One team will take its long-awaited place at the championship table, and we’ll find out which one next! It’s the top-seeded Rummel Raiders against the #2 Barbe Buccaneers for the 5A state championship. WWL's Jeff Palermo and Hahnville coach Lou Valden will have all the jubilation and heartache of this history-making title game at 8pm on WWL.
Metairie’s Archbishop Rummel Raiders tore through a regular season that saw them ascend to #1 in the Louisiana Sportswriter’s Poll in week 2 and never relinquish their place atop the other teams in 5A. With the exception of a surprisingly tight 14-3 win over Denham Springs, the Raiders rolled over the competition. They averaged 42 points a game and gave up just under 10 for a 32 point average margin of victory. They ended the year 9-0 and took home the undisputed crown in District 9.
It looked like it would be more of the same in the postseason after the Raiders steamrolled #32 Lafayette 49-7. #16 Dutchtown also offered little drama, falling to Rummel in the second round 21-10, but that’s when the road for Rummel got rocky. In the quarterfinals, Rummel took the trip up north to Monroe for a battle with #9 seed Ouachita Parish. The Lions spent the majority of the first half on top of the 5A bracket’s top seed, but Rummel kept fighting and tied the game at 6 at the half. In the third quarter, both offenses scored every time they touched the ball, but after three lead changes, Ouachita was back out in front 19-13. After a Rummel field goal but that 6 point deficit in half, the Raiders still trailed 19-16 with less than 6 minutes to play. That’s when quarterback Damian Williams found Steven Dunbar for a 38-yard touchdown pass that broke the hearts of the home Lion crowd and boosted Rummel into the semifinal round with a hard-fought 23-19 win.
In the semis, Rummel returned home to Joe Yenni Stadium in Metairie to host #13 seed Mandeville. The Raiders nearly found themselves on the flip side of the same script as the previous week. Though they jumped out to a 14-0 lead and remained in front most of the game, the Skippers continued chipping away. As the fourth quarter got underway, Mandeville found the endzone for the first time. The ensuing 2-point conversion turned Rummel’s 14-6 lead into a 14-all tie.
With time winding down, it was Rummel kicker Zachary Pilet who proved to be the hero for Raider Nation. His 32-yard field goal with a minute-44 remaining gave the Raiders the final points they would need, and they slipped by Mandeville 17-14 to earn a trip to the Superdome against a team who reached the finals after an even tighter contest.
Unlike the championship game opponents, the Barbe Buccaneers from Lake Charles haven’t blown too many teams out in 2012, but style points don’t matter if you put up the W’s, and the Bucs put up enough to go 9-1 this season, beating teams like Evangel, Acadiana, and Carencro in the process, and earning the District 3 title and a #2 seed in the postseason.
Like Rummel, the Buccaneers cruised through the first two rounds with a 24-7 win over #31 Terrebonne and a 38-21 victory over #15 Byrd. But also like the Raiders, Barbe found the path grow rougher very quickly in the quarterfinal round. On the road in Bossier City, the Bucs found themselves matched at every turn through most of their game against #7 Parkway. The two teams traded touchdowns all throughout the first half and went in at halftime tied at 28. It looked like the trend would continue in the second half as the score was again tied at 35 in the third quarter, but the Buccaneer defense finally clamped down and kept the Panthers from Parkway off the scoreboard the rest of the way. Meanwhile, Barbe tacked on 10 more points and left Bossier City with a 45-35 victory and a spot in the final four.
The next week though, it looked as though Barbe’s incredible season was coming to an end. Hosting the defending champion West Monroe Rebels, the Buccaneers found themselves pillaged through the first three quarters, and it looked like the third-seeded Rebels were heading back to the Superdome as they raced out to a 41-21 lead. The Rebels made it 48-21 on the fourth quarter’s opening play, but little did they know, the Bucs had them right where they wanted them.
The Bucs went 80 yards in just 46 seconds to cut the Rebel lead to 20, 48-28. A West Monroe fumble on the Barbe 40 turned into a Buccaneer touchdown two plays later, making the score 48-35. The Bucs kicked an onside kick and recovered, and Desean Smith got his second touchdown pass in as many drives from quarterback Kennon Fontenot to cut the deficit by 7 again. Now trailing 48-42 with just 1:23 remaining in the game, the Bucs again tried an onside kick and again recovered. The ensuing drive saw the Bucs make their way down to the Rebel 2-yard line, and with 13 seconds left, Fontenot threw his sixth touchdown pass of the night, his second to Trey Quinn, and the Bucs stunned defending champion West Monroe 49-48 in a semifinal comeback for the ages.
And it all leads up to this. Two schools with grand football traditions still looking for their first state championship, and one of them will get it tonight. Will it be Coach Jay Roth’s Raiders, who played for the title and lost as recently as 2009? Or will it be Coach Mike Cutrera’s Buccaneers, into the title game for the first time in 32 years?