Central High pulled off what skeptics thought was impossible by upsetting top-seeded St. Paul’s to open the Class 5A football playoffs last week.
The story doesn’t end there, said Central coach Doug Dotson. The Wildcats (7-4), seeded 32nd, host No. 16 Ruston (7-4) in a regional game Friday at Central Middle School.
“We gave them (Central players) a little time to enjoy that win and celebrate,” Dotson said. “There was work to do, and they’re excited about this game and playing at home this week.
“The matchup is similar to what we’ve seen the last few weeks with Denham Springs and then St. Paul’s. It’s very much old-school football. They like to pound the ball, use the play-action pass and they’re solid defensively. We’ll need to play our best.”
The Ruston-Central game is the only regional contest in Classes 5A to 3A that will be played in the Baton Rouge area. All games start at 7 p.m.
In Class 3A, fifth-seeded Livonia (10-1) travels to New Orleans to take on No. 21 McMain (8-3) at Pan American Stadium. Parkview Baptist (7-3) seeded 11th, travels to Crowley to face No. 6 Notre Dame (8-3). Port Allen (9-2), the 14th seed, plays at No. 3 Loranger (10-1).
Also, Lutcher (10-1), the third-seeded District 6-4A champion located outside the metro area, travels to No. 19 Washington-Marion (8-3) in Lake Charles.
Central used its passing game to upstage St. Paul’s and won 35-28 in Covington.
Quarterback Brett Courville passed for 347 yards and receiver Gary Triplett had seven catches for 202 yards, including three first-half touchdowns for the Wildcats, who have won five straight to rebound from a 2-4 start to the season.
Central’s spread offense squaring off against the Ruston defense will be intriguing. The Bearcats have two defensive backs, Cyril Noland (Louisiana Tech) and Kentrell Brice (Missouri), who have already committed to Division I schools. Last week, Central’s District 4-5A rival Denham Springs was plagued by six turnovers in its loss to Ruston.
The other matchup to note will be Central’s defense against a ground-oriented Ruston offense led by Alexio Williams Hargrove, who has two straight 200-yard rushing games, including 239 last week.
“Their secondary will be as good as any you’ll see,” Dotson said. “Our receivers are young, but they’ve been making plays all year. We have confidence in our offense.”
The trio of 3A games feature numerous possibilities. PBS coach Kenny Guillot said his team’s game with Notre Dame could be the cliché bowl, at least from a coaching perspective.
“It comes down to all the clichés you hear,” Guillot said. “You have to win the field position battle, you have to score when you have the opportunity and you can’t have turnovers.
“Notre Dame is a younger team than we’ve seen before. But they’re well coached and they’ll be ready to play us.”
Parkview beat Notre Dame 17-0 in the semifinals a year ago en route to winning the 3A title. In 2009, Notre Dame beat PBS 14-7 in the 3A title game.
Livonia heads to New Orleans seeking its first quarterfinal berth. McMain, meanwhile is coming off its first-ever playoff win.
Both teams have high-powered running backs. Livonia’s Mark Lewis has run for 1,727 yards and 29 TDs. McMain’s Josh Rounds has 1,873 yards and 29 TDs.
The Port Allen-Loranger game also features several impact players, led by Loranger’s Jeryl Brazil, a junior, who is already committed to LSU.
Brazil has drawn comparisons to two former LSU players, Trindon Holliday and Shyrone Carey. He plays running back, receiver, returns kicks and also sees some action on defense.
Port Allen will counter with its own talented junior in Darian Claiborne, the first player in school history to rush and pass for more than 1,000 yards in the same season. Claiborne, also a linebacker, had a game with 21 tackles earlier this year.