Road to the Dome: LHSAA Division IV First Round Preview
by Jace LeJeune and Lee Brecheen
This week starts arguably the best time of the year for Louisiana High School Football as even though the regular season has ended, a new season has arrived and that is the playoffs. 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 and 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. 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 private division in Division IV.
Division IV: (Note: All higher seeds hosts playoff game at home)
#1 Vermilion Catholic Eagles (8-2) vs. #16 St. Martin’s Episcopal Saints (3-7)
Game Preview: First year Vermilion Catholic Head Coach Brady Thomas has helped put the Eagles firmly on the map this season with a number one seed in the Division IV playoffs and are one of the favorites in the Division IV bracket. It is incredible that not only the Eagles have clinched the number one seed with a new head coach, but they also did it while losing their star senior quarterback J.T. Lege for four weeks. This is a team that can throw the football, make plays in the passing game, and could put many points on the board. For the St. Martin Episcopal Saints, they are led by first year head coach John McDonell, who led the Saints to a 3-7 season. This is a team that has the passing attack also as a strength as they are led by playmaker John Hurley, who is one of the most productive receivers in the state the past couple of seasons.
Lee’s Take: “This could be a really high scoring game and could be a game where St. Martin’s Episcopal could upset Vermilion Catholic even though the Eagles are the number one seed.”
#2 Cedar Creek Cougars (9-1) vs. #15 Hanson Memorial Tigers (3-7)
Game Preview: The Cedar Creek Cougars just get better and better every year under the direction of Head Coach Ben Haddox. The Cougars had a great regular season going 9-1 and finishing second in district behind 1A powerhouse Oak Grove. The Cougars are led by one of the best running attacks in the state in QB Jace Moss, RB Tripp Marcus, and RB Parker King to go along with a really good defense led by LB Eli Brown, DE Ben Slusher, and others to make up a very balanced football team. The Hanson Memorial Tigers are a really young football team that will compete and leave it all out on the football field.
Lee’s Take: “Hanson Memorial drew a really tough matchup here with Cedar Creek. The Cougars can make a run. I don’t know if they will get to the Dome, but they will make a run at it. It will be tough for Hanson Memorial because Cedar Creek is one of the best teams in this bracket.”
#3 St. Edmund Blue Jays (9-1) vs. 14 St. Frederick Warriors (4-6)
Game Preview: The St. Edmund Blue Jays, led by Coach Andrew Hargroder, enter the postseason with a school record nine regular season wins and the District 4-1A championship. A key part to the Blue Jays’ success has been the running attack as the team has had two 1,000 rushers for the first time in program history with QB Brad Miller and RB Luke Doucet. The defense is also led by linebackers Murphy Richard, Austin Miller, and Brock Bieber as this is a unit that has not given up over 27 points in one game this season. The St. Frederick Warriors may have had an up and down season this year, but they have played some tough competition including Mangham, Cedar Creek, Loyola College Prep, Oak Grove, and Ouachita Christian. This team has great players including an All-State caliber linebacker in Weston Swanner and plenty of other great players. Keep in mind, this was a team that upset St. Mary’s in last year’s playoffs.
Lee’s Take: “This game could go either way. I think St. Frederick has played a tougher schedule and that tough schedule could give the Warriors an advantage in this game.”
#4 Lafayette Christian Knights (9-1) vs. #13 Covenant Christian Lions (6-3)
Game Preview: The Lafayette Christian Knights were on a tear at the beginning of the season led by former LSU linebacker Trev Faulk as their head coach as the Knights outscored their first seven opponents 349-39. However, in the district championship matchup against Vermilion Catholic, star quarterback Zachary Clement suffered a season ending injury in that game which helped Vermilion Catholic clinch the division and the number one seed. Even though the Knights lost their star playmaking quarterback, the Knights still have a lot of weapons at their arsenal. The Covenant Christian Lions, under Randy Boquet, may feel like they have been overlooked as the team had a 6-3 season with their only losses to Ascension Catholic, Varnado, and West St. John, who are all high seeds. The Lions could be one of those Cinderella teams that can make a run as they have an exciting offensive playmaker in RB Devante Johnson to go along with a solid group of players.
Lee’s Take: “I think Lafayette Christian is very talented and has a chance to go all the way. I think they are really underrated and probably the most underrated team in this classification. I think they will go by Covenant Christian in the first round.”
#5 Catholic-Point Coupee Hornets (9-1) vs. #12 Central Catholic Eagles (5-5)
Game Preview: The Catholic-Point Coupee Hornets, under David Simoneaux, are having one of their best seasons in recent memory with a 9-1 regular season record and a District 5-1A championship. The Hornets are led by the dynamic duo of QB Nathan Carriere and FB Gared Beauvais on offense. Beauvais has had over 16 rushing touchdowns this season. The Hornets also have a strong defense led by Hunter Fuselier. The Central Catholic Eagles have one of the most underrated head coaches around in Tommy Minton, who won two state championships at Patterson High School. His teams are constantly in the conversation of making playoff runs. Don’t let the record fool you as this is a team that has gotten better over the course of the season and has a tough underrated running back in Chris Singleton running the football.
Lee’s Take: “This is another game that could go either way. I think it’s even. This is a Catholic Point Coupee team that could make some noise as the team is mostly led by seniors. A guy that is a major sleeper in that bracket is Nathan Carriere, who is very underrated. Central Catholic could beat them, but I think the difference could be Carriere’s playmaking ability in this game.”
#6 Ascension Catholic Bulldogs (8-2) vs. #11 Houma Christian Warriors (7-3)
Game Preview: The Ascension Catholic Bulldogs, under the direction of Drey Trosclair, have one of their most talented teams over the past 30 years and that is saying a lot. The Bulldogs have a great one-two punch at running back between Jamar Barber and Jai Williams, who both combine for 2,080 yards rushing and 24 touchdowns. The Houma Christian Warriors, under Charles Battaglia, may not have the most athletic team or deep team, but this team knows how to compete and win close football games. Leaders like LB Zac Trujilo, and WR Je’Corie Ward have played important parts this season.
Lee’s Take: “The Ascension Catholic Bulldogs are another team with a great chance to play in the Superdome. I don’t think that they are a sleeper team. They might be a sleeper team to the rest of the public, but not for me. No offense to Houma Christian, who has had an outstanding team and an outstanding year, but the Bulldogs have too much talent as this is their most talented team in 30 years.”
#7 Opelousas Catholic Vikings (7-2) vs. #10 St. Mary’s Tigers (8-2)
Game Preview: The Opelousas Catholic Vikings, under first year head coach Thomas David, have had a great season even though the team fell short of a district championship with a loss against Catholic-Point Coupee. The Vikings are a veteran team with 13 returning starters from the year before with the headliners being WR Devin Thierry and TE Adam Purser on offense and LB Ryan Lewis on the defensive side of the football. However, if the Vikings want to go and make a big run, they must go through the St. Mary’s Tigers, led by Corwyn Aldredge. Two major keys that the St. Mary’s Tigers have is that this was a team that made the state championship two years ago and they have one of the best quarterbacks in the entire state in Northwestern State commit Aaron Howell at the helm. This could be one of the best first round matchups that you will see this week regardless of class.
Lee’s Take: “This is the best first round game in the whole Division IV bracket. St. Mary’s has had a tough season because of the teams that they had to face and they are way better than their seed. Opelousas Catholic has a really good football team as well. This is the game to go to if you had to choose in this bracket. This might come down to a field goal or whoever has the ball last. Another guy that I like besides Nathan Carriere from Catholic Point Coupee is St. Mary’s QB Aaron Howell. He is a great quarterback and is a guy that took his team to the state championship in 2015. He could be a difference maker in this game.”
#8 Sacred Heart Trojans (8-2) vs. #9 Ouachita Christian Eagles (7-3)
Game Preview: The Sacred Heart Trojans, under Josh Harper, have adjusted well after moving down from 2A to 1A this season winning eight games. The team’s success had a lot to do with the team’s experienced players as their are 16 returning starters headed into this season. Guys like QB Wesley Launey, RB JT Harper, and others have all played a huge role. The Ouachita Christian Eagles, under Head Coach Steven Fitzhugh, are used to competing for state championships and it should come at a more frequent rate as the team also moved down from 2A to 1A. Like the Trojans, the Eagles may not have a lot of DI recruits, but they are a senior heavy team that competes each and every week.
Lee’s Take: “I think Ouachita Christian can be one of those Cinderella teams that can upset a lot of higher seeds and this could be the case against Sacred Heart this week.”
Lee’s Final Thoughts: “I think that these following teams are the teams that are built to get to the Superdome: Ascension Catholic, St. Mary’s, and Opelousas Catholic. Throw away the seeds and the records. Any of these teams can win in the end.”
Jace’s Final Thoughts: With Southern Lab not being in the Division IV playoffs, this is now one of the most wide open brackets in the state. There are a handful of teams that could be at the Superdome in the end, but we will just have to wait and see as the Road to the Dome begins.
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