When University High joined District 7-3A a year ago, the expectation was for the Cubs to become a rival for Parkview Baptist.
U-High has exceeded expectations. The top-seeded Cubs are 25-1 over the past two seasons, including a 12-0 mark this season. The only blemish is a loss to powerful John Curtis in last year’s Division II title game.
Now coach Chad Mahaffey’s team is one game away from an elusive state title. Standing in the Cubs’ way is that other traditional power — seventh-seeded Parkview Baptist (9-3).
“We weren’t surprised when Parkview won,” Mahaffey said. “They’re solid defensively. You can’t key on one guy in the backfield. It’s a new game, and it’ll be the one everybody remembers until the next one.”
It also will be for a state title. The Cubs and Eagles square off in the Division II title game that helps highlight Friday’s action at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Prep Classic at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Game time is 5 p.m. for the All-Baton Rouge final that marks the fourth time the teams have played each other over the past two seasons with UHS holding a 3-0 edge.
After countless summer practices and a combined 23 wins, Catholic-New Iberia (12-0) and Calvary Baptist (11-1) take the field one last time in the Division III state championship game.
“There is a great buzz right now throughout the community,” Catholic-New Iberia coach Brent Indest said. “We’re getting lots of well-wishes from players of years ago, and the kids are really excited.”
Friday’s Division III final is a matchup that seems almost destined. Top-seeded Catholic-New Iberia’s last loss came in the 2013 semifinals, against the Cavaliers of Calvary Baptist.
The Panthers will look to avenge last year’s defeat at 1:30 p.m. Despite rarely kicking off games before 7 p.m., Indest said the unusual kickoff team will be beneficial.
“It actually works out perfect,” Indest said. “We will kick off near the time we usually end school. I think kicking off at 1:30 is going to work out well.”
The game will have compelling quarterback matchup with playermaker Shea Patterson going for Calvary Baptist, while Jason Pellerin lines up at quarterback for the Panthers.
In last week’s semifinal against Newman, Pellerin eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark. He is the third Panther to do so this season, joining running backs Andre’ Bellefontaine and Seth Pierre.
When Southern Lab football coach Nick Mitchell looks at the playoff brackets and sees the teams still remaining, there’s gleam in his eye.
Three of the Kittens’ nondistrict foes, a district foe and scrimmage partner are still alive for their respective state championships, led by U-High in the Division II title game.
What it did was reinforce Mitchell’s belief in preparing his talented team against some of the state’s best competition and the payoff comes at 10 a.m. Friday when No. 5 Southern Lab (8-5) encounters No. 6 Ouachita Christian (10-3) for the Division IV state crown.
“Four years ago our vision was to make sure we provided the kids with the opportunity to play the best football against the best competition,” Mitchell said. “If that meant extending outside of the local area into some of the tradition-rich areas of the state, that was part of the plan.”
For the second straight year Southern Lab sacrificed a potentially sparkling record for a road less traveled with five losses in their first six games.
Included in that group were setbacks against U-High, Plaquemine (4A semifinalist) and Amite (3A semifinalist), while the Kittens defeated District 6-1A rival Kentwood (1A semifinalist) and battled West St. John (1A semifinalist) in a spring scrimmage.
“It speaks volumes of the dedication of our kids,” Mitchell said. “The buy-in has been tremendous. Whatever we placed in front of them, whether they liked it or not, they did it. We played against bigger, stronger and faster teams. It put us in position where we are today.”
For the third straight year Southern Lab and OCS cross paths, but this time it’s in the state final where the Kittens are appearing for the first time since 2000. They last won a state title in 1996.
With consecutive state titles to its credit, OCS had designs on a three-peat last season until Southern Lab traveled to Monroe and came away with a 20-14 upset quarterfinal victory.
“They’re a different team, and so are we,” Mitchell said. “I’m sure there are some emotions they’re holding on to from last year they’ll bring into the game, but our emotions will be pretty high also.”
OCS’ offense has relied on the passing of Chance Clowers, who has completed 156 of 266 passes for 2,366 yards with 29 TDs and eight interceptions.
Linebackers Dorien Welch and Javahn Ferguson lead Southern Lab’s defense with 169 and 138 tackles, respectively, while cornerback Jonard Robinson has 12 interceptions and 21 pass break-ups.
Offensively, the Kittens follow the lead of quarterback Bladrick Veal (125 of 220, 1,857 yards, 20 TDs) and running back Darbbeon Profit (213, 1,744, 15 TDs).
“I do not think playing in the Superdome will take their minds off the game,” Mitchell said. “When you can line up and play against some of the teams we’ve played, for us this is another football game. Yes, it’s for the trophy but it’s another game.”