Road to the Dome: LHSAA Division IV First Round Preview
by Jace LeJeune, Cameron Cerniglia, and Lee Brecheen
Finally, the best time of the Louisiana High School Football season is here and that is playoff time! 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 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. For the second 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 6th-8th. 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 private division playoff bracket, which is Division IV.
#1 Southern Lab (9-1) vs. #16 St. Mary’s (3-7)
Jace’s Game Preview: After being ruled ineligible to compete for a state championship last season, you know that the Southern Lab Kittens, led by Head Coach Darrell Asberry, are looking for something to prove. That is exactly what the Kittens did this year. Do not let the team mascot name fool you. The Kittens are just as big, fast, strong, and athletic as any football team in Louisiana regardless of classification. Back when the Redemptorist Wolves had the great combination of offensive lineman La’el Collins (LSU/Dallas Cowboys) and running back Jeremy Hill (LSU/Cincinnati Bengals/New England Patriots), the Kittens may have one combination that may be even better in LSU commits Kardell Thomas and Tyrion Davis. The Kittens will lean on the rushing attack of Davis, who has ran for 1,787 yards and 22 touchdowns this season. When Davis is not touching the football his counterpart Charvis Thornton has proved that he can be just as explosive. If it was not for Davis, he could start on any other high school team. Besides Thomas, the whole offensive line is huge and physical featuring Jaquise Wallace and Marquillis Chambers. Just like the offensive line, the defensive line is a strength of the team as it features DT Tyshawn Howard, DE/TE Tyler Guidry, and DT/FB Christopher Welch. In the secondary, Kendarias Moses has proved to be one of the best defensive backs in the state. The only potential weakness for the Kittens is the passing game just because they have not relied on it much due to their strong running back. If the Kittens can get the passing game going with QB Travon Myles and explosive WR Reginald Johnson, this team could be unstoppable. The St. Mary Tigers, led by first year Head Coach Aaron York, are not to be overlooked. They are a well coached football team led by a very underrated senior quarterback in Parker Bankston. This may be a young team overall, but they are very talented and will be built for future years to come.
Lee’s Pick: “Southern Lab is going to win this game. They just have too much for St. Mary’s to handle.”
#8 Central Catholic (5-4) vs. #9 Ouachita Christian (7-3)
Jace’s Game Preview: This is one of the best matchups of the first round in Division IV featuring two great head coaches in Central Catholic’s Tommy Minton and Ouachita Christian’s Steven Fitzhugh as well as two great programs. The Central Catholic Eagles return one of the best athletes in the area in DeDe Gant. He is a big time athlete that can play all over the field and has made life easier after the departure of RB Chris Singleton last year. In fact Grant is so popular, he was actually elected homecoming king of his school. Not only Grant’s playmaking has been impressive, but so has been the offensive and defensive fronts as both units average 270 pounds. The Ouachita Christian Eagles have been pretty fun to watch especially offensively. The Eagles actually scored 30 points or more in eight of their ten games this year. The team has great athletes including his son Will Fitzhugh, who set single game records this year with 427 all purpose yards and seven touchdowns, QB Turner Carr, who is built like a linebacker at 6-1, 210 pounds, WR Gavin Shepherd, and former QB Ty Pankey. The Eagles are also not too shabby up front with the offensive line averaging around 240 pounds led by senior OG Cole Hathaway.
Lee’s Pick: “Central Catholic is going to win this game. I think they have more skill guys and that is going to make the difference.”
#5 Opelousas Catholic (7-2) vs. #12 Covenant Christian (7-2)
Jace’s Game Preview: As a number five seed, Opelousas Catholic got a bad draw facing against a very good Covenant Christian football team. Still, the Vikings of Opelousas Catholic are entering the playoffs with a lot of momentum after winning the 5-1A district championship under Head Coach Thomas David. The Vikings’ offense features QB Zack Mengarelli, who may not be the biggest guy at 5-8, 165 pounds, but he gets it done with his leadership, toughness, speed, and athletic ability. However, he does have big targets to throw the football too in TE Adam Purser, who is one of the best pass catching tight ends in the state, and WR Devin Thierry, who is a big bodied play maker at over 200 pounds with the ball in his hands. Both lines are good as well. The offensive line is led by center Remy Bergeron and the defensive line is led by James Monroe. The Covenant Christian Lions, led by Head Coach Randy Boquet, are more than capable of pulling the upset. The Lions have one of the best players in their district in Anthony Ruffin. As a RB/DB, Ruffin can do a lot of good things. Other key players for the Lions are OT/DE Collin Davis, FB/LB Channing Holloway, RB/LB Austin Champagne, OL/DL Zavion Short, RB/DB Caleb Wilson, QB Nicholas Lagendryke, WR Aaron McCoy, and NG DeAndre Williams.
Lee’s Pick: “Opelousas Catholic is going to win this game, but Covenant Christian will give them a fight.”
#4 Lafayette Christian Academy Knights (10-0) vs. #13 Houma Christian Warriors (5-4)
Jace’s Game Preview: It is hard to imagine the defending Division IV state champions and undefeated Lafayette Christian Academy Knights to only become the number four seed, but it happens. Even though the team is a number four seed, you can make the argument that they are the best team in the bracket. The team has great players and is well coached by former LSU Tiger Trev Faulk. What starts and ends for this football team is senior QB Zachary Clement. Clement is one of the best senior quarterbacks in the state and has offers from in state programs such as Nicholls State and Northwestern State. They are as explosive as they come as they have scored at least 48 points in every game. What has been just as impressive has been their defense as the unit has given up only 21 points the entire season and all of it came in one game against Vermilion Catholic. LB Martin Lee III is a tackling machine and one of the best at his position. SS Ca’lib Watts is the leader of the secondary and is most remembered for his game winning interception return for a touchdown in the Superdome. The Knights may be looking ahead to a possible grudge match against the Southern Lab Kittens in the semis, but they have to worry about the Houma Christian Warriors first under the leadership of Head Coach Charles Battaglia. A player that should be getting more attention than he deserves is LB Zachariah Trujillo. At only 5-8, 200 pounds, his size does not intimidate you, but he gets after you and makes plays all over the football field. In fact, he has almost 400 tackles in his career and close to 1,000 yards rushing as a running back. On offense, senior QB Brandt Roger also returns as well as veteran OL Jeremy Bardarson and WR Jecorie Ward.
Lee’s Pick: “It’s going to be a fight, but Lafayette Christian is going to win.”
#3 Vermilion Catholic (9-1) vs. #14 Cedar Creek (4-6)
Cameron’s Game Preview: The Vermilion Catholic Eagles and first year head coach Kevin Fouquier had a tough task heading into the season after QB J.T. Lege graduated. Coach Fouquier had 13 guys returning heading into 2018 and they have been big for him in his first season at the helm. Cedar Creek also has a first year head coach in Shannon Brown. His first season has not been as successful as Coach Fouquier’s, but they have the opportunity to gain more experience by making it to the playoffs.
Lee’s Pick: “I am going with the upset here. I have Cedar Creek getting the win.”
#6 St. Frederick (8-2) vs. #11 Sacred Heart (7-3)
Cameron’s Game Preview: Veteran Head Coach Andy Robinson has had a successful first season at St. Frederick. He has some talent on the team and that shows with their 8-2 record. Sacred Heart has been a tough opponent for every team they have faced under Coach Josh Harper. The Trojans are a team that always gives their all and they will for sure do that against St. Frederick and make this a great game.
Lee’s Pick: “I am going to go with another upset here. I think Sacred Heart has got a lot of skill players and that will make the difference in this game.”
#7 St. Edmund (9-1) vs. #10 Catholic-P.C. (7-2)
Cameron’s Game Preview: The St. Edmund Blue Jays have had two successful seasons under Head Coach Andrew Hargroder. The Blue Jays finished 10-2 in his first season and 9-1 this season. One of the key returners was QB Brad Miller. He will be key for the Blue Jays to make a run this postseason. The Catholic-P.C Hornets have been able to score this season under Coach David Simoneaux. They only lost three starters after the 2017 season. They are big in the trenches and will be a challenge for St. Edmund.
Lee’s Pick: “I think Catholic Pointe Coupee is going to win this game. They are a very underrated football team.”
#2 Ascension Catholic (9-1) vs. #15 Hanson Memorial (3-7)
Cameron’s Game Preview: The Ascension Catholic Bulldogs are going into the playoffs having lost only one game to #1 seed Southern Lab. Coach Drey Trosclair has most of the team back that made it to the state title game in 2017. That experience will make them a tough opponent throughout the playoffs. Hanson Memorial and Coach Chris Sanders has had a tough season as expected because they lost ten starters off of the 2017 season and do not have the depth. Coach Sanders will have his team ready to play and they will not lie down against Ascension Catholic.
Lee’s Pick: “I like what Hanson Memorial is doing, but it is going to be all Ascension Catholic in this one. They will be too much for them to handle.”
Jace’s Final Thoughts: “Everybody is looking ahead to the semis where there may be a possible Lafayette Christian/Southern Lab matchup and also a potential matchup in the Dome between the winner of that game and Ascension Catholic. What I like most about this division is that it is not nearly as one sided as years past. Lafayette Christian Academy and Ascension Catholic are more than capable of beating Southern Lab and teams such as Opelousas Catholic, Catholic Pointe Coupee, Vermilion Catholic, and others can make this really interesting.”
Cameron’s Final Thoughts: “This bracket features a ton of talent throughout. However, the best game may be in the semifinals.”
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