Some coaches complain about taking the toughest route through the playoffs. St. Helena coach Brandon Brown is an exception.
“I know this sounds funny, but I really like the way things have played out for us,” Brown said. “First, we played No. 3 Amite in the quarterfinals and then it was No. 2 Ferriday in the semifinals. Now we play the No. 1 team. They always say to be the best, you have to beat the best … This is our chance.”
Sixth-seeded St. Helena (12-2) faces No. 1 Welsh (12-1) in the Class 2A final at noon Friday that opens Day 2 of the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Prep Classic at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The past week has arguably been an emotional roller-coaster for the Hawks. Two-way standout Aaron Hurst suffered a neck injury in the first half of the semifinal win over Ferriday.
The senior linebacker/running back had surgery and has already begun to walk in therapy, all the while urging his team to take that final step to win an LHSAA title.
“He told us he gave us everything he had,” Hurst’s cousin, Memphis commitment Troy Hurst, said. “He asked us to get him a ring.”
The hashtag #winitfor8 has trended all week for St. Helena fans. The Hawks will wear No. 8 decals on their helmets and the coaches will wear shirts with Aaron Hurst’s picture on them.
Finding ways to bear down on Welsh’s prolific passing game will be pivotal. Quarterback Zach Hayes has passed for 2,496 and 26 TDs for the Greyhounds, with Da’Ren Zeno registering 90 catches for 1,387 yards.
Brown’s Hawks will counter with a rushing attack led by Jeremy Griffin's 978 yards and Troy Hurst's 452 yards. Quarterback Ricky Travis is a 1,000-yard passer, while linebacker Devin Taylor leads the defense with 83 tackles.
“Welsh is a very good team,” Brown said. “We’ll need to play our best.”