to win the 1A state championship this year. Led by Head Coach Brandon Walters, the Rams won the District 8-1A championship with a 8-2 overall record and undefeated record in District play. The team’s only losses came against teams that play in higher classifications such as St. James, and Plaquemine. The Rams don’t have a lot of weaknesses as they have a dynamic quarterback in D’andre Gaudia, a great rushing attack led by Kylan Duhe, great skill players such as WR Aason Moll, WR Alyjah Borne, a big, physical offensive line led by Calieb Batiste, and a dominant defense that is led by LB/DE Covan Barnes, DT Horace Lewis, and LB Kelon Gardner. This is a team that has all the tools to get to the Superdome especially after a first round bye and a week’s rest. The Rams will play the Goliath role against the East Iberville Tigers led by Ron LeJeune, who is in the first year of his second term at the school as the Tigers’ head coach. The Tigers have been one of the best stories in all of football throughout this state. What LeJeune and the rest of his coaching staff has done has been remarkable as this was a team that only won one football game in the past four years. Now, in LeJeune’s first year, the Tigers have posted a winning season as well as the first playoff victory in school history defeating Delhi 46-38. The Tigers had two 100+ yard rushing performances from Dedrick Wilson and Rondell Daniels as well as a great performance from defensive back Mike Triplett, who returned an interception for a touchdown and blocked a punt for a touchdown all in the same game. It has been very surprising to see that the Tigers have made it to this point and we will see if the Tigers have another surprise up their sleeves against the heavily favored West St. John Rams.
Lee’s Take: “Effort can get you a long way and if East Iberville stays in the game against West St. John, that is a victory because West St. John is like a 5A team to me. I don’t think East Iberville has enough players to contend with the Rams in the end.”
#2 Oak Grove Tigers (10-1) vs. #18 Lincoln Preparatory School Panthers (5-6)
Game Preview: The Oak Grove Tigers, under Ryan Gregory, haven’t been to the Superdome since 2004, but this might be their year as they have had a total dominant season going 9-1 and winning a very tough district in 2-1A. The Tigers won the district championship by shutting down one of the best offenses around in Cedar Creek 42-0. The Tigers’ strength is their running game with a young athletic sophomore quarterback in Kameron Holloway, an experienced running back in Donald Gray, a very experienced offensive line led by John Bolding. Their defense has also been very dominant as well. The Tigers had a great start to the postseason against the Northwood Lena Gators with a 48-0 shutout victory on Thursday thanks to a stiffening defense and the high powered option attack that has the threat to pass the ball when they need to. The Lincoln Preparatory Panthers, under first year head coach Glen Hall, advanced to the second round after defeating Delta Charter 46-19 in the first round of the playoffs. The Storm had a tough time stopping the dynamic running combination of James Caesar and Johlik Madison, who both combined for 315 yard rushing and five touchdowns with Caesar rushing for 165 yards and three rushing touchdowns while Madison ran for 144 yards and two touchdowns. The deadly duo will need to do more of the same as they have to play keep away from the very efficient Oak Grove Tigers offense if they want to pull off the upset.
Lee’s Take: “Lincoln Prep is a Cinderella team. They got some very good football players, but they don’t have a lot of depth. Oak Grove’s depth is going to cause problems for Lincoln Prep. It has been a victory for the Panthers to even win a playoff game as it has been a while since Lincoln Prep/Grambling had advanced in the playoffs. I think the coaches have done a great job at Lincoln Prep, but in the end, it will be too much Oak Grove.”
#3 Kentwood Kangaroos (10-1) vs. #14 Merryville Panthers (6-5)
Game Preview: The Kentwood Kangaroos, under Jonathan Foster, won arguably the toughest district in all of 1A with such other teams like Southern Lab and Ascension Catholic also in that district. The Kangaroos won nine games in the regular season and once again, will be a state championship contender due to the many skill guys that the offense has. Playmakers such as QB Jamarquea Diamond, RB Larry Carter, WR Larenz Morris, and WR Trey Palmer, who has already been offered by LSU as a junior, can score on anybody when they are out in open space. The Kangaroos also have some size in the trenches with OT Eric Dunn, who is 6-6, 250, and OG Justice Ulschak, who is also over 250 pounds. The Kangaroos had no problems in their first round matchup against the Tensas Panthers rolling to a 37-0 victory. The Merryville Panthers, under Randy Jones, is a team that has improved dramatically over last year as the Panthers are now at 6-5 as well as a playoff victory over Centerville after only one win in 2016. A big reason for the turnaround is the offense. The Panthers have been very consistent on offense scoring at least 22 points in every game this season. The team’s best offensive player is Desmond McCain, who has had another 1,000 yard rushing season running for over 1,400 yards and 11 touchdowns. When McCain is not in the game, they can hand the football off to fullback Kaileb Flanagan, who has run for a respectable 402 yards and seven touchdowns. The team can also throw the ball when they need to as well. In the team’s first playoff matchup against Centerville, the game was pretty close at halftime as the Panthers led 16-13, but the Panthers defense did not allow a touchdown in the second half and offensively, McCain was the star as he ran for close to 200 yards of offense. This win was a monumental one as this was the first playoff victory in 25 years for Merryville. They hope to get their second win much sooner this week against the heavy favored Kentwood Kangaroos.
Lee’s Take: “I am very glad that Merryville was able to get a win in the playoffs, but unfortunately, the bus stops here. Kentwood will be too much for Merryville to handle, but for Merryville to just win a playoff game is pretty incredible.”
#4 Varnado Wildcats (8-3) vs. #13 Arcadia Hornets (5-5)
Game Preview: The Varnado Wildcats, under Scott Shafett, had a good regular season finishing second in district 8-1A behind the West St. John Rams. The Wildcats can put up plenty of points as they only failed to score less than 30 points only twice all season. The explosive and experienced Wildcat offensive attack is led by WR Armontee Kemp, who is a four year starter and can run with the best of them, FB Jadarrell Magee, who is as tough as they come, and QB James Williams, who is another four year starter. In Varnado’s first playoff game against the Ringgold Redskins, the Wildcats scored seven offensive touchdowns and the defense pitched a shutout dominating the football game with a 54-0 victory. The Arcadia Hornets, under Dimitri Carr, is the highest seed to have a record that is below .500 entering the playoffs, but the Hornets are still a team that you do not want to deal with when the playoffs start and they proved that in their first round matchup against White Castle. In the opening round of the playoffs, the Hornets took care of the White Castle Bulldogs easily with a 52-8 victory. The Hornets have their everydown running back in Corey Russell, who had over 2,000 yards rushing and 28 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2016. Russell repeated much of the same this year as a junior rushing for over 1,700 yards and 27 touchdowns as a junior. Russell does get some help from one of the best two way linemen in the state to help clear the path for him in OL/DL Brandon Rallins, who is 6-3, 290. This could be a very close game even though the seeding won’t say it and this could be a game where the Hornets could get the upset especially if Russell gets going.
Lee’s Take: “Arcadia has a really good running back in Corey Russell, but I think that Varnado is still going to be too much for Arcadia to handle. They have a lot of skill athletes and having the game at Varnado really gives the edge to the Wildcats in this game.”
#5 Logansport Tigers (11-0) vs. #21 Homer Pelicans (4-7)
Game Preview: The Logansport Tigers are looking to defend their 1A state championship a year ago and continue a winning streak that is currently at 25 straight wins after posting back to back undefeated regular seasons. Kevin Magee has built a dominant program in only his fourth year as the team’s head coach and has taken this team to state championship prowess just when he was playing quarterback for the Tigers’ state championship team in 1995. The Tigers are led by veteran QB Dalton Shaw, who is the all time leading passer in program history passing his coach, and one of the most underrated big time recruits in the entire state in ATH John Stephens Jr., who is the son of the late John Stephens Sr., who played for the New England Patriots. Stephens is a TCU commit and can play just about any position for the Tigers including WR, LB, and even DE. He could be a difference maker in this bracket. The Homer Pelicans, under Glen Kyle, had three wins in the regular season and the running game was a huge part in why the Pelicans are here in the playoffs now as Star Thomas and Courtney Lovett make a good tandem. The Pelicans also have a young, talented quarterback in Kemontavious Grant, who has played like he was a four year starter and not a sophomore. Both Logansport and Homer had dominating wins in the first round of the playoffs. The Tigers started their state championship defense defeating North Central 52-0 while the Pelicans not only upsetted the higher seed LaSalle Tigers, but they dominated the game from start to finish winning 56-8.
Lee’s Take: “Logansport should have no trouble against Homer in this game. They got their quarterback back as well as John Stephens. The offensive and defensive line is coming on as well. They got a lot of great skilled guys as well as a really good linebacker. I think they are too much for Homer and believe that they will be too tough to beat.”
#6 Haynesville Golden Tornadoes (9-2) vs. #11 Oberlin Tigers (7-4)
Game Preview: The Haynesville Golden Tornadoes are one of the most historic football programs in the state and have won many state championships in the past. In fact, they are second to only John Curtis High School in state championship victories with 17. The Golden Tornadoes, under David Franklin, are making a run at their 18th state championship this season. They enter the playoffs with an 8-2 record and a 1-1A district championship. The Golden Tornadoes are a highly motivated team this season after losing to the Logansport Tigers in the Class 1A state championship last season 34-28. The Tornadoes are led by playmaker Kavacion Webster, who may only be 5-6, 160, but he is very exciting when he has the football in his hands. The Tornadoes also have a great defense, which is led by Louisiana Monroe commit Jalan Harris, who has a very high motor and can clinch football games when rushing the quarterback late in football games. In the first round of the playoffs, the Golden Tornadoes dominated Grand Lake 33-3 in their opening game. The Oberlin Tigers, under Durell Peloquin, have definitely gone under the radar as a team that has been quietly doing great things. This is a team that won nine games as well as a playoff game in the 2016 season and once again, the team had a winning season with six regular season victories on their schedule. QB James Kirklin is a good athlete that is pretty much an extra running back as he is a great running threat. He will have the luxury of having some big offensive linemen block for him including the head coach’s son OL/DL Trooper Peloquin, who is 6-2, 240, and OL/DL MacKenzie Carrier, who is 6-3, 300 and the District Defensive MVP as a sophomore in 2016. In Oberlin’s first playoff game against Block, the Tigers were able to take care of business winning 40-20.
Lee’s Take: “Haynesville just has too much for Oberlin. Oberlin does run the ball a lot like Haynesville and they are going to try and play their game, which won’t work. Again, Oberlin is another team that not a lot of people would have thought to win a playoff game and they proved people wrong. However, Haynesville just has too much skill talent and it is a mismatch because of it.”
#7 Basile Bearcats (8-3) vs. #10 Montgomery Tigers (7-4)
Game Preview: It has been a big time breakout season for Coach Kevin Bertrand and the Basile Bearcats. The team has had one of the best turnarounds this season even though they had a decent season a year ago winning three games and making the playoffs. However, this season, the Bearcats won seven games and have a chance to host a home playoff game. Players like QB Dawson Ashford, LB Andre Reed, WR Jaylen Thomas, RB/LB Logan David, and OL/DL Cameron Berzas will be guys that will lead this team. Basile had a successful game running the football in their first playoff game against Slaughter Community Charter as running backs Reed, David, and Isaiah Caesar combined to run for over 325 rushing yards. The Montgomery Tigers, under Brian Williams, have a big team in numbers for a 1A school and have a lot of experience coming back for this season. Those factors helped the Tigers post a winning regular season record at 6-4. Running backs Jarred Henry and Mikel Auge combined for over 1,000 yards and 20 touchdowns. They have an experience quarterback in Logan Graves, who has thrown for over 1,500 yards and 16 touchdowns this season. The defense could be the strength of this team as they have great players such as DT Isiah Carraway, who is an All-District player, and LB Kashon Lasley, who is a really good pass rusher, just to name a few. In Montgomery’s first game, they were able to move past Gueydan 38-30. It will be an unique challenge for the Bearcats as the Tigers run an offense that the Bearcats have not seen before all year.
Lee’s Take: “This game is pretty even and since the game is at home, I am going to go with Basile. This might be the last playoff game that Basile wins, but this is pretty even as both teams can win this game. It should be a pretty good football game.”
#8 Jonesboro-Hodge Tigers (8-3) vs. #9 Elton Indians (7-3)
Game Preview: The Jonesboro-Hodge Tigers, under Terrance Blankenship had a great regular season winning seven games. The team always has great skill position players and the same goes for this season with guys such as WR Tayvionne Tate, RB Kameron Booker, WR Trinavous Belton, and QB Reggie Shallowhorn. They also have a big line as well for Class 1A with guys like DT Kelton Moss commanding the interior with his 6-2, 280 pound frame. The Tigers are coming off a dominant first round playoff win against Plain Dealing with a 44-0 shutout. The Elton Indians, under Doyle Carter, finished the regular season at 6-3. The Indians have one of the most underrated players in Class 1A in Keshawn Lyons. Lyons is utilized pretty much everywhere the Indians need him to be. He can do it all as he is the team’s quarterback, kick returner, and even was an All-State selection in 2016 as a punter. In Elton’s first round matchup against Sicily Island, the Indians scored really quickly in the first quarter by jumping to an early 22-0 lead in the opening quarter. That allowed the Indians to roll right past the Tigers with a final score of 44-6. There should be a lot of points on the board for both teams as both dual threat quarterbacks in Shallowhorn and Lyons should be able to move down the football field.
Lee’s Take: “I am going to give the slim advantage to Jonesboro-Hodge. I think these are two evenly matched teams, but Elton having to make the two and a half hour drive could be the difference as this should also be a pretty good football game.”
Jace’s Final Thoughts: After the first round of the playoffs, my opinion does not change as the five teams that I mentioned earlier could contend for a Class 1A state championship are still in the playoffs. Teams such as West St. John, Oak Grove, Kentwood, Logansport, and Haynesville are the heavy favorites to go and those teams don’t face each other yet, but they should still not overlook some of the smaller 1A teams as anything could happen in the Road to the Dome!
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