Prep Football: What You Need to Know - Semifinal Edition
Mark Menard Reporting
Here’s what you need to know for the semifinal round of the prep football playoffs.
In the immortal words of Dexter Morgan, tonight’s the night. We already punched six tickets to the Superdome last week, and the final 12 reservations will be made in just a few hours. There’s no shortage of storylines across all six brackets in action tonight, so let’s get right to it.
The 5A bracket features one traditional state power, the longest shot left in any bracket, and two schools persevering through penalties.
On one side, the seeds played out perfectly as top seed Acadiana will host #4 Destrehan. The two schools have 24 wins and two losses between them, and that mark could have been even better. Destrehan was forced to forfeit a win over South Lafourche when it was discovered that some Wildcat assistant coaches viewed the Tarpons’ playbook online prior to the game, an offense that also saw those coaches get suspended. Meanwhile, Acadiana’s only loss came by a touchdown back in Week 2 at the hands of 4A semifinalist Neville.
On the other side, the Panther road tour rolls into Covington. The Parkway Panthers are serving out a sentence that prohibited any home playoff games in 2013 after a brawl that took place in the 2012 postseason involving the team. That obstacle hasn’t made a difference to the #2 seed, who is unbeaten in 2013, and has won three straight road games to advance to the semifinals. They’ve got one more hostile environment out on the northshore standing in the way of a trip to the title game. The Covington Lions entered the playoffs as the #14 seed after a 6-4 season, but kicked things into a higher gear in the postseason. After a first round blowout of Airline, they earned a pair of hard-fought 6-point victories on the road, taking down #3 seed East Ascension and #11 Central. Now they’ll try to corral a Parkway offense that has put up at least 30 points in every game this season.
4A offers the only bracket where all four top-4 seeds advanced to the semis. In Metairie tonight, #4 East Jefferson will host top seed Neville. E.J. came into the playoffs looking for their first playoff victory since 1970 but feeling pretty good about their chances after an undefeated regular season. They’ve relied on a defense that posted shutouts in eight of their 10 regular season games and another in the first round of the playoffs. In contrast with E.J.’s new-kid-on-the-block status, Neville is a model of consistency. A win tonight would put the Tigers into the title game for the fourth time in the last five years. They’ve won three home blowouts to earn their trip to Metairie tonight for the semifinal round’s only battle of unbeatens.
In the other 4A semi, it’s a rematch of district rivals as #2 Karr faces #3 Landry/Walker. Karr is the reigning 4A champ after two years as runner-up, so like Neville, the Cougars have become a familiar face on championship weekend. Standing in the way of a fourth straight title game for Karr will be the Charging Buccaneers of the newly-consolidated Landry/Walker. The two teams faced off in district play back in Week 6, in a game that saw Landry/Walker take a 22-7 lead into the fourth quarter before Karr reeled off 19 unanswered points for a 26-22 victory. The loss was the only blemish this season on Landry/Walker’s record, and the players feel they had Karr’s number and let it slip away that night. Tonight, they’ll get the chance to rectify that.
In 3A, top seed Livonia is trying to cap their undefeated season with a first ever state championship. They’ll get that shot if they can get past #5 Jennings at home. Meanwhile, the newly-monikered 3-seed Union Parish, formerly Farmerville, will host a very game bunch from #10 Amite, back in the semifinals two years after advancing to the state title game in 2011.
In 2A, no unbeatens remain, but three of the four semifinalists have a single loss on their record. A pair of 12-1 Tiger teams square off as 5th-seed Loreauville hosts #1 Many. In the other matchup, #2 seed Winnfield will try to make their second trip to the Dome in three years when they travel to 12-1 #3-seed Kinder.
In 1A, top seed Haynesville has rolled through all competition this year on their way to 12-0. The Golden Tornado have 15 state titles all-time, second only to John Curtis, but only two of those have come since the turn of the century, and they fell just short a year ago in the Dome, losing the 1A title game to Ouachita Christian. They’ll be back in the championship game if they can past a tough test under the watertower in Kentwood against the 5th seeded Kangaroos. In the other 1A semifinal, it’s a 2-3 battle as second seed Mangham hosts third seed West St. John in what should be a hard-nosed slugfest.
And finally in Division IV, one half of the bracket played out as scheduled as unbeaten top seed Vermilion Catholic’s high-flying offense will be at home in Abbeville hosting #4 Cedar Creek. A pair of big upsets on the other side of the bracket last week set up tonight 6/7 showdown as Monroe’s St. Frederick Warriors, the tournament’s six-seed who came to Metairie last week and knocked off #3 Country Day, will host #7 Southern Lab. The Kittens are the only semifinalist with a losing record, but the scrappy 5-7 squad from Baton Rouge will make their second straight trip to Monroe after going up a week ago and eliminating last year’s 1A champ and this year’s #2 seed in Division IV, Ouachita Christian.