Capturing the essence of what it will be like when two football-crazy communities meet for the first time with a state title on the line isn’t easy.
Livonia High coach Guy Mistretta offered the perfect explanation.
“I’d hate to be that one last sheriff’s deputy or policeman,” he said. “Once everybody leaves for the game, he’ll be the only guy left in town. That’s how it’s going to be in Livonia, and I’m sure it’ll be the same way in Amite.
“Having two communities like this involved in the playoffs is something special. We’ve had the last two weeks at Rayville, and then we hosted West Feliciana. Well, this time, it’s small-town football in the big city.”
Top-seeded Livonia (13-0) takes on No. 3 Amite (11-3) in the Class 3A title game, which opens the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Prep Classic at noon Saturday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The second day of the nonselect school title games also will involve larger schools with higher profiles. At 3:30 p.m., No. 5 Warren Easton (12-2) plays No. 2 Neville (12-1) in the Class 4A final. To conclude the day around 7 p.m., Acadiana (10-4), the 15th seed, meets No. 4 Destrehan (14-0) to decide the 5A title.
As notable as those games are, it may be tough to find a potential matchup that’s any better than Livonia vs. Amite.
“I’ve seen Livonia on film the last couple of years, and you could see how athletic they were,” Amite coach Alden Foster said. “Now that I’ve gotten to see them even more this week, they’re even more impressive. Really, they’re a lot like us. In the areas where we’re strong, they’re strong. Some of the things they like to do are a lot like what we do. I do think they’re probably a little bigger than us in a couple of areas, but there really isn’t much difference.”
The statistics for the teams bear that out. On offense, it starts with running backs Kenner Harrell and Malcolm Dedrick.
A broken wrist kept Dedrick out of the playoffs last season, but he has more than made up for lost time, rushing for 1,972 yards and 29 touchdowns for Livonia. Harrell missed a couple of games with injuries but has roared back to tally over 1,600 yards for Amite.
Quarterbacks Cee Jay Powell and Devarious Henderson also make plays. Powell is a first-year starter who has 1,460 passing yards and 1,061 rushing for LHS. Henderson, a second-year starter, came into his own late in the year and has thrown for more than 20 TDs for AHS.
Livonia’s Willie Baker and Amite’s Brad Porter are defensive linemen who can steal the show — and perhaps a football or two. The duo has a combined total of 57 tackles for loss and 27 sacks.
Both schools are motivated by their previous title-game appearance. Livonia lost to Union Parish in double overtime in its first 11-man football title game a year ago. Amite lost by a point to St. Charles Catholic in the 2011 3A final.
“I think both teams have had the advantage physically and athletically all year,” Mistretta said. “And now you don’t have that, so what happens? As a coach, you always look for places to gain an advantage. You don’t really have that here. I think both teams are going to have to be patient in the beginning. Eventually, something will work, but you don’t know what that is. It’ll be a chess match.”
Foster agreed, saying he has been stressing technique and fundamentals more than ever.
“If you key too much on the running back, the quarterback will go and burn you,” Foster said. “It’s same way with us. Take something away, and we’ll get you in another place.”
Foster stressed that there’s no place he’d rather be than the Superdome.
“This group has been starting for us ever since the last time we were in the finals,” Foster said. “We knew they could be special. Now they get to play for a championship, the goal everybody in Louisiana has. It really is a dream come true.”