Forget about those deals on big-screen TVs and smartphones that will be obsolete in two years, this Friday will be all about football in Southwest Louisiana for the first time in a while.
Five teams will be playing quarterfinal games, the area’s largest contingent since 1999, when six teams — eventual 2A state champion Iota, Jennings, LaGrange, Sam Houston, Washington-Marion and Welsh all played, with the Broncos knocking off the Charging Indians.
There won’t be any intra-area games this week, but the quintet of teams are an interesting group.
Barbe and Jennings were in the quarterfinals last year and have a history of long playoff runs. Barbe has been ranked among the top five teams in the state all year, deservedly so. The Bucs stormed through a tough regular season schedule with a 9-1 record, picking up wins over ranked teams Acadiana, Carencro and Evangel.
Jennings had more questions coming into the season, but has once again benefitting from the coaching wizardry of Rusty Phelps and a star-making offensive system that has produced another pair of star running backs in Jarquis Brown and Charlie Matte, who has been on a tear since stepping into a starting role midway through the season. The Bulldogs are back on the road this week at No. 5 Livonia, but the Bulldogs have a large following and are familiar with the Wildcats after playing a home-and-home series in 2009-10.
Iowa and LaGrange picked up statement wins this week.
For the Yellow Jackets, the win over North Vermilion put an exclamation point on their turnaround season. After missing the playoffs the past two seasons, Iowa’s pair of playoff wins will give the program some positive momentum. Head coach Sean Richard has proven he is capable of building a championship program with his work in baseball, and this playoff run will put the football program on the same track as the school’s softball and boys basketball programs that have made strides in recent years.
For LaGrange, the wins the past two weeks have ended a decade-long drought and completed the rebuilding that has taken place under Jules Sullen. The Gators have been playoff regulars during Sullen’s tenure, but had not won or hosted a game until this season. The Gators achieved both of those goals with a bi-district win over Franklinton, then followed that with a win at St. Martinville.
The wins should add confidence to an emerging program. Last year the Gators had a shot to be outright district champions but lost a Week 10 showdown at Washington-Marion before going out in the first round of the playoffs.
This year the Gators beat W-M in a crucial Week 10 clash to earn a share of the district title and have continued building momentum. With a host of talented youngsters already playing big roles, there is no reason to expect the Gators to regress much in coming years.
The final quarterfinalist, Basile, has been a steady winner under Tony Bertrand. This year the Bearcats have unleashed a big-time playmaker in Kendrick Ceaser, who ran for 221 yards in Friday’s win over Plain Dealing, putting the Bearcats in the quarterfinals for the first time since 1996, when the Bearcats reached the semis.
Traditional power Kentwood stands in the way of a repeat of that feat, but with a stout defense and a player in Ceaser who can produce touchdowns out of nothing, the Bearcats can’t be counted out, and will be the lone area team with a home-field advantage this week.
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Warren Arceneaux covers high school athletics. Email him at email@example.com