Prep 1A Championship preview: Haynesville vs. Ouachita Christian
Mark Menard Reporting
WWL's Kristian Garic and Allan Waddell have the call at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome as one of the state’s most successful schools ever takes on 1-A’s preeminent football power of the last two years. The top-seeded Ouachita Christian Eagles face the #2 Haynesville Golden Tornado at 4pm Friday.
In this year's 1A State Championship game, a team with almost 90 years of winning tradition will face a squad who, for the last couple of years, has been nothing less than totally unstoppable.
Haynesville High School has 15 state titles in the case, going as far back as 1924 and as recent as 2009. They also hold the distinction of the most playoff appearances of any school in the state in any class with 51 all-time and a streak of 34 straight years of qualifying for the postseason. To put it simply, the Golden Tornado hasn’t missed the playoffs since 1978.
This year’s model of Coach David Franklin’s Tors went 7-2 in the regular season. Their two losses? A 4-point loss to 4A Peabody and a 7-point defeat at the hands of 5A Natchitoches Central. Against their competition in District 1-1A, they were 3-0 with an average margin of victory of just over 38 points to easily secure their third straight district title.
Haynesville continued to roll through the first two rounds of the postseason, shutting out both opponents at home – first #31 seed Christian Life 28-0, then #15 Oberlin 38-0. But that’s when the road got bumpy.
On the road in Opelousas against #10 Westminster Christian Academy, the Tors spotted the Crusaders 10 points to open the game, and trailed 17-6 in the final seconds of the first half before Tyus Early took a screen pass 61 yards for a score. The ensuing 2-point conversion left Haynesville down by three at the break 17-14. Then Jerrell Jackson housed the opening kickoff of the second half, going 83 yards and giving the Tors their first lead. Haynesville never looked back, completely shutting down the Crusaders in the second half. In all, Haynesville scored 28 unanswered points, turning that first half 17-6 deficit into a 34-17 victory and the chance to host a semifinal game for the first time in 16 years against the team who ended their title dreams a year ago.
#6 West St. John was familiar with the trip to Haynesville, having made the long trip last year and come away with a 15-8 victory in the quarterfinals. The Rams were so comfortable in fact that they jumped out to a 22-6 lead over the Tors in the first quarter. But that was only the beginning of the workout the scoreboard would get in a game that featured over 900 yards of offense by both teams and a pair of 200-yard rushers. The Golden Tornado managed to weather Kylum Favorite’s 202 yards and pair of touchdowns for the Rams thanks to CaVontae Critton, who put up 206 yards of his own to go with four trips to the endzone. Tyus Early tacked on 169 rushing yards for the Tors, who rallied in the second quarter to tie the game at 22 at halftime. In the closing seconds of the third quarter, Early gave Haynesville their first lead of the game with a 4-yard touchdown run. A successful two-point conversion gave the Tors a 36-29 advantage. West St. John would find the endzone again in the fourth quarter, but a missed extra point would decide the ballgame, and Haynesville hung on for a 36-35 win and a spot in the state championship game, where they will meet a team with a current winning tradition that no one else in the state can match.
In the three years since Haynesville last hoisted the 1-A trophy, Ouachita Christian School has become a fixture in the Superdome. They followed up a loss in the 2010 title game, which was also the last time OCS lost a game, with a state championship win a year ago.
In making the transition from hunter in 2011 to hunted in 2012, the defending state champs didn’t miss a beat. After opening the season with a pair of close wins over 4A Franklin Parish and 3A Rayville, the Eagles cranked the dial up to “beastmode,” destroying everything and everyone in their path. They averaged an even 50 points a game during that 8-game stretch, but their defense was truly sick, shutting out six of those opponents and giving up 25 points total for an average of just over 3 per game. That puts their average margin of victory at just under 47 points.
Not much changed in the playoffs as the Eagles kept soaring. Since an opening round 43-15 home victory over #32 Sacred Heart of Ville Platte, no one has scored more than a touchdown on the Eagle D.
In Oak Grove in the second round, OCS blanked the #17 Tigers 28-0. From there, they returned home to Monroe for a 44-8 obliteration of #8 Southern Lab. Then last week, in a matchup that many expected to be a shootout, OCS absolutely buried a Kentwood offense that was averaging over 37 points a game. The #5 seed Kangaroos were held to just 193 yards on the night, and for the eighth time this season, the OCS defense threw a no-hitter. Meanwhile, the Eagle offense chugged along like a well-oiled machine. Quarterback Quin Graves through for four touchdowns on the night, and Coach Steven Fitzhugh’s Eagles cruised to an impressive 35-0 win over Kentwood, their 29th straight victory, and earned a third straight chance to play for it all in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.