Kentwood High School football coach Jonathan Foster probably expected a backlash as soon as he said it.
Using a cliché to describe a state championship game isn’t typically the best approach.
But it works for Foster, whose top-seeded team faces No. 3 Haynesville to open the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Prep Classic at 4:30 p.m. Friday.
“We have an explosive offense and Haynesville has that power running game,” Foster said. “What it’s going to come down to is who plays the best defense. Can they stop our big plays, and can we find a way to stop the run when we they have the ball?
“You know what they say, ‘Defense wins championships.’ Well, this is a championship, and I believe defense will decide it one way or the other.”
The Kangaroos (12-1) are in their first title game since playing for the 2003 championship when they square off against two-time defending 1A champion Haynesville (11-2) at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The game kicks off two days of LHSAA football title games.
Kentwood looks to become the second District 6-1A team to win a state title, joining Southern Lab, crowned the Division IV select champion a week ago.
Class 1A tradition is one thing the both Haynesville and Kentwood share. Between them, they have 24 Class 1A titles. The battle of polar opposite offensive approaches sets this game apart.
Kentwood’s Shyheim Carter is one of Louisiana’s top senior prospects and is considering Ole Miss, Alabama and Georgia. Though Carter is projected as a defensive back in college, he’s been one of Louisiana’s most dynamic offensive players.
Carter has 4,091 yards of offense, including 2,443 passing yards to power the Kangaroos’ big-play offense. Contrast that with Haynesville’s traditional running attack that includes 3,964 rushing yards and you get a clear picture what could be a 48-minute tug-of-war.
“Here’s the thing about Haynesville … they’ve won the last two state titles doing what they do,” Foster said. “And if it ain’t broke, you don’t fix up. The challenge for us will be stopping them.”
KINDER VS. MANGHAM: Yes, the runners-up have it in this game. And the running game will be crucial for the 8 p.m. game that concludes Friday’s action.
Kinder (13-1) won the Class 2A title two years ago and was the runner-up last season. The Yellow Jackets, who are making their straight Finals appearance, previously won a title in 1978.
Mangham (10-4) hasn’t won a state title since 1956, but has been close. The Dragons were the 1A runner-up the past two seasons.
Quarterback Welles Cooley is a 1,000-yard rusher and a 1,000-yard passer. But running back Taylor Johnson leads the way with 1,719 rushing yards. Meanwhile, Jakarie Nichols leads a trio of 1,000-yard rushers for Mangham with 1,519 yards.
Saints forum Friday
The New Orleans Saints are set to host their 2015 High School Forum starting at 8 a.m. Friday at the Superdome.
The six-hour session will include guest panelists, rotating breakout sessions and training sessions.
Representatives from the Saints, NFL, colleges and local high school will be among the presenters.
Registration is limited to 250 coaches. Coaches can pre-register at lfcassoc.org or in person on Friday morning. Breakfast and lunch will be provided to coaches as a part of the registration fee.