The feeling is this week is no different than at any time during the distinguished 41-year coaching career of St. Thomas More’s Jim Hightower.
Hightower, a recent selection to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, still gets a tinge of butterflies associated with preparing for another opponent and certainly on the day of the game.
When No. 4 St. Thomas More (5-1, 1-0) travels to Carencro (4-2, 1-0) in a the key District 4-4A game, it will mark the 500th game of Hightower’s career. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. Friday
“That’s a lot of games,” said Hightower, the state’s second winningest coach behind John Curtis’ J.T. Curtis with a record of 381-117-1. “Every game you prepare for, you prepare the best you can. You’re nervous. That hasn’t gotten any easier.”
STM-Carencro highlights a busy evening of top-flight games featuring the renewal of the Acadiana-Lafayette High rivalry when the Rams (4-2, 3-0) travel to meet the Lions (2-4, 0-2) at 7 p.m. No. 9 Eunice (5-1, 1-0) also hosts Northwest (5-1, 1-0) in a battle of District 5-3A co-leaders.
“It’s not quite as ugly a rivalry as it was at one point, but people still get excited about it,” Acadiana coach Ted Davidson said about the Lafayette High game.
ST. THOMAS MORE-CARENCRO: STM and Carencro aren’t exactly strangers, having played each other the past two seasons during the regular season.
The Cougars won 56-21 a year ago.
“STM’s good at finding the open guy and their staff does a good job of scoring points,” Carencro coach Roland “Rip” Eveland said. “It’s going to be another great high school game.”
STM’s responded in convincing fashion to its lone loss of the season — 35-17 at Catholic High of Baton Rouge — with victories over Hahnville (52-12) and Beau Chene (70-0), the latter signifying the start of league play.
Quarterback William Bellamy has completed 80 of 133 passes for 1,047 yards and 15 TDs to pace STM’s offense. Evan Trahan (70-516, five TDs) is the team’s top rusher and McNeese State commitment Trevor Begue (33-466, eight TDs) the top receiver.
Carencro features running back Tyreik Campbell (122-973, 11 TDs) on offense and Kordell Williams (39 tackles, interception, fumble recovery) on defense.
“I can see the steady growth and improvement in their program over the last two years we’ve been playing them,” Hightower said. “This by far looks like the best group I’ve seen representing Carencro in the recent past.”
ACADIANA-LAFAYETTE: Before Acadiana had designs on a second straight run to the Class 5A state championship last season, the Rams had to rely on a 75-yard hook-and-lateral play in the last 90 seconds to escape with a win over the Lions.
“They played really hard against us and played really well and we don’t expect them to do any differently this year,” Davidson said.
Both teams are heading in opposite directions.
After a 2-0 start, Lafayette’s dropped its last four games that included a hard-fought 33-30 loss to Barbe a week ago.
Acadiana, which was 1-2 through three weeks, has won its past three games, featuring narrow wins over Barbe (41-35) and Sulphur (32-30) before a blowout over Comeaux (50-11) last week.
Running back Jayrin Wilson tops the Rams with 70 carries for 711 yards and nine TDs, while Ziggy Francis has carried 79 times for 565 yards and scored six TDs.
“The district can be topsy-turvy at times and can be hard to get a fix on things,” Davidson said. “We tell our guys the easiest way to take care of that is to keep winning and don’t worry about what else happens in the district.”