Winding road to the Superdome

Warren Arceneaux

The postseason of the weirdest, most difficult high school football season I can remember started off in a fittingly bizarre manner when Lake Charles College Prep received a forfeit win just hours after playoff pairings were announced when Caldwell Parish had to withdraw due to COVID-19 protocols.

The sudden withdrawal just reinforced how the pandemic is the biggest opponent any of the opposing schools will have to face over the next five weeks. Even making it to the Superdome for the championship games could come with a sense of deflation since those games may be played in an empty stadium due to restrictions on large gatherings in the city of New Orleans.

Since the select/non-select split, Southwest Louisiana has been on a roll, getting a team to the Superdome every year but one, 2016. This year the best bet to keep the trend intact will come in Class 3A, where District 4-3A basically has it own quadrant. South Beauregard and Iowa will meet this week, with the winner advancing to face Prep, which won regular season meetings against both teams. Further down the line, Prep and top seed Jennings could meet in the Superdome.

The regular season meeting between the two undefeated teams, which would have been one of the biggest large schools game between area teams in several years, was canceled. Now we have an opportunity to have a battle of the unbeatens with a championship on the line.

But getting to that point won’t be easy. Last week South Beauregard led Prep at halftime, and Iowa controlled the first quarter against the Blazers two weeks ago. Prep also may have to deal with a little rust when they take the field next week.

Last year Jennings survived a trio of one-point thrillers to reach the championship round. This year’s team hasn’t needed many theatrics, winning by an average of 20 points per game this season behind the dynamic duo of Jalen Lewis and Trevor Etienne, who have combined for 1,589 rushing yards and 26 TDs in six games. A pair of potential roadblocks exist for the Bulldogs in the early rounds. Round two could present a trip to historical power Lutcher, and the quarterfinal round would likely be a game against No. 8 Madison Prep or No. 9 Donaldsonville, a pair of two-loss teams with good defenses.

Elsewhere, another potential all-area battle looms in Class 1A, where No. 3 Grand Lake and No. 6 Oberlin are on track to meet in the quarterfinal round if seeds hold. The Tigers beat the Hornets 28-14 in Week 4 of the regular season. The Hornets earned a first round bye via their high seed, but after not playing the final two weeks of the regular season, having a game this week may have been preferable.

Oberlin, coming off a Week 10 loss to Basile, also gets a bye this week. After losing 16 seniors from last year’s semifinal team, the Tigers had another strong season, winning five straight games after an opening week loss to Oakdale before stumbling against the Bearcats.

Basile played only three times in the first six weeks, but have won two straight while scoring 42 points in each game since returning from a two-week quarantine. The Bearcats have been one of the area’s most consistent postseason performers, reaching the quarterfinals in seven of the past eight seasons. Last year they won a playoff game at state power Haynesville, a feat they would have to repeat in the second round this season.

In Class 4A, the pairings were not kind to DeRidder and Leesville. The Dragons managed to get the last home game as the number 16 seed and will host explosive Lakeshore in the first round. Should they win, a trip to top seed Carencro most likely awaits in the second round.

Leesville received a tough break drawing Northwood-Shreveport in the opening round. Northwood’s seed is artificially low after the school had to forfeit a pair of games for using an ineligible player. The Falcons were unbeaten on the field in the regular season. At least Leesville gets to play at home in the Wampadome.

Kinder is the top-seeded area team in Class 2A at No. 6 and is in a pretty good spot to avoid any long trips until the semifinal round, with a quarterfinal game against Loreauville and semifinal game at Mangham looming if seeds hold.

Warren Arceneaux covers prep sports. Email him at warceneaux@americanpress.comBasile’s Bryson McCoy and Ethan Langley tackle Oberlin’s James Robinson.

Rodrick Anderson/American Press

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