|Mark MenardState Championship Previews
Mark Menard tells us What We Need to Know for the Select Divisions Championships
Posted Fri, 02 Dec 2016 06:43:32 CT
NEW ORLEANS, LA - Mark Menard reporting
Here's what you need to know for tonight's four state championship games in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
DIVISION I: SCOTLANDVILLE vs. EVANGEL CHRISTIAN
The Division I title game features a contrast of football pedigrees as one school plays for its first ever trophy against one of the state's most decorated champions.
Shreveport's Evangel Christian Academy spent the better part of two decades as one of the state's surest title contenders year-in and year-out. The Eagles six titles in the 90s, including four straight from 1996-1999, then followed that run with another decade of dominance, adding seven more titles between 2001 and 2010. During that time, it seemed unfathomable that Evangel could enter a five-season title drought, but that's exactly where the Eagles find themselves at the moment.
They could be in position to quench that championship thirst after rebounding from a rocky start to 2016. The Eagles began the year with two straight losses, getting routed by both Texas power Allen High School and 4A Louisiana powerhouse Neville. But Evangel flipped the script starting in Week 3 with a rout of their own over LaGrange, and starting with that 62-point outburst, the offense found its groove.
The Eagles averaged just a hair under 55 points a game through the final eight games of the season, easily winning all eight. The defense has proven salty as well, holding the final seven of those opponents to eight points or less, shutting out five of them completely.
It was more of the same in the first round of the playoffs as they crushed Holy Cross 59-9, but the road to the Dome grew tougher in round two. In Covington for a playoff rematch from last season, the Eagles earned a hard-fought 28-21 win over the St. Paul's Wolves. That would set up a second straight trip to the New Orleans area for the semifinals, where the Eagles truly turned heads, dominating top seed John Curtis 27-6 to earn a third trip south in as many weeks and a chance to rekindle their reputation as a Superdome institution.
Standing in their way will be a school making their first championship game appearance, a team trying to put the perfect bow on what could be the greatest season in school history.
Baton Rouge's Scotlandville Magnet School wasn't exactly disrespected heading into the season, ranking #10 in the first 5A poll of the year, but they also weren't exactly considered a top contender to make a run for the Division I championship in a field littered with teams from the New Orleans Catholic League mixed with the football factories of John Curtis and Evangel. But the Hornets took things one step at a time.
The first step was to be unbeatable in the regular season, and that's exactly what Scotlandville was. They ran through every team in their way, finishing a perfect 10-0 and earning a first-round bye in the playoffs. In the second round, they took a touchdown victory over St. Augustine 27-20, then faced a real dogfight with one of the Purple Knights' Catholic League rivals in the semifinals.
A pair of second-half takeaways and a crucial stop of a two-point conversion in the final minute helped Scotlandville score their narrowest victory of the season as they slipped past the Brother Martin Crusaders 18-16. Now the Hornets will swarm the Superdome for the first time with a chance to close out what would be a perfect season in every sense of the word.
DIVISION II: ST. THOMAS MORE vs. PARKVIEW BAPTIST
This matchup features a high-stakes title game between couple of big city schools with rich football traditions, though only one has a championship pedigree, even if their season didn't necessarily inspire dreams of back to back championships at first.
Baton Rouge's Parkview Baptist School knows what it takes to win a championship. They've won five state titles in football since the turn of the century and three this decade, including last season when a flurry of action in the game's final minutes including a go-ahead touchdown bomb and a game-sealing pick put a fifth title in the Eagles' hands.
But their title defense began not with a bang but a whimper as Parkview dropped their first three games of 2016, falling to Catholic of Baton Rouge, Riverside, and John Curtis in successive September Fridays. The Eagles took out their early-season frustrations on their next three opponents as they blasted Baker, Brusly, and Glen Oaks by a combined 134-15. While they did score a hard-fought victory over University, they would also lose once more before season's end, falling to West Feliciana in Week 9. Still, even at 6-4, they had enough clout in the power rankings to score a first-round bye in the postseason.
In the quarterfinals, they raced past Teurlings Catholic 38-21, then in the semis, they ended top seed De La Salle's dreams of a perfect season, conquering the Cavaliers 34-14 to complete the trek back to the Superdome, where they'll get a taste of deja vu.
Like Parkview, the trip back to the Big Easy for Lafayette's St. Thomas More Cougars wasn't always pretty. They opened the year with a loss and in fact tasted defeat in three of their first five games, losing to Sulphur, Catholic of Baton Rouge, and Hahnville. But since a 42-7 win over Beau Chene, the Cougars can't lose. STM finished the season at 7-3 with impressive wins over Carencro and Teurlings on their resume.
They barely broke a sweat when they first entered postseason play after a first-round bye, dropping E.D. White 56-7, but business picked up last week in the semifinals.
At first, things seemed to come easy to the Cougars even against the always salty University Cubs, but STM's 21-point lead didn't dismay U-High. The Cubs cut the lead to five points and drove down to the Cougars' five-yard line in the closing minute. However, with 34 seconds left, a fourth-and-two pass on the doorstep of the goal line fell incomplete, and St. Thomas More reserved their place at the Superdome for a second straight year, setting up another chance to ground the Eagles and take home the first state football title in school history.
DIVISION III: RIVERSIDE vs. ST. CHARLES CATHOLIC
It'll be a River Parishes showdown for all the marbles when Reserve's Riverside Rebels battle Laplace's St. Charles Catholic Comets.
The Rebels came tantalizingly close to the school's first football title last year but fell short, getting stifled on offense by a stout Notre Dame defense. Riverside managed just a field goal in the 13-3 loss and was left the runner-up for a fourth time in school history.
Still, expectations were high for the Riverside faithful coming into the season, and after a three-point season-opening loss to 5A John Ehret, the Rebels caught fire. Beginning with a Week 2 road win over perennial championship contender Parkview Baptist, the Rebels reeled off an eight-game winning streak to finish the season 8-1.
Since the start of the playoffs, Riverside has been incredibly consistent. After a 48-14 first-round win over Ville Platte's Sacred Heart, they made the long road trip to Monroe and posted a nearly identical 48-17 win over Ouachita Christian. They returned home for a 40-14 semifinal victory over New Iberia's Catholic High Panthers to set up a rematch with a district rival for Division III's top prize.
St. Charles Catholic have made their hay this season thanks to a stingy defense that gives up just 10 1/2 points per game, an output that helped the Comets to an 8-2 regular season record. They held five of their foes to six points or less and four times kept their opponents off the scoreboard completely. In fact, only one team had legitimate success against the Comets this season: the Riverside Rebels. In their Week 8 battle, the Rebels had their way with St. Charles, extinguishing the Comets in a 35-14 loss.
St. Charles kept battling though. Since that defeat, they've won five straight, including their three-week run through the postseason that reasserted the dominance of their defense. After torching Thomas Jefferson in round one 45-6, they blanked Calvary Baptist 21-0. Then in last week's semifinals, they went on the road to Crowley and dethroned the reigning state champion Notre Dame, pounding the Pioneers 21-10 to punch their ticket to the Superdome, where they'll look to give their 2011 trophy some company in the case.
DIVISION IV: ASCENSION EPISCOPAL vs. SOUTHERN LAB
The game that will decide the Division IV title pits two teams with a combined 23 wins between them and just one loss.
On one side is a team with a rich championship history who is certainly no stranger to the Superdome. Southern Lab High out of Baton Rouge has taken home five state football championships, and the Kittens have a wealth of experience to drawn from, considering the most recent was just last season.
Lab came into 2016 as the dominant preseason pick to repeat, and they've done nothing to dispel the notion that their worthy of those lofty expectations.
After a slim two-point season-opening loss to the much larger U-High, the Kittens proceeded to roll off win after win after win - seven of them to close out the regular season. They posted an average of over 47 points a game in their eight contests, dropping as much as 81 in a single game. And their defense was even more impressive. The Kittens D gave up a miniscule six points a game. And if you drop the 28 they gave up in Week 1 to University, that six points drops to just 2 1/2.
Their domination has continued through three playoff matchups. After Pointe Coupee's Catholic Hornets 58-0 in round one, they took down the Ascension Catholic Bulldogs 36-13, and last week absolutely plastered the Cedar Creek Cougars 56-0 for their sixth shutout of the year and second of the playoffs. Now just one last obstacle stands in the way of back to back titles for the Kittens.
Their opponent in the title game is a newcomer to the Superdome. Lafayette's Ascension Episcopal School have been a program on the rise over the last few years, and 2016 might be looked back on as they year the Blue Gators arrived.
The Gators have yet to taste defeat this season, running the table for a perfect 10-0 regular season. The Gators' prolific offense has averaged 44 1/2 points a game, topping 40 points seven times. They had little trouble through the first two rounds of the postseason, blowing out Highland Baptist 45-7 in the first round, then following it up with a 58-35 shootout win over St. Frederick.
Ascension Episcopal found a semifinal district rematch with Central Catholic more challenging but survived 31-21 to advance to their first Dome appearance in school history. Now they sit just one step from a perfect season and championship immortality.
And THAT'S what you need to know, brought to you by Pinnacle Medical, dedicated to your orthopedic care.
Click over to WWL.com to hear full play-by-play from all four games, and tune into the WWL Allstate Sugar Bowl Prep Football Roundup on WWL AM & FM tonight at 7pm.