Last week’s column started with a cheesy Star Wars quote, and you know what? Three out of four parish teams won playoff games. So you know what has to happen now…
“There’s been an awakening… Have you felt it?”
Just as Snoke asked his protégé Kylo Ren in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” if he felt the ripple effects of a dominant force coming back to light, I simply pose this question — do you sense North Louisiana gaining momentum in high school football’s power dynamic?
The last few years has seen southern teams dominate for the most part. Heck, Edna Karr elbowed its way to the table and pushed Neville to the side in Class 4A. And Zachary shocked West Monroe and then held the Rebels down for a few years in Class 5A. That’s not to say NELA has made empty trips to New Orleans. Ouachita Christian brought a championship home to Monroe last year, and the Eagles are in another good spot to repeat that feat in 2020.
But if you go beyond the parish, just look at how North Louisiana is faring in this year’s playoffs. Joining West Monroe, Neville and OCS in the winning column were Ruston, Union, Mangham, General Trass, Oak Grove, Homer and Haynesville last Friday night. How much hardware will travel north Christmas weekend?
With that serving as our table setter, let’s take a peak ahead at what’s in store for our final three playoff teams in Ouachita Parish.
No. 10 West Monroe vs. No. 18 East St. John
West Monroe offensive coordinator Glenn Hunt received a text from a coaching buddy of his after the Rebels took down No. 7 Central, and he couldn’t quite tell if it was sarcastic or not.
In an attempt to spook or warn, the text suggested East St. John would have three FBS players on its defense Saturday.
Now whether East St. John has three of them or not isn’t the story. The truth is when you pop on the tape you can see why an outside linebacker like Jackie Marshall is a Top 20 recruit in the state and a Baylor commit. The Wildcats have athletic pass rushers, but the Rebels would never be mistaken for a spread offense.
Call it simple. Call it old school. But call it successful, because the tide is starting to turn.
We see it every year for West Monroe, as the middle of district tends to be the time the Rebels start to impose its dominance en route to securing a top seed. And on a normal year, this would be the start of the playoffs. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that West Monroe is starting to put it all together.
Offensive continuity and confidence combine to make the Rebels a hard out in the playoffs.
Plus the Rebels are finally healthy on defense. Everything is starting to click at the right time, as the Rebels are one win away from their second semifinal appearance in three years.
No. 4 Neville at No. 12 Minden (Thursday)
I’m not sure you could ever classify a playoff contest as a trap game, but if you could, this would serve as one for Neville.
Because the Tigers have been there, done that. And made it look effortless, by the way, in a 41-7 drumming against Minden at Bill Ruple Stadium a little over a month ago.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but Neville’s running back duo of A.J. Allen and Timothy Byrd ripped off long touchdown runs of 50 yards or more in the victory. Allen and Byrd combined for four rushing touchdowns in the win, while Maurion Eleam had his best day on defense with three interceptions against the Crimson Tide. Eleam housed one of those picks in the victory, as well.
Neville is a massive favorite heading into this one, and that will likely make Neville head coach Jeff Tannehill extra nervous heading into this one.
No. 3 OCS at No. 2 Vermilion Catholic
Steven Fitzhugh didn’t mince words about the Eagles next matchup. OCS will face the best quarterback its seen all year long when it travels to take on Drew Lege and Vermilion Catholic.
Lege was 94-of-148 passing for 1,917 yards and 25 touchdowns in the regular season this year. That includes a night where Lege threw for seven touchdowns, as Vermilion Catholic has boasted one of the most explosive offenses in Division IV in 2020.
OCS is no stranger to scoring a lot of points either. And Hunter Herring and Dillon Dougan are coming off of a performance where they combined for 398 rushing yards. This has the potential to be the best game of the night if the defenses struggle.
OCS has the firepower to match blow for blow with Vermilion Catholic in this semifinal matchup. Let’s see which defense comes up with the clutch stops Friday night.