Select Division IV State Championship Preview: Riverside vs. Southern Lab

by Hunter Bower // Owner

No. 2 Southern Lab (11-1) vs. No. 5 Riverside (12-1)

Thursday, Dec. 7 | 3:30 p.m. | Caesars Superdome | New Orleans, LA
Tickets | Watch – NFHS Network ($)

Distance To New Orleans: Riverside (36.5 miles), Southern Lab (87.6 miles)

No. 2 Southern Lab Kittens (11-1)

Head Coach: Darrell Asberry (7th year at school, 59-22)

State Finals History: 5 state titles – 2021 (DIV); 1996 (1A); 1986 (1A); 1982 (1A); 1980 (1A); 3 runner-up finishes –  2000 (1A); 1984 (1A); 1977 (1A)

Road To The Dome:

  • Regional: Beat No. 15 Hanson Memorial, 47-27
  • Quarterfinals: Beat No. 10 Central Catholic, 35-0
  • Semi-Finals: Beat No. 3 Ouachita Christian, 38-34

The Skinny:

In the annals of Louisiana high school football, Southern Lab stands as a revered powerhouse with a storied history in state championship battles. The Kittens, a perennial force, are poised to etch another chapter in their legendary saga as they clash with the formidable No. 5 Riverside in pursuit of their sixth official state title.

Under the astute leadership of head coach Darrell Asberry, Southern Lab has reemerged as a dominant force in recent years, consistently advancing to the quarterfinals or better since 2018. Their triumph in the 2021 Division IV state championship over Ouachita Christian only served to solidify their legacy.

The journey to the 2023 Prep Classic was marked by dramatic flair as the Kittens faced familiar foes in Ouachita Christian once again. In a stunning turnaround, Southern Lab erased a 15-point deficit, sealing their return to the finals for the 12th time in school history with a pivotal pick-six.

Boasting an impressive 10-game winning streak since their sole setback against Madison Prep early in the season, Southern Lab enters the championship clash with an arsenal of top-tier talent. Quarterback Marlon Brown, dynamic tailbacks Armriyan Asberry and Jerome Harris, explosive receiver Marquez Williams, and a formidable defensive lineup featuring stalwarts Dylan Day, Jerren Smith, Chad Jones, and Ronald Johnson have been instrumental in the Kittens’ relentless pursuit of glory.

The upcoming championship matchup against Riverside holds special significance, marking the seventh meeting since 2004, with the series deadlocked at three wins apiece. In their latest encounter, Southern Lab showcased their prowess with a resounding 64-13 victory over Riverside. As they prepare to take the field once more, the Kittens carry the weight of history on their shoulders, seeking not only a championship title but a continuation of their legacy as one of Louisiana’s football titans.

Averages: Scoring 42.8 points per game, allowing 14.3 points per game

Signature wins: Opelousas Catholic (Sept. 22); Dunham (Sept. 29); Kentwood (Oct. 26); Ouachita Christian (Dec. 1)

No. 5 Riverside Rebels (12-1)

Head Coach: Lee Roussel (2nd year at school, 21-3)

State Finals History: 1 state title – 2016 (DIII); 4 runner-up finishes –  2015 (DIII); 2000 (2A); 1998 (2A); 1993 (2A)

Road To The Dome:

  • Regional: Beat No. 12 Catholic-PC, 14-12
  • Quarterfinals: Beat No. 4 St. Martin’s, 26-14
  • Semi-Finals: Beat No. 1 Vermilion Catholic, 34-7

The Skinny:

Get ready for an exhilarating clash at the Caesars Superdome as Riverside Academy makes a triumphant return after seven years to vie for the high school football state championship. Under the strategic guidance of second-year coach Lee Roussel, the Rebels join the prestigious company of St. James and St. Charles as three River Parish schools competing in this year’s Prep Classic.

Coach Roussel, no stranger to championship glory, previously played a pivotal role in Nicholls State’s success, securing two Southland Conference titles in 2018 and 2019. Now, he leads Riverside Academy into battle, eager to add another championship to his impressive resume.

Fueling the Rebels’ ground game is the outstanding tailback, Dedric Lastie, a force to be reckoned with. Lastie’s remarkable season includes over 2,000 rushing yards, and in the recent semifinal triumph over No. 1 Vermilion Catholic, he showcased his prowess with two crucial touchdowns.

The challenge ahead for Riverside is formidable, facing off against Southern Lab—an irresistible force with a potent offense and dominant defense. However, the Rebels are no strangers to success against their state championship opponent. Having bested the Kittens in 2020 and splitting their last six meetings dating back to 2004, Riverside enters the championship game with confidence and a deep understanding of what it takes to emerge victorious.

As the excitement builds and the Superdome awaits, all eyes will be on Riverside Academy, determined to etch its name in high school football history once again. Will they overcome the formidable Southern Lab and bring home the championship glory that has eluded them for seven long years? The gridiron showdown promises thrills, drama, and the crowning of a new state champion.

Averages: Scoring 39.4 points per game, allowing 10.1 points per gameSignature wins: St. Martin’s (Oct. 6 & Nov. 24); L.B. Landry (Oct. 19); Vermilion Catholic (Dec. 1)