When the LSHAA football playoff pairings were announced Sunday, Landry-Walker coach Emmanuel Powell couldn’t believe that his team had drawn Chalmette.
The Owls had beaten Landry-Walker 17-12 in the District 8-5A opener at Chalmette, putting the Charging Buccaneers in a tenuous situation. One more loss and making the playoff may not have been a reality.
The rematch is Friday at Behrman Stadium, Landry-Walker’s home field.
“My initial reaction was to be excited to be in the playoffs,” Powell said. “The second reaction, regarding Chalmette, was there’s a chance to right some of the wrongs we did on the field.”
The big win Sept. 25 gave Chalmette momentum it kept for the rest of the season, for the most part. Its only loss was to Ehret, and Chalmette, Landry-Walker and Ehret finished as tri-champions.
However, to Powell and Chalmette coach Jason Tucker, their game seemingly has had a mental asterisk. Landry-Walker junior Keytoan Thompson, rated among the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation and who received an offer from LSU, was out with a high-ankle sprain.
Chalmette wants to show it wasn’t so much about Thompson. With a win, Chalmette would advance past the first round for the first time since 2004, when it was in Class 3A.
“I know the talk of the town was that their quarterback was out for that game,” Tucker said. “But if you were at that game, from the middle of the third quarter all the way down, (Chalmette running back) Masen (Mitchell) was out cramping, (Chalmette wingback) Kerry (Johnson) was out and (Chalmette quarterback) Dominic (Curole) had injured his shoulder.”
Powell, whose team advanced to the Class 4A quarterfinals last season after reaching the semifinals in 2013, said simply that his team didn’t play in the first meeting, Thompson notwithstanding.
Both coaches said the Owls won because they executed a great game plan well. It was a mix of the offensive line controlling the first half, with Mitchell’s running for 144 yards and two touchdowns as they kept the ball from the Buccaneers’ big-play offense. He finished with 170 on 28 carries.
Aided by their special teams, the Owls shut out the Bucs in the first half in taking a 17-0 lead. Chalmette used its pattented sky kickoffs to eliminate the possibility of long returns by dangerous Tevin Bush, and the defense prevented them from driving.
Powell said he knows he’ll see more of the same.
“Our big issues going into this game are field position and time of possession,” he said. “We didn’t tackle well, which was correctable. But they have good players over there.”
Chalmette had 70 plays to Landry-Walker’s 30 in the game. However, the Bucs scored on two big plays in the second half — a 90-yard run by Malik Arnold and a 52-yard pass from Nicholas Landry to Kaleb Anderson.
Tucker said the Owls have to eliminate such plays if they are to win. He said he thinks Chalmette’s defense can and it’s something it has improved as the season has progressed.
“We see players in our district all the time who can make big plays,” Tucker said. “We have to contain Thompson, try to keep (Landry-Walker’s receivers) in front us and rally to the ball.”
To him, Chalmette “left some points on the field,” referring to a 66-yard drive at the start of the third quarter that died at the 10. Arnold broke the long run on the next play.
As far as the sky kicks, Powell said his team has worked on blocking schemes to help, but that making sure they field the ball well is key.
A bigger issue is penalties, which have plagued the Bucs. Last week against West Jefferson, Landry-Walker had 18 for 115 yards, including false starts on their first five snaps.
“Sometimes, our kids aren’t focused, and that’s on us,” he said. “They’ll be focused Friday.”