There is no way to top perfection and that is exactly what top-seeded De La Salle and No. 2 University seek.
Both teams are unbeaten going into the Division II title game at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Prep Classic, something that heightens the hype for the 3:30 p.m. Friday game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
“Any time you have two teams that are undefeated, I think it creates more excitement,” University coach Chad Mahaffey said. “Our guys are excited about being back in the finals. It’s a team from New Orleans and one from Baton Rouge. I can understand why people are curious about this one.”
When it comes to title-game experience the Cubs (12-0), who won the Division II title in 2014, have the edge. De La Salle (11-0) last played in a title game in 1961, losing to another Baton Rouge team, Istrouma 20-7. That was 20 years before the LHSAA started its Prep Classic.
These two teams are built for the here and now, though their approaches are different. Quarterback Julien Gums is the bruising runner and the centerpiece of a De La Salle option attack. The Cavaliers have 19 seniors.
“They are not like a a standard kind of option team where you can load up the box to stop one thing,” Mahaffey said. “Gums is a big guy and very talented, but they have other ways to hurt you. They can run it and throw it.”
“I don’t know Ryan (Manale, DLS coach) well, but I have followed the progress of their program and that is what they’ve built is a program.”
Gums has rolled up 2,237 yards and 27 touchdowns by rushing (117-1,141-15 TDs) and passing (63-90-1, 1,096, 12 TDs) the football. Kendall Collins Jr. adds 98 yards rushing and six TDs rushing) and wide receivers Aaron Marquez (21-510-5 TDs) and B.J. Randle (24-429-5 TDs) are key targets.
Manale is just as impressed with a U-High team that uses more of a pro-style attack to shred its opponents. Manale noted the Cubs have beaten three other teams playing for titles this weekend: Class 3A West Feliciana, Division I Catholic and 5A Zachary.
“They’re a well-oiled machine in all three phases, and we hope we are the same from the schedule we played . . . and that it prepared us for this moment physically,’’ Manale said.
Juniors Michael Hollins and John Gordon McKernan help lead the offense. Hollins has 1,439 yards rushing and 29 TDs, while Kernan has 1,908 yards passing and 20 TDs. Christian Harris has 35 catches for 642 yards and seven TDs. Linebackers Bryton Constantin and Jacob Burke are the tackles leaders for UHS.
“I think people are interested to see how the teams match up,” Mahaffey said. “Now we will find out.”