Kinder’s climb: Many stands in Kinder’s way

Warren Arceneaux

The road to the dome, which this year doesn’t even end at the dome, has been about as difficult as possible for the Kinder Yellow Jackets in their pursuit of their third Class 2A state championship since 2013.

The last step in the quest will be one of the most difficult when the Yellow Jackets (9-2) take on top-seeded Many (12-0), which finished as state runner-up a year ago and returns many of the top players from that team.

The teams will play for the state title at 1 p.m. today at Northwestern State’s Turpin Stadium in Natchitoches, the fill-in location for the Prep Classic this year after COVID-19 restrictions in New Orleans prevented the event from being played at the Superdome.

Getting to this point has been no piece of cake for the Jackets. In addition to the off-field struggles caused by hurricanes and the pandemic, Kinder had to take the hard route on the field, winning its last three games by seven points or fewer, including a double-overtime win at No. 3 seed Loreauville and a 19-13 semifinal win at Mangham last week.

Many, which Kinder played in the championship game in 2013 and ’14, awaits in the season finale. Kinder won the 2013 title, Many won in 2014. Kinder returned to the title game in 2015, beating Mangham, but hasn’t returned since.

The Jackets lost starting running back Ty Fuselier to injury before the season opener, then lost 10-7 to St. Louis in Week 1, sparking changes to get the offense going.

“We already had in mind what we had to do, move some people around, tweak what we were doing,” said Kinder head coach Bret Fuselier. “Once we got past those first three tough games to start the season, we knew where we stood and started to get better every week. We probably didn’t hit our stride until the Delcambre game (in the opening round of the playoffs).”

Fuselier said the new offensive line, which returned one starter from last year, took a while to get going.

“We had some major issues there to start the season and our quarterback play has improved as the year has gone along,” he said. “We have been pretty good banging it out and running the ball, but now when we need big plays from the passing game, our kids can step up and make those.

“We have been playing the best ball of year lately on the defensive side, which is saying something because we were pretty good from the get-go. We are making the opponent beat us with something they don’t want to do.”

Many maks no secret about what it wants to do: pound opponents on the ground with running backs Terence Williams and London Williams, each of whom has run for more than 1,000 yards. Quarterback Zequarrius Rhone is a Louisiana-Monroe signee who can run or pass. Terrence Williams is a two-time first-team all-state selection who has offers from ULM, Louisiana Tech and Louisiana-Lafayette.

“They are all home run hitters,” Fuselier said of the Many backfield. “They can score from anywhere on the field. They are a typical Many team — real physical, athletic. Then on defense they are really fast and aggressive, especially their free safety, (Tackett) Curtis. They are a tough team, they are in the championship for a reason.”Kinder is 9-2 and playing in its fourth state championship game in eight years. The Yellow Jackets are allowing 11.2 points per game. They have recorded two shutouts, including one in the opening round of the playoffs.

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