Thursday, December 6, 2012
Top teams, players make Louisiana finals
By Gary Laney
In Louisiana's prep football playoffs, a 21 seed (New Orleans/McDonogh 35) made the Class 4A semifinals, a 22 seed (Kendell Beckwith-led Clinton/East Feliciana) made the Class 3A semis and three teams seeded 21 or lower made the Class 2A quarterfinals.
Considering that the five enrollment classes have 32-team fields, one might say this was the year of the upset.
State champion are traditionally determined in the Superdome in a one-weekend event that began in 1981.
The Louisiana High School Athletic Association/State Farm Classic, commonly known by its old, pre-corporate sponsor name "The Superdome Classic" is this weekend with state champions in all five enrollment classes being determined over two days in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. It's a Louisiana tradition for all the state champions to be crowned in the dome in a weekend, an event that started in 1981.
And after all the upsets and surprises throughout the playoffs, here's the Superdome surprise: In all five classes, the top two seeds reached the championship game.
That isn't to say all the state's best players made it. The state's top two prospects in the 2013 class -- Beckwith and Baton Rouge/University Lab defensive end Tim Williams -- both saw their seasons end with close losses in the semifinals. They joined a list of stars like Loranger's Jeryl Brazil, West Monroe's Cameron Robinson and New Orleans/St. Augustine's Leonard Fournette who didn't make it to the final weekend.
Here's a look at the teams, and some of the top prospects, who did make it:
No. 1 Metairie/Archbishop Rummel (13-0) vs. No. 2 Lake Charles/Barbe (13-1): Barbe advanced via the "Miracle on McNeese Street," as they are calling it in Lake Charles. With West Monroe holding a 20-point lead with less than three minutes left with the Rebels driving to run the clock out, Barbe forced a fumble, then scored three touchdowns in 118 seconds -- with two recovered onside kicks sprinkled in between -- to take a stunning 49-48 win.
Miraculous? Yes. But there was talent involved. Two of the touchdowns were thrown by Kennon Fontenot, the state's leading passer with over 4,119 yards and 45 touchdowns, to ESPN 150 tight end Desean Smith, an LSU commit. The winning touchdown was thrown to Trey Quinn, a 2014 Watch List member who surpassed the 2,000-yard mark in receiving yards for the season (111-2,094 yards and 26 touchdowns). Quinn, who is on pace to shatter Dorial Green-Beckham's career receiving record by the end of his senior year, set up the winning touchdown be recovering the onside kick.
Rummel also won a close one in the semis, using a late Zach Pilet 32-yard field goal to down Mandeville, 17-14. The Raiders are led by dual-threat quarterback Damian Williams (1,707 passing yards and 822 rushing yards) and fast-rising TE Cethan Carter, two players who will be on major college radars.
No. 1 Monroe/Neville (13-0) vs. No. 2 New Orleans/Karr (13-0): Many think this Friday night matchup will be the best of the two-day event.
One New Orleans coach said Karr, with four players in either the ESPN 300 or the ESPN Watch List (for 2014 players), may have the best team in the state regardless of enrollment class. That's saying something, considering the talent assembled at 2A's River Ridge/John Curtis nationally-ranked team.
Here's the catch: Neville beat Karr soundly in last year's state finals and the unbeaten Tigers return most of their key players, including ESPN 300 athlete John Diarse (an LSU commit) and ESPN Watch List member Laurence "Hootie" Jones. Karr counters with ESPN 150 TE Standish Dobard (Miami), ESPN 300 cornerback Noel Ellis (Texas A&M) and Watch List juniors Gerald Willis, a defensive end, and Devante "Speedy" Noil, the Cougars' quarterback who projects as a college receiver.
No. 1 Baton Rouge/Parkview Baptist (12-0) vs. No. 2 Crowley/Notre Dame (12-1): Two programs that prove you don't have to have blue-chip talent to get elite results. Both schools are coached by former college assistants who have turned their high school teams into powers.
Parkview's Kenny Guillotte has his team operating the triple option as well as anybody while Notre Dame's Lewis Cook's disciplined team has been a power ever since he left Louisiana-Lafayette, where he was defensive coordinator, to take over in Crowley.
No. 1 River Ridge/John Curtis (14-0) vs. No. 2 Shreveport/Evangel (12-2): Evangel's only losses are to 5A finalist Barbe and 5A quarterfinalist Ouachita, two teams filled with prospects. But the Eagles won't face a team more talented than the Patriots, a squad with six seniors who are already committed to Division I teams, plus uncommitted linebacker Duke Riley, who will likely picked from a slew of major college options.
And that doesn't even count the junior class, where ESPN Watch List members Kenny Young and Malachi Dupre are the headliners.
Not that Evangel will come into this game, a rematch lacking in firepower. Quarterback Dakota Duron was third in the state in passing in the regular season and receiver Trent Taylor is a three-star Louisiana Tech commit. Offensive tackle Josh Thomas is committed to Houston and linebacker X'Zavier Preston is bound for Oregon State. So Evangel is not lacking in college talent.
No. 1 Monore/Ouachita Christian (14-0) vs. No. 2 Haynesville (11-2): If you're looking for five-star talent, this won't be the game for you. If you're looking for solid football programs, the 1A match is much like the 3A game.
OCHS is the defending class champion while long-time power Haynesville, with 15 state championships in is history, trails only John Curtis in all-time Louisiana state titles.