There’s a well-worn phrase in sports at every level: Act like you’ve been there before. But what if you haven’t been there before? That’s a quandary we’ll find out the answer to tonight when two new names write their names into state championship history for the first time.
A year ago at this time, the Livonia Wildcats were sitting at home, still stinging from a crushing 49-6 defeat in the semifinal round of the 3A playoffs at the hands of eventual state champion Parkview. But they spent 2013 thoroughly erasing that memory.
With an offense that averaged nearly 37 points a game, they ran through their opponents like a hot knife through butter. They nearly stumbled during a three game midseason stretch but they managed to keep their record pristine with a two-point win over McDonogh 35 and 7-point victories over district foes Northwest and Port Barre. They clearly outmatched the rest of the teams on their schedule as they raced to a district title and the school’s first ever undefeated season. When the playoff seeds were announced, Livonia was #1.
They started the playoffs with a pair of 43-12 wins, first over #32 Carroll, then in their rematch over #16 Northwest. As they reached the quarterfinals though, the Wildcats found themselves tested for the first time in over a month.
On the road against #9 Church Point, a team they had dominated 40-9 in the final game of the regular season, they found the going much rougher the second time around. In a game that went back and forth all night, Livonia took the lead for good with 6:14 left with a 75 yard drive that culminated in a 1-yard endzone plunge by quarterback Kerry Savoy. They still had to withstand a final punch from the Bears. Church Point’s Brett Richard ran 48 yards for his third touchdown of the night but Livonia blocked the extra point and shut down the Bears the rest of the way for a 27-26 win.
The victory put Livonia back into the semifinals, where they fell a year ago. This time, the Wildcats were playing for a spot in the Superdome on their own turf and welcomed in #5 Jennings, who just the week before had traveled to foreign soil and ended the season for #4 Patterson.
Livonia came out firing with Russell Farris breaking away on the first play from scrimmage for a 58 yard run that set up a 3-yard touchdown by Kerry Savoy. Farris had a monster game, running for 232 yards on the night on 26 touches. Jennings answered with a score of their own, but Livonia’s special teams came up big for a second week in a row, blocking another extra point to keep the advantage, 7-6. Livonia took control in the second quarter, outscoring Jennings 10-0 in the period. Jennings didn’t flinch. Trailing 17-6, the Bulldogs retook the lead in the third quarter, scoring two touchdowns in 22 seconds when Lemontay Mouton scored on an 8-yard run, then again on a 33-yard run after Jennings recovered a Livonia fumble on the ensuing kickoff.
The Wildcats seemed to be wilting as they caught the turnover bug, fumbling two more times in the third as they trailed 20-17, but their defense propped them up, ensuring Jennings wouldn’t score another point the rest of the way. Livonia finally got back on top thanks to a 13-play, fourth quarter drive capped by a 2-yard touchdown by Savoy. A botched extra point ended up fortuitous as they ended up converting it for two, and as the clock struck zero, fireworks went off high above Livonia, Louisiana, celebrating the 25-20 win and Livonia’s first trip to the title game.
As for their opponent, they’re new to the Superdome as well, though they did make a trip to a title game in a former life. Or is that a Farmer life.
This year, the Farmerville Fightin’ Farmers completed a school consolidation and a name change. Farmerville has one state title to its credit back in 2001, but the newly dubbed Union Parish High School is ready to create a new tradition.
Not many of Union’s opponents were up to the task of hanging with the U this season, who kept the Fightin’ Farmers moniker. They suffered only one loss, at the hands of 1A state finalist Haynesville. Eight times this season, Union has put over 30 points on the scoreboard, and they rode an 8-game win streak to end the season, finishing 9-1.
In the playoffs, Union was seeded third, and easily dispatched #30 Ville Platte in the first round 54-6. But the games got increasingly harder. They had to travel to #19 Brusly but returned home with a 25-13 victory. Then they hosted #11 Kaplan and scraped out a 14-0 shutout to slide into the semis.
It was in that round that Union Parish got its groove back, blasting #10 Amite in a 40-0 pasting that punched the U’s ticket to the title game. In that game, Union had 313 total yards. Their run to pass ratio was 48-1, but their ground game decimated the Warriors defense. Isaiah Robinson had three touchdowns, and the Union defense pushed the Warrior run game into the red. Amite finished with -56 rushing yards. It was a total team win at the time of the year that you want everything to come together.
So now a pair of teams that have never before squared off in the playoffs with do so for the first time with everything on the line. It’s the #1 Livonia Wildcats vs. the #3 Union Parish Fightin’ Farmers for the 3A State championship.