New and old faces reach semis
Published 4:30 pm Tuesday, December 15, 2020
Friday had to be among the wackiest days in local high school football history, with Lake Charles College Prep, Kinder and Grand Lake all winning road games — with the Blazers and Yellow Jackets adding to both the degree of difficulty and drama by winning in overtime and double overtime, respectively — while the area’s lone home team, undefeated and top Class 3A seed Jennings, lost to Madison Prep.
No shame in that for the Bulldogs. Playoff seedings are always of dubious accuracy based on factors such as strength of schedule and opponents results that are partially, if at all, in the control of each team. This year they provided even less accuracy due to shorter schedules, games canceled due to Hurricanes Laura and Delta as well as teams choosing to sit the season out.
The Chargers certainly didn’t look like a ninth seed, with massive linemen on both sides of the ball and a deep crop of skill position players led by two-way standout Tyrell Raby, who set up one touchdown with a great diving catch and scored another on a crucial fourth-and-goal play.
Kinder has become a mainstay in the later stages of the playoffs ever since the private/public schools split went into effect in 2013. The Yellow Jackets reached the first three state championship games after the split, winning twice, and have won at least one playoff game every year since the split. Kinder has made at least the quarterfinal round every season but one (2018, when they lost to Franklin in the regional round.
The other two of this year’s semifinalists are the area’s two newest programs in Lake Charles College Prep and Grand Lake (or newest-ish in Grand Lake’s case, since the Hornets played decades ago before the program was restarted).
Both programs had to overcome growing pains. At Grand Lake, that included several coaching changes that produced uneven results as two of the first three head coaches at the school lasted only one season. The other, Chad Lavergne, led the Hornets to the playoffs each year from 2015-17 before departing for St. Louis.
Cameron Parish native Jeff Wainwright has brought stability back to the program over the past two years, with the school earning its first playoff win last season, when the Hornets went 7-5.
After losing a good senior class, the Hornets remade themselves on the field, unleashing an unexpected star in senior Eli Fountain, who had been best known for helping lead the Hornets to the state semifinals in basketball last season. In his first season of varsity football, Fountain has emerged as a playmaker who can affect a game playing quarterback, receiver, defensive back or as a kick returner. During the stretch run, Fountain has been deployed as a workhorse running back who can also provide big plays.
The Hornets defense has been spectacular in the playoffs, allowing only six points in each of its last three games, including playoff wins over Delhi and Centerville. Now the Hornets get a shot at revenge, as they travel to face East Iberville, which knocked them out of last year’s playoffs in the regional round.
College Prep has had its ups-and-downs, starting with a winless season in 2015 while playing with only underclassmen. The second year produced a playoff win, followed by another down season in 2017 after moving up two classes from 1A to 3A.
Since then, the Blazers have been on solid footing, compiling a 28-6 record over the past three seasons and reaching the quarterfinal round in 2018 before losing at Kaplan.
The Blazers have won at least one postseson game each season they have reached the playoffs.
Last week the Blazers cleared another hurdle, winning on the road in the postseason for the first time.
The undefeated Blazers boast the deepest group of skill players in the area, but this season’s rise has been due to improvement on the defensive side of the ball. In the regular season, the Blazers allowed 15 points per game, a dramatic improvement over last season, when a young and smallish defensive unit allowed 32 points per game on the season.
Warren Arceneaux covers prep sports. Email him at