Friday’s showdown between District 8-5A preseason favorites John Ehret and Landry-Walker at Behrman Stadium understandably will garner a lot of attention.
However, at this juncture, the game featuring Chalmette vs. West Jefferson may carry even more weight. With both teams 2-0 in 8-5A, the winner could grab sole possession of first place. That would happen if Ehret (2-0 in district) lost to Landry-Walker (1-1).
Chalmette and coach Jason Tucker and West Jefferson coach Cyril Crutchfield said their game is enough to occupy their minds.
For West Jefferson (3-2), the challenge is how to slow the Owls’ rushing attack, which features running back Masen Mitchell, who was all-district last season, speedy wingback Kerry Johnson and fullback Alex Siragusa.
“We’re not used to playing a Wing-T team, and they run it to perfection,” said Crutchfield, who is in his first season with the Buccaneers. “They can run three different plays, and they all look the same. So you’ve got to have all your keys.
“It’s a lot like when you face a veer team. You don’t see it a lot, and it’s hard as hell for our offense to give our defense the look” in practice.
Crutcfield’s concern is that the last time the Buccaneers faced a formidable running team, Shaw steamrolled to a 44-14 victory on Sept. 18. Chalmette (3-2) has rushed for 1,222 yards this season.
However, the Owls could be without starting quarterback Dominic Curole, whose right shoulder was injured in the team’s big home victory against Landry-Walker on Sept. 25 in the district opener. Curole, a senior, is a threat running and passing. He was replaced by freshman Jason Roper, who is not the running threat Curole is, and the Owls did not score in the second half.
However, Mitchell rushed for 169 yards in that game and followed with 179 last week at East Jefferson. Both coaches said it starts with Chalmette’s solid offensive line.
“They have quick offensive linemen, they’re coached really well, they know what they’re doing on each play and they execute well,” Crutchfield said. “And then they have (No.) 42 (Mitchell) and (No.) 15 (Johnson). If you’re not sound defensively doing your job, it puts your defense in a position of not being successful.”
The Buccaneers will be without defensive tackle Zachary Bartholomew, whom Crutchfield said will return next week against Ehret.
Tucker’s concern is that West Jeff may have enough offensively to offset anything it may lack defensively.
“Their quarterback (Coley Ransaw) spreads the ball around all over the field, and they have a lot of playmakers,” Tucker said. “They have put up 42 and 55 points in the last two games, and they scored 31 against Lutcher (loss on Sept. 11). They have talented kids who are buying into coach Crutchfield’s system.”
The high point totals came against struggling teams Bonnabel and Cox. Nonetheless, Ransaw has big-play weapons in wide receivers Tim Kent and Jamal Houston, tight end Damion Degruy and running back David Carter.
One of Chalmette’s strengths, however, is its secondary Cornerback Kendrick Tenson had two big interceptions last week against East Jefferson and has three this season. Cornerback Walter Sterling made a key interception against Landry-Walker at the 6:26 mark of the fourth quarter, returning it from the Chalmette 46 to the Charging Bucs’ 24. It preserved a 17-6 lead in a game the Owls’ won 17-12.
“(West Jefferson) has some game-breakers, and their screens to Carter have worked well for them,” Tucker said. “But we have guys who can cover and who can tackle in space, and our defensive line gets after it.
“We’re expecting a good close game.”