Last Modified: Friday, November 29, 2013 2:13 PM
Thirteen weeks ago, when the high school football season began, there 291 teams competing.
Today there are 60 teams across nine playoff brackets, and seven of those schools represent Southwest Louisiana in the hunt to bring home the area’s first state championship in 14 years.
Tonight’s action will feature a pair of crucial rematches, one from seven weeks ago and one from a year ago.
The Barbe Bucs (10-2) saw the first blemish on their record occur on Oct. 4 to District 3-5A rival Acadiana (11-1). The two square off once more, this time with Barbe holding what could be the determining factor — home-field advantage. The Bucs picked up the home-field advantage thanks to their 42-14 win in Hahnville last week.
“I think we played extremely well on both sides of the ball last week,” said Barbe head coach Mike Cutrera. “We had some turnovers early, but the defense came up and made some big stops and our offense fed off of that. I was just very pleased with the way we played.”
The first meeting saw the Rams clinging to a 35-33 lead as the Bucs made a last-ditch effort at victory. That effort was halted when a potential winning field goal was blocked as time expired.
In order to advance to the Class 5A state semifinals for the second consecutive year, the Bucs will be looking to do what they do best — light up the scoreboard. While 33 points is a respectable amount, the Rams also boast a potent offense behind De’Edward Cormier and running backs Elijah Ledet and Edward Cormier.
“They have had the same type of offensive (veer) philosophy for years,” said Cutrera. “Their offensive line comes off the ball really well, their backs run very hard and the quarterback does a good job of running the offense.”
In Basile, the Bearcats (11-0) will look to avenge last year’s quarterfinal loss to the Kentwood Kangaroos (8-2).
“We know what to expect this year,” Bertrand said. “We know how fast Kentwood is and they have been doing a lot of the same things they have been doing for years. Hopefully we can come out and play good defense and run the ball effectively to slow the game down.”
The Bearcats are fresh off of a 42-8 regional-round victory over Plain Dealing. It was a victory that saw the Lions force a deadlock early before the Bearcats flexed their muscle to put the game away.
For Basile, home-field advantage is always a factor with its large fan base, but Bertrand said he finds it more important that his team can prepare in comfort on game day.
“We love playing at home,” Bertrand said. “Even going a few miles down the road you don’t get to have your regular routine and don’t have the comfort of preparing in your own field house and playing in your home stadium.”
In Class 4A action the DeRidder Dragons (11-1) will look to keep their 11-game win streak alive as they travel to Monroe to meet No. 1 Neville.
The Jennings Bulldogs (9-3) are in the state quarterfinals for the third consecutive season and will be looking to break through to the next round when they hit the road to face the Patterson Lumberjacks (10-2).
The Lumberjacks are known for their fast-paced spread offense. It will be up to defensive back Malik Williams and the Bulldogs’ stop unit to slow them down.
“I think us and Patterson are both going to come out and do the same things that have gotten us each to this point in the year,” said Jennings head coach Rusty Phelps. “They run a good spread offense, their quarterback does a good job getting the ball out quickly and he has some very good receivers with good hands and are very fast.
“Defensively they apply a lot of pressure and play man coverage, which is something we haven’t seen a lot of this year so we are going to have to be really patient and make adjustments as we go.”
Jennings showed it is capable of shutting down speedy offenses last week when the Bulldogs shut down the Westlake Rams for the second time in three weeks.
“I think anytime that you have to play someone twice in such a short time frame there’s not much that you can change, and I think our kids did a really good job of coming out and executing again in every phase of the game,” Phelps said.
In Class 2A, three of the remaining eight teams hail from Southwest Louisiana, one of those being the Cinderella-story Vinton Lions.
The Lions (10-2) are fresh off a 41-14 route of Rosepine.
“That was a really big win,” said Vinton head coach Tarius Davis. “Rosepine is a team we are familiar with and we knew they had a good team and coaching staff. That helped build more on the confidence that our team has been playing with.”
The Lions will once again don the underdog moniker as they travel to face Winnfield (10-2).
“We know we are going on the road to play a really good football team who does a very good job defensively,” Davis said. “They also have playmakers on offense, and they are the No. 2 seed for a reason. We give them all the respect we can, but we know that we have to be better than them for just 48 minutes on Friday night. It won’t be easy, but we will do the same thing we have done every other time we were the underdog.”
The winner will face the St. James-Kinder winner in the semifinals.
Kinder (11-1) is hosting St. James (6-6) and will look to avoid being the third consecutive upset for the Wildcats, who knocked off Lake Arthur and Sterlington in the first two rounds.
For Welsh (10-2,) a trip to Loreauville (11-1) is a make-or-break game.