Destrehan football coach Steve Robicheaux understands the secret to Acadiana’s success. Having played against the three-time Class 5A state champions in recent years — including last season — he admires both the stability and consistency of their program.
“You can put the film in and scratch the names out and they’re going to do what they do,” Robicheaux said. “It’s a testament to their staff and kids to be able to keep their program where it’s at. There’s several factors for success such as hard work and good players and they’ve had a combination of that for a lot of years.”
The two teams crossed paths just over a year ago with Acadiana taking a decisive 35-7 semifinal victory en route to the program’s third state championship.
That No. 4 Destrehan (14-0) represents the final step between No. 15 Acadiana (10-4) and an opportunity to claim a repeat championship for the school Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome doesn’t represent a significant news flash.
A close look at the Wildcats gave the Wrecking Rams all the preview into the future they needed in last year’s home semifinal romp.
“They were definitely young last year,” Acadiana coach Ted Davidson said. “They had a senior quarterback (Utah signee Donovan Isom), but he was surrounded by a bunch of sophomores and juniors that were very talented. I’m not surprised at all they’re back where they are.”
Robicheaux built Destrehan into a rising power and joined West Monroe and Evangel Christian Academy before him in winning back-to-back championships in 2007-08.
Robicheaux stepped away from coaching for two years before returning in 2011 and stopped a three-year dry spell without a playoff appearance, guiding the Destrehan to the state semifinals last season.
This year’s Destrehan team can duplicate what its predecessors accomplished under Robicheaux six years ago by winning a state championship and finishing with an undefeated record.
Robicheaux said his club passed an early litmus test with a 20-10 home win over Dutchtown in Week 3 before traveling to Thibodeaux and emerging with a 21-14 road win in District 7-5A play.
With a defense that’s limited opponents to a touchdown or less five times, the Wildcats twice defeated archrival Hahnville, including a 24-12 quarterfinal win, before rallying in the fourth quarter to vanquish West Monroe 27-22 last week.
“It’s been a special year for these kids,” Robicheaux said. “They’ve always stepped up when we needed to, and I hope they’ve got one more in them.”
Destrehan’s spread attack has been predicated on the success of a running game led by senior Will Matthews (5-foot-9, 210) with 215 carries for 1,814 yards and a whopping 24 touchdowns.
Fellow senior Kirk Merritt (6-0, 205) has carried 46 times for 678 yards (14.7 ypc) and seven TDs. He’s also caught 26 passes for 440 yards (16.9 ypc) and four scores.
Arizona State commitment Alfred Smith (5-10, 185) is the team’s leading receiver with 42 catches for 563 yards and six TDs.
“They have some talented skill guys we have to account for on offense,” Davidson said. “Matthews is a good, strong back and Merritt can fly. They move him all over the place.”
Junior middle linebacker Alex Zayed (6-0, 210) tops Destrehan in tackles with 70.5 with help from senior free safety Brandon Scott (65.5) and senior outside linebacker Allen Pittman (63.5).
Robicheaux is hopeful that last year’s semifinal appearance will help prepare his club to face Acadiana’s option-based veer offense, whose offensive linemen don’t get set to until before the snap of the ball.
Tulane defensive back commitment Malik Eugene tops Acadiana’s ground game with 150 attempts for 1,123 yards and 13 TDs. Eric Duhon follows with 147 carries for 808 yards and eight TDs and Donavin Solomon with 100 rushes for 805 yards and eight scores.
LSU H-back/tight end commitment Bry’Keithon Mouton leads the team with 16 catches for 394 yards and four TDs.
“Their O-line is something you can’t simulate in practice,” Robicheaux said. “We saw it last year, and our kids understand that it’s going to be tough. They know we have to be ready. We know what to expect and hopefully that helps going into the game.”
Junior linebacker Kevin Moore, who has sparked a 5-0 surge as the team’s starting quarterback, leads a stifling Acadiana defense with 140 tackles and four of the team’s 18 interceptions.
Junior free safety Jayrin Wilson (5-9, 165) has 75 tackles and three interceptions, senior defensive tackle Seneca Malveaux (6-2, 250) 68 tackles and seven sacks, junior defensive end Javonis Issac (6-3, 210) 66 stops with seven sacks and senior linebacker Dezinarell Gray (6-2, 210) has 62 stops and six sacks.
“We’re going to have to be consistent moving the ball and eat up some clock,” Davidson said. “We can’t give them too many possessions because they’re just too talented. When they run the ball we can’t give them too much and we also can’t turn it over and give them a short field.”