Different paths have led University High and Redemptorist to the same destination.
The Cubs can secure their first undefeated regular season since 1988. After a 1-4 start in nondistrict play, the Wolves have won three of their past four under the guidance of first-year coach Aaron Vice.
But the District 7-2A title will be decided Friday when the Cubs (9-0, 4-0) host the Wolves (4-5, 3-1) in their regular season finale.
A Redemptorist win could force a three-way tie at the top of the standings with University and Episcopal.
“It’s going to be a tremendous challenge,” Vice said. “On offense they have speed where you need it, but they also have the power running game.
“On defense they’ve got athletes who create havoc and force turnovers. We know they’re not going to make many mistakes.” ?
Friday’s slate features multiple games with postseason implications.
Fifth-ranked Episcopal (8-1, 3-1) hosts Dunham (4-5, 2-2) with a chance to secure a home playoff game also in 7-2A.
Southern Lab (6-3, 3-1) can claim a share of the 7-1A crown with a road win against No. 10 Kentwood (7-2, 4-0). Both rivals have won four straight games.
Dual-threat quarterbacks will jockey for playoff positioning in 7-3A when Port Allen (8-1, 3-1) hosts Brusly. Jay Christophe leads Brusly (6-3, 3-1) with 1,467 total yards and 17 touchdowns. PHS quarterback Darian Claiborne has 939 passing yards, 896 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns.
All games start at 7 p.m.
The Wolves stumbled at the start of the season, losing three straight as the team adjusted to personnel and coaching changes. But RHS has gained momentum during its district schedule thanks to the emergence of running back Deno Mullens, who leads the team with 855 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. The Wolves have scored at least 40 points in their past three wins.
“They’re capable of scoring points in a hurry,” UHS coach Chad Mahaffey said. “They do a great job with the screen game, and they’re running the football better each week.”
The emergence of the RHS running game has opened throwing lanes for first-year quarterback Josh Courtney, whose completed 66 percent of his passes this season for 1,683 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The Wolves will rely on the combination of their precise spread offense and sound defensive assignments to limit the possessions of the UHS offense, which averages 42 points per game.
“The first step against these guys is to make sure you’re lined up right because they’re going to spread you out,” Vice said. “With that space in the defense, you have to have sound tackling and everybody has to get to the football.”
UHS will test the depth of the Redemptorist defense with a power running game that’s fueled the Cubs’ resurgent season. Freshman running back Nick Brossette is the centerpiece of the UHS offense. Brossette has carried 157 times this season for 1,024 yards and 20 touchdowns.
“We know we’re going to see a steady dose of him,” Vice said. “He’s more than just a runner. He blocks well and he can catch passes out of the backfield. He’s the total package.”
MAIS PLAYOFFS: Clinton-based Silliman Institute (5-5) becomes the first metro playoff team on Friday.
The Wildcats, who made the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Playoffs playoffs for the first time in two years, are a wild-card team facing Simpson Academy (10-0) in the first round of the Class 2A playoffs. Game time is 7 p.m. in Mendenhall, Miss.
“I feel like we match up with them pretty well size wise,” Silliman coach T.J. Davis said. “We’ll need to control the line of scrimmage and execute what we do without a lot of mistakes.”