Todd’s Take: Predicting The Semifinal and Championship Games This Weekend
by Todd Black // ESPN 104.5 – Baton Rouge, Louisiana Prep Scoreboard
Catholic Bears (11-1) vs Jesuit Blue Jays (10-0), Division I Championship
These are two teams going in opposite directions. Granted the results have been ‘wins’ for both; Catholic defeating St Augustine 42-35 and St Paul’s 29-28. Jesuit on the other hand, for the second time this year, has beat John Curtis 14-13 and Brother Martin 28-10.
|Jesuit||Tale of the Tape||Catholic-BR|
|Points Scored||30.3||Points Scored||40|
|Points Allowed||8.4||Points Allowed||17|
The one common opponent is St. Augustine, Jesuit defeated St. Aug 42-12 in Week 6 and Catholic defeated the Purple Knights 42-35 two weeks ago.
The first 5 weeks of the season the Bears looked unstoppable:
|Week 1||Our Lady of Good Counsel||38.0||10.0|
|Week 3||West Monroe||30.0||19.0|
|Week 4||Warren Easton||39.0||14.0|
|Week 5||Lafayette Christian||38.0||17.0|
Week 9 saw the Bears lose to Woodlawn-BR (35-28) for their only loss of the season. The mystery is why has Catholic struggled in their 2 playoff games when these are teams the Bears usually and should dominate?
For any team to be able to get through the “Catholic League’ undefeated outscoring their opponents 30.8 to 10.3 is a feat rarely accomplished. Then for the Blue Jays to come back in the playoffs and again beat Curtis 14-13 and again beat Brother Martin 28-10, I have to believe you are one of the best teams in the state. On Saturday, the Blue Jays will have that opportunity to prove that exact thing.
Jesuit vs District Opponents
|John Curtis Christian||17.0||13.0|
Watching the Blue Jays last week vs Brother Martin was impressive. Offensively, the Blue Jays offer a lot of different looks with a lot of personal packages. They will play with two tight ends, and they will go empty. The simplest way to put it, the Blue Jays are clicking on all cylinders with whatever look they gave you.
Catholic’s early to mid season run was just as impressive as Jesuit’s last two games. As I showed you above, the Bears knocked off Acadiana, Easton (5A, 4A semifinalist), West Monroe (5A QF) and Lafayette Christian (2A finalist looking for their 5th title in a row). That is an impressive resume and none of these games were particularly close. The question is which Catholic team will show up?
If I am Jesuit, I am worried about the 80-pound differential per man between the Bears OL and the Jays DL. Then, if I have to bring extra defenders in the box to stop the run, can I afford to leave Shelton Sampson (6-6, WR) one on one on the perimeter?
For Jesuit, everything runs through their quarterback, #14, Jack Larriviere, 6-2, 210 lbs. He really is an impressive, physical runner who runs north and south taking what the defense gives him. Larriviere can also throw it and I believe he will have to for the Blue Jays to win.
This will be a great game, I feel the Jesuit defense has been playing more consistent this season and more importantly, most recently. In these types of games, look for special teams to play a big part. In the end, I have been on the Blue Jay bandwagon since week 1, I can’t jump off now. Jesuit 31, Catholic 28.
Lafayette Christian Knights (10-1) vs St. Charles Comets (10-0) Division III Championship
This will be the third Division III Championship in a row these two teams have met. Lafayette Christian won the first two matchups; will the 3rd time be the charm for the Comets.
A matchup with Lafayette Christian for anybody is a tough game, but for another 2A school to battle it out against the Knights for the trophy is a daunting task. The only loss for LCA comes to the hands of 5A Catholic High, the Comets bring an unblemished record and a gritty defense into the 2021 championship game.
This game on paper reminds me of the 2016 matchup in the Superdome for the 2A state championship, Sterlington vs Madison Prep. Madison Prep outweighed the Panthers 100 pounds a man on the offensive and defensive line. Sterlington would have lost 99 out of 100 times, but they weren’t playing 100 times, just once and all Sterlington had to do was be better than Madison Prep on December 9, 2016; and they were, winning 28-27. Can St Charles do the same?
The St Charles defense has only allowed 4.1 ppg while their offense is scoring 29.6 ppg. Their opponents are holding teams to 11.4 ppg while scoring 35.8. The concern for me is the interior line advantage LCA has against the Comets. The defensive line of LCA can pose a lot of problems for the Comets. LCA’s defensive line is the biggest SCC will have faced all year.
DL Masey Lewis (6-4, 245, Sr.)
DL Fitzgerald West Jr. (6-2, 320, Sr.)
DL Melvin Hills III (6-2, 275, So.)
When this game strikes zero in the 4th quarter, the Comets will have left it all on the field just as they did in their 12-7 loss to LCA in 2020. It’s my feeling that man-for-man, LCA will wear down the Comets to win their 5th championship in a row; 28-13.
Quick 5A State Championship Fact. Since 2013 of the 4 teams remaining in 5A, Acadiana has won state championships in 2013, 2014, 2019 and 2020; Zachary has won state championships in 2015, 2017 and 2018; Destrehan was runner-up to Acadiana in 2014 and 2019; Ponchatoula has not been in a state championship game since 1951. The only other team to win other than Zachary or Acadiana was Landry-Walker in 2016 by defeating West Monroe 50-21.
Zachary vs Destrehan (Class 5A Semifinal)
In 2018, these two teams clashed in the semis for a score fest as Zachary won 67-57. Since the split, both Destrehan and Zachary have reached the semifinals 7 out of 9 years.
Coming into the 2021 season, Destrehan was thought to be ‘loaded.’ Then came Hurricane Ida which caused several teams, including Destrehan to lose the first 3 weeks of their season. Hurricane Ida took its toll on areas like Hahnville and Destrehan, so whether a football season would even happen, was 50/50.
As of recent years, Zachary sets the standard in 5A across the state, so to expect them to be anything less than good is not thinking clearly. The Broncos have won shoot-outs and they have won blowouts, but the consistency for Coach David Brewerton must be a concern. In the 2nd of the playoffs, after turning the ball over on their first three drives, the Broncos fell behind East Ascension 14-0; in the quarter’s vs West Monroe, Zachary found themselves down 21-0 after one and down 2 scores starting the 4th quarter. Zachary won in OT, 37-34.
The one advantage I see in this game is Destrehan’s defense has been a little bit stronger in allowing only 7.8 ppg, while the Zachary defense has given up 16.5 ppg. Both teams defeated 2-5A opponents as Destrehan knocked off Ruston 28-14 and Zachary beat the Rebels.
Over the last two games, although close, the Zachary defense has made their adjustments. After West Monroe scored 21 in the 1st Quarter, they did not get back into the end zone until Overtime. EA, after scoring 14 points in the 1st Quarter off turnovers, saw the endzone with 2:12 left to play. My thinking is, for Zachary to win they have to win or tie the 1st Quarter; I believe they will do that and win 28-17 over a very well-coached Destrehan team.
Ponchatoula vs Acadiana (Class 5A Semifinal)
If Ponchatoula was playing a team with no name, I would feel very confident about the Green Wave advancing. However, they are playing one of the teams that is looked at as one of the best football programs in the state, Acadiana. The Green Wave just came off of a road trip to Monroe and impressively beat another 2-5A program, Ouachita, soundly 52-20.
Acadiana’s offense returns 4 starters, and they average 6-2, 283 across the front for their offensive line. The Wreckin’ Ram offense changed Quarterback’s at the beginning of the season, and it took them a while to get on track, that no longer is an issue. Since district play began, Acadiana is outscoring their opponents 49.2 to 12.
On the other side of the ball, Ponchatoula has been awesome on defense, holding 8 of their 11 opponents to only single digits, and limiting their opponents all together to 7.6 ppg. The only time the offense was slowed up in the least was versus St. Paul’s, as the Green Wave won 17-0.
The point differential between points scored and points allowed for Acadiana is 37 ppg; the point differential for Ponchatoula is 35.9 (43.5 scoring).
The trenches look like this, the Ponchatoula offensive line (6-2; 266) vs an experienced Acadiana defensive line (6-2; 244). The Acadiana OL (6-2; 283) vs Ponchatoula DL (6-0; 266). But you cannot forget about the Ponchatoula linebacking core.
Coach Hank Tierny has experience with the type of offense Acadiana runs, will his experience along with his team’s talent be enough to knock off the two-time state champs. I think so, as this may go into overtime, Ponchatoula wins this 27-24.
Quick 4A State Championship Facts. In 2013, East Jefferson upset Karr in the finals; in 2020, Carencro beat Karr 20-13 in the state championship otherwise that would have been Karr’s 5th consecutive state championship. Since 2013, Karr, Neville and Warren Easton have been in the state championship game 5 of the 8 times. Karr has won 3, Neville has won 2 and Easton 3 runners-up, Neville, and Karr each with a runner-up trophy as well.
Westgate vs Karr (Class 4A Semifinal)
Westgate is fighting a tough battle against the Edna Karr Cougars.
|Points Scored||43||Points Scored||33.3|
|Points Allowed||10.9||Points Allowed||16.5|
|O-Line||6-0; 245||O-Line||6-1; 258|
|D-Line||6-2; 255||D-Line||6-2; 217|
When you look at Westgate’s resume (schedule), it’s somewhat impressive. The lost to LCA 19-7, but have beaten Carencro, St. Thomas More, St. Martinville, Teurlings, and Lake Charles College Prep. I can see this being a high scoring game and closer than people may think. If Westgate can hang around in a crazy Edna Karr environment, it could get interesting. But I have been told, if you aren’t used to playing at Edna Karr, it’s something to behold. Karr 37 Westgate 28.
Neville vs Warren Easton (Class 4A Semifinal)
Coach Jerry Phillips is one of the more solid coaches in the state. Phillips and Brice Brown of Karr get overlooked because of their talent they coach. But coaching talent is sometimes a headache. These guys do more than coach for wins. If you have or have not read, “Across the River,” a book about survival in New Orleans but also about Karr’s determination to win. In 2019, Karr knew the road would go through Neville @ Neville to win the state championship. They did everything they could to prepare their kids for that match-up. This same approach has been taken by the Warren Easton Ron Eagles. Coach Jerry Phillips, last Friday on our show said, “I have told the boys, in 4A, the only people we have lost to in Neville and Karr. We have to prepare for those teams.” To help do that, Easton made back-to-back trips to Baton Rouge to play Scotlandville and Catholic High. Coming into BR from NO, it is hit or miss on traffic. The night they were playing Scotlandville, they “hit” the traffic and arrived shortly before kick-off.
The Neville Tigers are as solid of a team as you can find in 4A. Their running game is propelled by 6-6, 290 Tackle and LSU commit, Will Campbell. Running behind Campbell is TCU commit, AJ Allen (Mr. Quick Six). Allen seems to have a speed that even teams like Easton aren’t prepared to tackle.
|Points Scored||34.3||Points Scored||43|
|Points Allowed||8.2||Points Allowed||12.4|
|O-Line||6-1; 240||O-Line||6-1; 258|
|D-Line||6-1; 241||D-Line||6-2; 217|
Warren Easton challenge is going to be taking a 5.5-hour bus ride and getting ready to play a semifinal game. Easton other challenge is going to be Neville’s defense. But the challenge for Neville’s defense is over the last 5 games, Warren Easton has outscored their opponents 56.2 to 3.75. Last week, Easton scored 43 in the 1st Quarter. The week before the Ron Eagles had 48 at half and most of those were in the 1st Quarter. I am going to take you back to October 16, Easton beat Carver 23-12. This was their last 4 quarter game. Neville’s game vs Carencro was their last full game.
I am really caught between a rock and a hard place on this game. If Neville gets behind, their ability to consistently throw it, is unproven. It has been said Jerry Arledge is as good of a defensive coordinator there is when stopping an offense; if he couldn’t do it, that says a lot about the Neville offensive line. A shoot-out favors Easton, Neville must use the same game plan that was used against West Monroe and limit Easton’s possessions and protect the football. Tigers win 21-20.
Quick 3A State Championship Facts. Since 2013, the only repeat 3A champion has been Lutcher. The others, St. James, Madison Prep, West Feliciana, Union Parish, Livonia, and Eunice. The only one of the four remaining who could repeat is Union Parish.
Union Parish vs St. Martinville (Class 3A Semifinal)
Last year’s 3A state championship game took me by surprise. Madison Prep came out, hit Union Parish in the mouth and the Farmer’s didn’t fight back. That’s not your typical Farmer response. As Union Parish travels into an unfriendly environment, the Farmers need to have a response ready. St. Martinville proved last week than can put up a lot of points, the Tigers average 42.1 ppg for the season. The Tiger offense, in their last 5 games, have averaged 53 ppg (59, 41, 56, 47, 62, 59). Union Parish defense is giving up 21 ppg.
Union’s offense is powered by Trey Holly who has carried the ball 240 times for 2195 yards and Ja’Quarius Donald who has 231 carries for 1527 yards. They have 27/22 TDs respectively. The only defense giving up more points than Union Parish’s defense is St. Martinville allowing 26.2 ppg.
At home, I like St. Martinville to win 55 – 42.
Church Point vs Sterlington (Class 3A Semifinal)
Of the remaining defenses in all the playoffs, Church Point has allowed the least number of points scored per game at 3.6. Coach Doty made the comments last week that the road to the dome goes through Madison Prep, and he is correct, but Sterlington’s toughest challenge is coming Friday night vs this Church Point defense. ONLY one time has the defense allowed a team to score in the double digits against them, that was last week vs West Feliciana (14 points).
Sterlington is also in a trap game if there is such a thing in the playoffs. No one has heard about Church Point, they aren’t flashy and big like Madison Prep, they don’t bring all the 5-star recruits and they definitely do not look as good as Madison Prep does getting off the bus. But they will smack you in the mouth if you aren’t prepared. Who knows this more than anyone is Coach Lee Doty.
|Points Scored||43.5||Points Scored||43.7|
|Points Allowed||17.2||Points Allowed||3.6|
|O-Line||6-2; 229||O-Line||6-0; 223|
|D-Line||6-2; 236||D-Line||6-0; 237|
In this one, defense travels. Church Point 27 – Sterlington 14
Quick 2A State Championship Fact. I took all the teams that had made the semifinals since 2013; I filtered out the ones that had made the semifinals 3 or more times. From 2013 until now, there have been 9 semifinal rounds, 4 teams make each round for a total of 36. The below 6 teams have made up for 29 (81%) of the 36 slots. The split was ‘sold’ as giving more teams more opportunity, but this is certainly not the case.
Many vs Avoyelles (Class 2A Semifinals)
The first time these two teams met, Many won 34-30. This will be Avoyelles 3rd district opponent they have played in this year’s playoffs, Bunkie, Winnfield and now, Many. From everything I was told, this game lived up to its hype as Many held on in the late seconds of the game
|Points Scored||51.5||Points Scored||42.5|
|Points Allowed||16.2||Points Allowed||19.8|
I’m going to keep this simple, Avoyelles running backs, Carlos Bazert (90-866-8 TDs) and Decareyn Sampson (120-1333-16 TDs) are either not available or limited in this game. That is 2200 yards and 24 TDs that the Avoyelles offense must find somewhere else. Many 54 Avoyelles 28
Amite vs Jonesboro-Hodge (Class 2A Semifinals)
|Points Scored||36.2||Points Scored||34.5|
|Points Allowed||11||Points Allowed||19.6|
Amite’s defense going to General Trass and keeping them out of the end zone is impressive in their 20-2 win. Jonesboro-Hodge was down by 15 to Franklin and was able to muster up and hold on to a one-point win, 29-28. It has been a while since Jonesboro-Hodge has been in this position and hats to the Tigers for a great season. Tydre’ Malone has thrown for 2234 yards and run for another 344 yards. Of the Tigers 48 touchdowns scored this season, Malone has been associated with 40 of them. Wide receivers Calahan, Mozee and Lewis are Malone’s favorite targets.
Over the last 6 games, the Warrior defense has played as well as it has all year, yielding only 5 points per game. The offense over that same time frame is scoring 36.6 points per game. I like the Amite defense in this battle, 33 – 20,
Quick 1A State Championship Fact. Haynesville and Oak Grove have appeared in 7 out of 9 semifinal opportunities since 2013. Logansport has made the semis 4 times with one championship, 2016. Oak Grove has won two championships, 2019 & 2020; Haynesville has won championships in 2013, 2014 and runner-up in 2015 & 2016. Three of the four teams have a lot of experience at this time of year
Homer vs Haynesville (Class 1A Semifinals)
In Week 10, Homer throttled Haynesville 49-0; just little under a month later, they are seeing each other again in the semifinals. The last time these two met in the playoffs was 1971 in which the game ended in a 7-7 tie.
This is one of those instances where anything is possible. Homer and Haynesville are 15 miles apart; Haynesville has a rich tradition of winning championships while Homer has watched from the outside looking in. Over the last two years, the Pelicans have opened some eyes and none more open than Haynesville.
Week 10 saw the Tornados turn the ball over 5 times in their 49-0 loss to the Pelicans. I’m not saying it cannot be done, but if Haynesville can turn a 49-0 loss to a win in a month; it will be a first.
Homer 42 Haynesville 21
Oak Grove vs Logansport (Class 1A Semifinals)
Oak Grove is trying for their 4th consecutive trip to the state championship. Before this run, Oak Grove’s last appearance in the championship was 2004. Oak Grove Head Coach, Ryan Gregory, took over in 2014 and the Tiger’s finished 5-6. The next three years ended in the semifinal round, the following year ended as the state runner-up and years 2019 & 2020 saw Oak Grove as 1A state champs. Gregory has done an outstanding job at his alma mater, and they face Logansport (State Champion, 2016) for an opportunity to ‘three-peat’ as state champs.
Oak Grove started the season 0-3, losing to Mangham, Ouachita Christian and Sterlington. Logansport started the season 0-4, with losses to Calvary, Loyola, Bossier and Jonesboro-Hodge. Since, Logansport has outscored their opponents 46 to 11.5. In Oak Grove’s 8 wins, the have averaged 40 ppg while giving up under 7.
Logansport 28 Oak Grove 14