Kaplan and Sterlington have become accustomed to making deep playoff runs over the past three years. Unfortunately, the season will end early for one of the Class 3A powers when they collide in the second round at Panther Field.
Moved to Thursday
Sterlington coach Lee Doty confirmed late Wednesday morning that the game has been changed to Thursday at 6:30 p.m. due to the threat of severe weather Friday. (Note the new starting time).
Coming off of three straight semifinal appearances, the 15th-seeded Pirates (7-4) have righted the ship after a four-game losing streak. Kaplan started the season with wins over Franklin (32-12) and North Vermilion (32-7), then lost four straight to Church Point (20-6), Vermilion Catholic (25-22), Notre Dame (38-22) and Erath (20-12). Coach Stephen Lotief’s Pirates have now won five straight at the expense of St. Martinville (26-15), Crowley (30-14), Abbeville (41-8), Lake Arthur (47-40) and Bossier (46-14) last week in the first round.
As is the case for anybody else when lining up against Kaplan, the key for the Panthers is containing the Wing-T running game.
“Offensively, their scheme is outstanding in my opinion, but it’s not as much their scheme as how hard they play,” Sterlington coach Lee Doty said. “They have confidence in what they do.”
What the Pirates do is play sound, fundamental, physical football.
“Their kids are tough,” Doty said. “They come off the ball better than anybody we have played this year. You can tell from talking to everybody that they want to make it a tough-man contest, so we have to be ready to roll.”
Church Point, Crowley and Eunice — teams that have given the Panthers problems over the past two years — all ran modified versions of the Wing-T.
“These guys are true Wing-T,” Doty said of the Pirates. “They don’t deviate from it very much. Basically, it’s up to you to figure out how to stop it.”
Quarterback Mason Frick, tailback Nathan Sistrunk and wingback Drake LeJeune are the offensive catalysts while left guard Kevin Comeaux anchors the offensive line.
“Their linemen charge off the ball, and their backs run very hard,” Doty said.
Sistrunk and Frick double and cornerback and free safety, respectively.
“Defensively, they are always in the right place, and they tackle well,” Doty said. “They play a lot of kids both ways, but they have a lot of depth, regardless. They play a lot of kids, period.”
Sterlington is battle-tested in its own right, having won the Class 2A state championship in 2016, followed by a Class 3A quarterfinal appearance in 2017 and a state runner-up finish last season.
“Kaplan has been one game away from the Dome the past three years,” Doty said. “The playoffs mean a lot to them, just like it does to us.”
Sterlington (10-0), the No. 2 seed, escaped the first round with a 37-36 overtime win over Crowley.
Linemen Braden Bruscato, Brock Risinger, Cameron Rivera, Joby Guthrie and Matthew Husser, and tight ends Hixson Street and Zach Jones power an offense, which averages 272.2 yards rushing and 6.4 yards per carry.
Tailback Dallas Reagor (129 carries, 1,033 yards, 9 touchdowns) has eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for the second straight season. Joining Reagor in the backfield are fullback Jordan Townsend (119-701-16) and fullback/tailback Zach Crain (64-393-4).
Quarterback Hayes Crockett has passed for 529 yards with seven touchdowns and four interceptions.
Layton Rainbolt (17 receptions, 235 yards, 2 touchdowns) is the Panthers’ go-to-receiver. The senior has also returned 11 punts for a 24.3-yard average and a pair of scores, and 14 kickoffs at a 15.9-yard clip.
Street has added eight catches for 169 yards and two TDs, followed by Ram Foster with 7-86-1.
Linebackers Cole Jones (96 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, 9 sacks, 6 forced fumbles) and Colin Foy (93 tackles, 9 tackles, 2 sacks) continue to top Sterlington’s tackle chart.
Rounding out the starting defense for the Black Cats are ends Jordan Doaty (40 tackles, 5 TFL, 4 FF) and Parker Coley (41 tackles, 8 TFL, 2 sacks), tackles Caleb Andrews (27 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 FF) and Edmun Williams (20 tackles, 1 TFL), linebacker Seth Temple (32 tackles, 2 FF), cornerbacks Cole Thompson (39 tackles, 1 TFL) and Jaden Davis (37 tackles, 2 interceptions), and safeties Harrison Womack (65 tackles, 3 INTs) and Dorian Eddins (66 tackles, 3 TFL, 3 sacks).
Friday night’s winner will be matched against the No. 7 Church Point-No. 23 Jennings winner in the quarterfinals.
Sterlington’s Players of the Week for the Crowley game were Hayes Crockett on offense, Cole Thompson and Harrison Womack on defense, and Jacob Green on special teams.
Crockett rushed for two touchdowns and passed for another. … Thompson made a critical tackle on a short pass to deny Crowley on the 2-point conversion in overtime to leave the score at 36-30. … Womack had a pair of picks to go with seven tackles. … Green made all three extra points, including the walkoff.
DT—Ethyn Vigneaux/Gabe Broussard
CB—Treyton Schexnayder/Romin Bradley