Class 1A football is deeply rooted in the culture of small towns across Louisiana. So whenever two small-town teams play for an LHSAA title it is a big deal.
And when Kentwood and West St. John — two small-town teams with big-time talent and dreams meet — it is an event, one that kicks off the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Prep Classic at noon Thursday.
“When I look at the two teams, I really don’t see much difference,” Kentwood coach Jonathan Foster said. “They have size, we have size. We have speed and they have speed. It really is like looking in the mirror and that is why I think this is such a great matchup.”
Third-seeded Kentwood (13-1) knocked off No. 2 Oak Grove in the semifinals Friday and seeks its second 1A title in three years. Before that, the Kangaroos hadn’t won a 1A title since 1998.
Foster can relate to West St. John’s situation. After playing up to Class 2A the past two years, the top-seeded Rams (10-2) seek their first LHSAA title since 2004 when they won a 2A crown. WSJHS was the 1A runner-up in 2011.
The fact that Kentwood beat the Rams in the regular season the last two seasons adds another dimension to an already intriguing match-up.
“Revenge? If you want to call it that,” West St. John coach Brandon Walters said. “We just don’t want to lose to them again. That’s why we scheduled those guys and teams like that. We like to use them as a measuring stick in the middle of the year to see where we’re at.”
Both schools come from talent-rich areas and talent to the table. River Parishes-based WSJHS has the runner-up tandem Kylan Duhe has 1,579 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns, while Niko Roy adds 1,148 yards and 27 TDs.
Tangipahoa Parish-based Kentwood counters with an offense triggered by Lorenz Morris, who relies on Trey Palmer (41 catches, 917 yards, 13) as a dependable target. Larry Carter, the brother Alabama defensive back Shyheim Carter, has 1,647 rushing yards on 242 carries with 25 TDs. Shyheim Carter quarterbacked KHS to its 2015 title.
“I think they are 10 times better than the last time we played them. When you have a match-up like this it comes down to things the fans don’t always see,” Foster said. “Like who executes the best, who commits penalties, who turns the ball over and what happens when there is a turnover. Kids get excited in this situation. We need to settle down and play.”