With its defense peaking at the right time, Madison Prep faces nemesis Southern Lab with a shot at redemption in Friday’s select Division IV semifinal football playoff game at Louisiana Leadership’s Doug Williams Stadium.

No. 9 Madison Prep (8-4) eliminated defending Division IV state Vermilion Catholic, the top seed, last week 28-14. The Chargers’ defense forced six turnovers and limited VCHS to 219 yards of total offense. VCHS had scored 29 or more points eight times in its 10-2 season.

Madison Prep held four of its first five opponents, including 4A Ellender and Tara, scoreless. In its homecoming game against Southern Lab, things didn’t go well for the Chargers.

No. 5 Southern Lab (7-5) defeated Madison Prep 63-6 last month and won the District 6-1A title, going 4-0. The Kittens have won six straight games. Madison Prep coach Michael Roach is a former Southern Lab coach, and a number of MPA players went to Southern Lab before switching to Madison Prep, a relatively new charter school that is in its second season of varsity football.

“We got rattled in that game, and Southern Lab was able to handle the spotlight,” Madsion Prep tight end/defensive end Malcolm Roach said. “Our defense has come together. We’re used to the spotlight now. This is the biggest game any of us have ever played.”

Malcolm Roach, a 6-foot-4, 245-pound junior, and sophomore Troy James (6-2, 230) are athletic defensive ends who can play the run and rush the quarterback.

Roach has 122 tackles, five forced fumbles (three for TDs), 19 sacks, nine pass deflections and one blocked field goal. James has 47 tackles, six sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, five pass deflections and one interception.

“Malcolm and I put up big numbers together,” James said. “I learned from him a killer mentality because he just attacks. He learned from me to sometimes slow it down and let the play come to you.”

James said the team is like a family.

“Coach Roach really brought us together,” he said. “We worked out at 5 a.m. over the summer. No one thought we’d come this far this fast. We did. We have a chance to do something great.”

Savoie, a 5-8, 175-pound sophomore, had two fourth-quarter interceptions vs. VCHS. He has three interceptions on the season and 10 pass breakups.

“My team needed me,” said Savoie, a starting receiver who can cover some ground on defense. “When the ball is in the air, I always think it’s mine. Our defense has really improved this season.”

Savoie said the Chargers learned valuable lessons from the first meeting with Southern Lab.

“We had never played in that big of an environment,” he said. “We want to make it work this time. We’ve got a chance, so we might as well take it.”

Malcolm Roach said the Chargers enjoy playing physical football.

“We have good size on the defensive line,” he said. “When we hit you, you’re going to feel it. We want to play hard and be smart out there on the field. We’re one unit with all 11 staying the same.”

Michael Roach said his team let its early season shutouts hinder preparation for the first Southern Lab game.

“We had played pretty decent, but we were reading our press clippings and weren’t focused going in,” he said. “The guys believe in the system. I feel like we’re a team of destiny.”