Southern Lab freshman Curtlan Williams scored the winning touchdown Friday to propel the Kittens into the Class 1A football playoff quarterfinals.
Williams is a versatile player and one of 29 freshmen who could keep Southern Lab in contention for three more seasons.
“I like to make big plays,” said Williams, who scored his second TD on a 6-yard run with 3:08 remaining to lift Southern Lab to a 28-21 regional road playoff victory over Pointe Coupee Central. “I’ll play any position. I’ll do anything to win and anything coach says to do.”
Williams is the leading receiver and kick returner for ninth-seeded Southern Lab (10-2). As a safety, he’s also made three interceptions, including one last week.
“Curtlan Williams came into our program as an athlete,” Southern Lab coach Nick Mitchell said. “He’s more mature and stronger than most guys his age. He’s really come on as the season has progressed. He plays more like a junior or senior. His football IQ is way up there.”
Williams plays slot receiver and running back on offense. Williams and Marquise Ricard are the top targets for senior quarterback Deonte Shorts. Williams has 50 catches for 857 yards with 12 touchdowns. He’s rushed 15 times for 90 yards with two TDs. He has 425 yards in punt and kickoff returns with one score.
“Curtlan has good vision,” Mitchell said. “We want to get him the ball in open space. We move him around a lot. He has a real ‘refuse to lose’ attitude. Being a receiver also helps him understand how to play defense and anticipate what the offense will do. He’s very unselfish and a joy to have on the team. He just wants to play football.”
Williams, a 5-foot-7, 165-pounder, said it took a couple of games for him to fully grasp the offense.
“Coach wants me to run different routes depending on how the defense is set up,” Williams said. “I just want to get open. Shorts is a good quarterback. He can run and throw. When he scrambles, I keep moving and give him a target to throw to.
“I wasn’t expecting to have this kind of success this season. I’ve been playing football since age 7. My team has confidence in me. It’s been a pretty exciting season.”
“Curtlan runs good routes, and it’s hard for defenses to keep up with him,” Mitchell said. “He understands spacing and is never stationary. We want to get the ball in his hands often.”
Southern Lab travels Friday to face defending state champion and top-seeded Ouachita Christian (12-0), which has seven shutouts on the season, including one in the playoffs.
“Ouachita is a very good team,” Williams said. “They are a very physical team. We’ve got to get off to a good start and show them we’re ready to play. We’ve got to execute, give our all and play as a team.
Mitchell was 7-4 in 2011 in his first season as head coach at Southern Lab. The Kittens moved up a spot in the final District 7-1A rankings and finished second this season. The Kittens scored 28 or more points in 10 games this season.
“Our younger players have followed the leadership of our seniors,” Mitchell said. “We’ve enjoyed having the 29 freshmen and have tried to mold them and watch them grow. The whole team has been diligent and worked hard.”