A risky poker bet may have looked better than Catholic High’s chances of advancing to the postseason two weeks into the season.
The Bears started the season 0-2. First there was a six-game winning streak. Two straight come-from-behind playoff wins have Catholic playing for a state title for the first time in 25 years.
Can Catholic some how draw another winning hand? That’s the key question as the sixth-seeded Bears (9-3) face top-seeded Archbishop Rummel (11-1) in the Division I state title game Friday night.
“I know a lot of coaches say they’re proud of their teams and it’s true, I’m so very proud of this team,” Catholic coach Dale Weiner said. “They’ve never wavered in their work ethic and they’ve believed in themselves and their ability to accomplish things.”
Catholic and Rummel square off in a game that closes out the select schools portion of the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Prep Classic at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Game time is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. for the two teams who started their seasons against each other in an August preseason scrimmage.
“We scrimmage them every year,” Rummel coach Jay Roth said. “But I don’t put much into scrimmages because there was no kicking game in those. And they had a new defensive coordinator putting their defense in.
“They have had two great wins in the playoffs. It should be a very entertaining game.”
Catholic and Rummel have either played or scrimmaged each other every year since 2001. The Raiders beat the Bears in the regular season the last two years, including a 17-14 win in 2014.
Rummel held future LSU player Derrius Guice to 24 yards on 13 carries last season. The Bears again have a top running back in junior Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who has 2,355 all-purpose yards, including 1,249 rushing yards with 19 total TDs. Quarterback Ian Brian has 1,868 passing yards and 448 rushing yards for an offense to cut down on miscues after losses to Division II finalist Parkview Baptist and 5A semifinalist Zachary High.
Edwards-Helaire was sidelined by a concussion for half of a quarterfinal win over Brother Martin and the entire semifinal win over Evangel Christian. That’s when the Bears’ bend-but-don’t break defense made headlines.
Lineman Aaron Moffitt made the game-clinching stop on a two-point conversion try against Brother Martin. Brandon Fairbanks scooped up a fumble that helped Catholic force overtime after trailing 21-0 to Evangel. Connor Bowen sealed the win with an interception.
Defensive lineman Briston Guidry, an Arkansas commitment, and defensive back Kristian Fulton lead a Rummel defense that will test the Bears on one side of the ball. Quarterback Chase Fourcade, a Nicholls State commitment, has thrown for over 650 yards in the Raiders two playoff wins and will be the latest challenge for the CHS defense.
“The one thing we can’t afford to do is fall behind like we did last week,” Weiner said. “We have to be efficient and score when we get the chance. We’ll have to make plays on defense.
“Both teams pride themselves on special teams. And there will probably be a big special teams play by somebody. There usually is in a game like this.”