The renewal of this year’s University High-Southern Lab series hits a little closer to home.
Not only do both programs share a similar trajectory — the Cubs won the Division II state title, while the Kittens were the Division IV runners-up last season — but there are friendships on both sides and in one case, even a kinship.
The headliner in Friday’s lower classification action matches Class 3A’s No. 3 U-High (0-1), with senior D.J. White, taking on Class 1A’s top-ranked Southern Lab (1-0) and junior cornerback Devonte White, the younger brother of the Cubs quarterback.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Southern’s A.W. Mumford Stadium and will be broadcast live by Cox 4.
“I talked to him (Devante) about his brother liking to run,” Southern Lab coach Marcus Randall said. “He said if he can catch him, he was going to hit him. I know their parents are excited about the game.”
“He’s a good player,” U-High coach Chad Mahaffey said of Devonte White. “He was messing with D.J. about how he was going to be covering everybody. I’m sure they had an interesting week in their household.”
Southern Lab enjoyed a successful opener in Randall’s debut.
The Kittens made short work of Bogalusa in a 35-0 win with running back Darbbeon Profit rushing eight times for 110 yards and 260-pound fullback Shannon Forman adding 70 yards and two TDs.
Senior quarterback Bladrick Veal completed 9 of 17 passes for 153 yards, 89 of which went to senior receiver Curtlan Williams.
“They look like an experienced, good team,” Mahaffey said. “Regardless of who the coach is, they’re going to present a really good challenge for us.”
After an undefeated run to the Division II state title, U-High finds itself in a rare bounce-back mode.
Freshman running back Michael Hollins gave the Cubs a 7-0 first-quarter lead against Class 5A’s No. 2 Rummel, but U-High surrendered 24 unanswered points in a 24-7 home setback.
“We talked about trying to be hungry and change the outcome this Friday,” Mahaffey said. “When we watched film, we pointed out the areas where we did some good things. We also showed them some of the opportunities that were there for more success, but we didn’t take advantage of them.”
The game marked the first varsity start of D.J. White, a key member of U-High’s two-time Class 3A state championship basketball team, who made his varsity debut at quarterback. The 6-foot-4, 240-pounder passed for 73 yards and rushed 19 times for 43 yards, setting the stage for Friday’s intriguing encounter.
“I think our guys are excited, this is one of those games that was already circled on our schedule,” Randall said. “We knew this would be one of the marquee games, and once they (TV) made it the game of the week, we knew we would have to put our best foot forward and let the chips fall where they may.”