The Class 4A playoffs get started this week. Below we take a look at what we think are some of the more intriguing matchups:
Game of the Week:
As the seedings indicate, this game should be one of the most competitive games in the first round of the 4A playoffs. Minden is at home, and is coming off of a very disappointing performance at home against district rival Northwood. Expect the Tide to be fired up in front of the home crowd. Sophomore quarterback Turner Francis ended the season with 2,224 yards on 160 completions. His main target is 6'6" senior receiver Jared Johnson, who finished with 1,130 yards on 69 catches. He is also the Tide's leading scorer with 12 touchdowns. Cortavious Rice had 859 yards on the ground, with eight scores.
St. Louis is led by junior quarterback John Paul Crawford. Crawford averaged only 80 yards passing, but his real contribution is his leadership. Senior receiver Hunter Hodgkins leads the receiving corps with 45 grabs and 622 yards. The Saints rely heavily on the ground game, with dual threats Cameron Victorian (654 yards, 8 TDs) and Caleb Billedeaux (471 yards, 5 TDs) leading the way.
For the Crimson Tide to win, they have to stop the run, but have been lacking in run defense this year. Francis and Johnson must also have a big games. On the other hand, for St. Louis to win, they must stop Johnson, and keep Rice under 100 yards. If the game is close, St. Louis has the edge with their kicking game. Senior kicker Harrison Flynt has nine field goals this year, and is a threat from anywhere inside the 35.
Neville originally thought it would be playing Riverdale, but the LHSAA reversed its decision concerning Lakeshore, forcing Archbishop Shaw of New Orleans into the 32 seed. Coach Mickey McCarty's practice plans may change with this news, but the outcome should be the same.
Neville comes into the first round giving up only 9.7 points per game. Take out the 29 points scored by 5A power Ouachita, and that drops to a measly 7.3 ppg. Linebacker Ricky Wyatt and tackle Lorenzo Lenoir lead the stingy Tiger defense. The Tiger offense is led by dual-threat quarterback John Diarse, who is the leading rusher for the team. Salarrious Jones and Kyron Jones round out the potent Neville backfield.
Perennial power Shaw is having a down year, ending the season at 3-6. Ends Ryan Brown (6'5" 240) and Stephen Gibson (6'4" 240) lead the Eagle defense. Brown has committed to Mississippi State. Senior Quentin Gibson leads the offense at quarterback, with Garrett Shano and Drew Hebert leading the receivers. Running back Ryan Duncan is coming off a 177 yard game against 9-4A rival Helen Cox.
Neville should shine in this game with their strong defense. Shaw doesn't have the playmakers that it had last year, and their point scoring has been sporadic. It shouldn't be close.
Both teams come into this game with identical 6-4 records. Salmen is led by sophomore sensation Chris Thomas, who had a 260 yard, 3 touchdown game against Hammond earlier this year, and ended the season with 1,646 yards. Quarterback Ray Crochet can throw when necessary, but the Spartans live or die with the run.
Broadmoor also relies on their ground game. The Buccaneers are led by junior quarterback Joshua Rogers. Rogers rarely throws, but runs the option well. He is complemented by senior tailback Davante Thomas. The Broadmoor defense is led by linebacker Brian Cook.
This game could be an upset. If Cook has a big game and stops the Salmen ground game, Broadmoor could pull out a win.
St. Augustine is led by leading rusher Leonard Fournette, who is in the top running backs in the state. Fournette has over 1,500 yards rushing. Quarterback Toi Jenkins runs the offense, and his favored receiver is Larry Dace. The Purple Knights average over 37 points per game.
The Cardinals of Belle Chasse mix it up on offense, with quarterback Asphenn Gaines leading the way. His favorite target is senior classmate Farron Jones. Dylan Parker handles most of the running assignments. Belle Chasse is playing under the shadow of an LHSAA investigation into the eligibility of middle linebacker Jonathon Caside, and will be removed from the playoffs if he is found ineligible.
Belle Chasse will not be able to contain Fournette. Expect a huge game from him.
Charging Indians head coach Freddie Harrison has his team on a roll, winning their last four games by an average margin of 28.5 points. The offensive explosion started late in the second half in the district opener against St. Louis, when, trailing 24-0, Harrison inserted standout LB Melvin Jones into the lineup at QB. W-M has been nearly unstoppable since, averaging 42.3 points per game. Plaquemine head coach Bob Howell is familiar with Lake Charles area football, having played and coached at McNeese State. The Green Devils breezed through District 6-4A play until meeting their match with league champ Lutcher a week ago. Plaquemine has a pair of strong runners in Julius Maracalin and Hakeem Deggs.
Bruising FB Noble Johnson leads the Patriots' offensive attack. Coach Barry Sebren's team finished third in District 2-4A and is looking for the first playoff win in Franklin Parish's eight-year history. Coach Eric Held's Warriors sprinted out to a 6-0 start, but lost three of their last four to finish fourth in District 6-4A. RB C.J. Okpalobi has been St. Michael's main offensive weapon since QB Dash Duncan has been out with an injury, though junior Brandon Fields has filled in admirably under center.
The defending 4A champion Demons stumbled in their regular season finale against Lakeshore, dropping a 28-27 decision to the upstart Titans, triggering a controversy that raged into the middle of the week. Head coach Shane Smith lost many of the weapons from Franklinton's back-to-back Superdome trips in 2009-10, but still has plenty of athletes on his roster. Coach Richard Curlin's Gators have been an offensive juggernaut, averaging 42.8 points per game, and losing only to playoff squads East Jefferson and Assumption.
The Eagles will make the short seven-mile trip across town to face the 2010 Class 4A runner-up. The teams were district foes for the last four seasons, but did not meet this year. Coach Jabbar Juluke's club scheduled ambitiously, opening the season with losses against Class 5A's top seed St. Paul and Texas power Arlington Bowie, but the Cougars have run off six straight wins entering the playoffs.
Editor's Note: Other PelicanPreps.com correspondents contributed to this report.