Road to the Dome: LHSAA Class 4A Semifinals Preview
by Jace LeJeune
28 teams are down and there are only four more left to go. Four teams remain standing and all four of these teams have one goal in mind. That goal 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 4A public division semifinal playoff matchups. This week, we will find out which teams will be battling it out for the Class 4A state championship.
#1 Edna Karr Cougars (12-1) vs. #4 Warren Easton Eagles (11-2).
Game Preview: The Edna Karr Cougars began their quest for a second straight Class 4A state championship and a third straight championship appearance as the number one seed against the #32 seed Buckeye Panthers. The Edna Karr Cougars may not have Aldon Clark (Arkansas State) at quarterback, but they sure have another good quarterback this season in Skyler Perry, who accounted for five touchdowns with four through the air and one on the ground to score the Cougars’ first five touchdowns. While the Edna Karr passing offense was clicking, the defense was dominant as the Cougars forced four Buckeye turnovers in the first half including a 28 yard interception for a touchdown by defensive lineman Terrance Casey-Charles. It was simply too much for Jonathan Landry and the Buckeye Panthers to handle as Brice Brown and the Edna Karr Cougars roll in the end 54-13. In the Cougars’ second round playoff game against Byron Addison and the Carver Rams, let’s just say the game was a lot closer for the Cougars than they would have liked. It was indeed a wild and crazy game as it looked like Edna Karr was going to run Carver out of the stadium with a 21-0 early lead, but the Rams stormed to score 28 unanswered points to take the lead. Both teams traded touchdowns until late in the fourth quarter when Perry threw a 54 yard touchdown pass to Anthony Spurlock to take the 40-35 lead with just over two minutes remaining in the football game. It was not a great game for the Edna Karr defense, which is usually dominant, but they were able to hold the explosive Carver offense out of the end zone for a game winning score. Perry threw for four touchdowns in the win while Spurlock caught two of Perry’s touchdowns including the game winner. It was a great effort from QB Izea Hurst and WR Gary Young, who both battled through injuries, as Hurst accounted for four touchdowns with two through the air and two through the ground and Young had a receiving touchdown as well as a kick return for a touchdown, but it was too much Cougars offensive firepower as Edna Karr held on to win in a crazy game 40-35. Last week, the Edna Karr Cougars dominated the Northwood Shreveport Falcons, who are having their best season in program history, 34-6. The Cougars were able to control the game thanks to their rushing attack and their strong defense. Edna Karr running backs Ronnie Jackson and Ahmad Antoine combined for almost 200 yards and scored all of the Cougars five touchdowns while the defense was able to contain Northwood’s high flying passing game to less than 300 yards and only one touchdown. When they are at their best, this is a team that is awfully tough to beat with a great quarterback in Perry, two great running backs in Ahmad Antonie and Ronnie Jackson, a great defensive line led by Ronnell Burbank, Jamier Jackson, Austin Kent, and Terrance Casey Charles, and a great back half of the defense led by CB Devin Bush, who will be a very good player, LB Sheldon Celestine, and DB Quindell Johnson. What has made the Cougars so good is that they can win any type of game and beat you in different ways. They were able to show that in the playoffs by winning in a high scoring game against Carver and then relying on their running game and defense the very next week. The Cougars will face the very familiar Warren Easton Eagles, who are one of the hottest teams in the bracket. The Warren Easton Eagles, led by Jerry Phillips, came into their first round playoff game against the Carencro Golden Bears trying to bounce back from a 40-6 blowout loss against the Edna Karr Cougars. Unfortunately, for the Golden Bears, the Eagles took out their frustrations on them. It was a dominating performance by Warren Easton as the offense racked up almost 600 total yards of offense and only gave up an incredible 115 total yards defensively. Warren Easton QB Lance Legendre threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns. Legendre sure gave his playmakers the football as Yoheinz Tyler had three catches for 129 yards and a touchdown and Sheldon “Stick” Jones had four catches for 124 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, the rushing duo of Dewitt Johnson and and Ashaad Clayton combined for over 100 yards and two touchdowns on the ground for the Eagles to make a well balanced attack. The Eagles dominated the Golden Bears from start to finish with the final score of 48-0. Like St. James mentioned earlier in the 3A bracket, this is a Warren Easton team that suffered their lumps this season, but are playing their best football right now. The Eagles shut down the North DeSoto Griffins 54-0 in their second round playoff game. Legendre threw for four touchdowns while the defense forced six punts to get the dominating victory. With skill players like Legendre, Jones, Tyler, and do everything playmaker Damien Tate (McNeese State commit), this is a team that nobody wants to play right now. The Woodlawn Knights found that out the hard way losing to the Eagles 43-6. The Eagles have been so dominant in the postseason that the only touchdown given up by the defense was a late touchdown by the Knights. Now, the Eagles and the Cougars will match up again in the postseason. The Eagles are looking to go back to the state championship game after making an appearance in 2014. Meanwhile, The Cougars are trying to make their sixth appearance in the Prep Classic in seven years.
Lee’s Take: “I am actually pretty surprised Warren Easton has been beating teams the way they have been beating them since this is a junior heavy team playing against senior heavy teams over the course of the playoffs. However, I still don’t think they will beat Edna Karr. Edna Karr will make another state championship appearance in the Superdome. Warren Easton is not Neville when Neville was on top of the world. However, Warren Easton is a junior team and if they win the championship this year, there is a good chance that they can go back to back for next year.”
#2 Lakeshore Titans (13-0) vs. #11 Rayne Wolves (10-2)
Game Preview: The Lakeshore Titans, under the leadership of Craig Jones, have had a dream season going undefeated in the regular season, winning the District 8-4A district championship, and hosting a playoff game with the number two seed. The Titans also got their first playoff win against Pearl River. The Titans had no trouble in getting the program’s first victory as the whole team was dominant in all three phrases. On offense, the Titans had over 400 yards of total offense. Lakeshore senior QB Chris Penton completed only eight of nine passes, but for 215 yards and three touchdowns. The Titan defense was dominant sacking Pearl River QB Justin Dean for more yards than Dean was able to pass through the air with -40 yards coming on sacks and only 37 passing yards through the air. The special teams also made some big plays including a blocked punt that set up another Lakeshore touchdown. All three factors played a part in Lakeshore’s 42-0 shutout victory over Pearl River. In the Titans’ second round playoff game, they had to face a Tioga team that had a breakout season just like Lakeshore when they went on a playoff run last season. The Titans had a great game from their senior quarterback as Penton threw for over 200 yards, but he made the most impact running the football as he ran for three touchdowns. The Titan defense showed up again this week as they forced five Tioga turnovers to get the 40-19 victory. In the third round of the playoffs, the Titans were trying to keep their dream season going against the Neville Tigers, which have been one of the most dominant 4A programs over the season. Now only did the Titans pull off the win, but they defeated the Tigers like not a lot of teams have. Penton threw for 349 yards and four touchdowns while RB Maximus Lowery ran for 117 yards and four more touchdowns. The offense racked up over 500 total yards of offense while the defensive front too much pressure on Neville QB Jordan Thomas as DE Tylan Driver had three sacks. The Titans were able to make a big statement by defeating a Neville football program that has had 12 state championships 55-24. This is a hot Lakeshore team that is having the best season in the history of the school. Now, they will have to face a team that is on a hot streak of their own in the Rayne Wolves. The Rayne Wolves, led by Curt Ware, are one of the hottest teams in the state right now heading into the playoffs and have one of the best running games in the state led by two of the most underrated recruits in the state in Trent Winbush and Darien Harmon. Both players put on a show against the Helen Cox Cougars in their 57-21 first round victory. The Rayne rushing attack racked up almost 500 rushing yards. When the rushing attack is going, there is no need to pass the ball as Rayne attempted only two passes the entire game. Harmon ran for 226 yards and four touchdowns on 17 carries while Winbush ran for 217 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries. In Rayne’s second round game, they had to play against a Leesville team, led by Robert Causey, that is having their best season since 2008 when Michael Ford (LSU) was running the football for the Wampus Cats. However, the Wolves have had their way against the Wampus Cats in the regular season giving Leesville their only loss was against Rayne in a 28-18 game. This time, it was much as the same as Leesville could not stop the Wing-T as well as the rushing duo of Winbush and Harmon, who combined for 252 yards and two touchdowns. In their quarterfinal matchup against Cecilia, the Wolves did not just rely on the run but they went through the air from time to time as QB Darrian Richard only completed four passes with three of those completions going for touchdowns. Winbush still had himself a big game on the ground as he ran for almost 200 yards to keep the Bulldogs defense really on their heels. The Bulldogs did fight and at one time, tied the game but two unanswered touchdowns scored by the Wolves pulled them away from the Bulldogs as Rayne moves on to the semifinals with a 35-21 victory. This semifinal matchup is a surprising one compared to the Warren Easton-Edna Karr game as both teams are pretty new in being in this position. This game could come down to which team handles the bright lights better.
Lee’s Take: “I have seen both teams play. I don’t know how many people have seen both Lakeshore and Rayne play, but Lakeshore and Rayne are pretty much identical. Both teams have been overachieving. Both teams are like hornets because these two teams don’t have a lot of DI players. Trent Winbush is a great player for Rayne, but Lakeshore has a great defensive line. I am actually shocked how good Lakeshore’s defense really is. They really caused Neville a lot of trouble. I was at the Neville-Lakeshore game and I can tell you that Neville is really talented, but Lakeshore’s defensive line, led by Tylan Driver, dominated that game. Tylan Driver is 6-2, 290 and I am surprised that LSU has not offered him yet because he is the real deal. He may be one of those guys that have to show it off in the Superdome to prove it. I think Lakeshore will win the football game because they have more athletes than Rayne. Winbush and Harmon will get their yards, but it will be a low scoring game because both defenses are really good. However, the difference will be Lakeshore’s athletes and their depth.”
Jace’s Final Thoughts: In years’ past, everybody would know who would be going to play in the Superdome. Those teams would be Edna Karr and Neville. Well, we might see Edna Karr in the Dome again, but it is not going to be against Neville. I think Edna Karr will get to the Dome and will play one of the best stories of the entire season in Lakeshore, who is still undefeated. This is a team that everybody is sleeping on. They have a great senior quarterback in Chris Penton as well as great skill players and a great defensive line led by one of the most underrated recruits in the state in Tylan Driver. This team plays really well together and I just feel that this is their year. We will see if we will get an Edna Karr-Lakeshore matchup or if it will go the other way around.
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