(Kirk Meche / Special to the American Press)
(Rick Hickman / Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Tuesday, November 05, 2013 9:24 PM
On Friday night the LaGrange Gators and Washington Marion Charging Indians will meet for the third consecutive season with district title implications and crucial playoff positioning on the line.
And for the third straight year there will be more than that on the line. Ever since joining the same district in 2011 the two schools have seen their annual Week 10 battle blossom into a crosstown rivalry, making it a big event for the community.
The Gators (4-5, 4-1) are riding one of the area’s hottest streaks having won four in a row after starting the season 0-5. Last week they clinched a share of the District 4-4A championship with a 36-0 win over Opelousas, making it three years straight that they have accomplished the feat. A win over the Indians would give them the district championship outright, as well as possibly propel them to a first-round home playoff game. They sit at No. 19 in the Class 4A state power rankings.
“A win would be an extreme confidence builder,” said LaGrange head coach Jules Sullen. “This summer, when we set our goals, one of them was to win the district outright, and being able to be at least co-champs three years in a row speaks volumes for our program.”
For the Indians (5-4, 3-2) a first-round home playoff game may be slightly out of reach as they sit at No. 23 in the power rankings (the top 16 of 32 teams receive first-round home playoff games), but the chance to win a share of the district championship and improve their playoff seeding is an enticing motive for victory. A W-M win could potentially force a five-team tie for the district title between themselves, LaGrange, Crowley, Rayne and Eunice.
“This is a good opportunity for us. It was one of our goals to put ourselves in this situation and be where we are today,” said W-M head coach Freddie Harrison. “We have a lot of respect for LaGrange, as well as coach Sullen and his staff, and we are expecting a hard-fought football game.”
Both the Gators and the Indians possess offenses capable of lighting up the scoreboard, but each prefer to do it in their own way.
LaGrange will likely continue to utilize its effective two-back rotation of Markell Hawthorne and Tyler Guillory to wreak havoc on the ground. Guillory, a senior, plays the role of the power runner while Hawthorne, a sophomore, is used in more of an all-purpose role.
“Both of those guys have been playing very well, and that is a testament to how well our offensive line has been playing,” Sullen said. “I think if they can stay within their realm and focused they can be just as productive as they have been in past weeks.”
W-M will face a tough task in stopping the duo, but it is a task that Harrison said his team is capable of handling.
“Our defense has to bend, not break,” Harrison said. “We have to make sure that we don’t miss tackles and handle our responsibilities. Everyone knows that (Tyler Guillory) runs very hard and Markell Hawthorne has had some big games so we have to make sure we corral them and execute our game plan.”
The Indians’ offense is known primarily for its blazing speed in the passing game with junior quarterback Quajae Boutte and senior wide receiver Demond Delahoussaye producing big numbers. The connection between the two will be a tough one to stop for the Gators’ defense.
“(Boutte and Delahoussaye) are both phenomenal athletes, and coach Harrison has done a great job with them,” Sullen said. “We have to make sure we know where Delahoussaye is at all times. We know that he is one of the better receivers in the state and he is going to get his touches, but we have to make sure he doesn’t get behind us for the long ball.”
Leading the way for LaGrange in its effort to shut down Boutte and Delahoussaye will be cornerbacks Markel Thomas and Deonte Goodley who have proven to be two of the best defensive backs in the district.
“We have to make sure that we protect our quarterback, establish the run game and make sure that we catch the football,” Harrison said. “Our main focus every week is to keep the ball and chains moving. LaGrange has a pair of really good cornerbacks in Goodley and Thomas, and our kids understand that they are facing good competition and know they have to perform at a high level.”
The game will kickoff at 7 p.m. Friday at W-M’s Robert Lavergne Memorial Stadium.