The major difference in this year’s pursuit of a Division II state championship for University High is simply knowing they can accomplish the feat.
After a 26-year gap in between the school’s last state championship, coupled with a failed attempt in 2013, the Cubs broke through a year ago against District 6-3A rival Parkview Baptist.
“You’ve got to believe you can do it before you can achieve anything like that,” U-High coach Chad Mahaffey said. “I guess that’s the main benefit of being there and having won it last year. It’s something tangible; we can be in that game and win it.”
Both top-seeded U-High (9-1) and fourth-seeded Parkview (7-3) begin Division II select playoff action Friday following opening-round byes, with the Cubs hosting No. 9 Vandebilt Catholic (5-6) and the Eagles entertaining No. 5 St. Louis (7-3) at 7 p.m.
“We got back to some fundamentals like tackling and technique,” PBS coach Jay Mayet said. “We introduced (the) St. Louis (game plan) a day earlier than in a normal week. We had a good week. We tried to stay fresh. You want to stay game ready but not have any injuries.”
The local/area’s lower classification schedule also features No. 7 East Feliciana (7-4) hosting No. 10 Loreauville (9-2) in a Class 2A nonselect regional and No. 11 South Cameron (7-4) visiting No. 6 White Castle (5-5) in a Class 1A nonselect regional.
No. 4 Madison Prep (11-0) will face No. 5 St. Charles Catholic (9-2) at Louisiana Leadership Institute in a Division III select quarterfinal, while No. 6 Southern Lab (7-3) visits No. 3 Central Catholic0-Morgan City (10-1) in a Division IV select quarterfinal.
VANDEBILT AT U-HIGH: Mahaffey, whose team responded with a 61-21 win over St. Louis following its bye week a year ago, said his team followed a similar script last week in practice.
“We tried to give guys a rest and go back and work on some situational things,” he said. “Everybody worries about playing well on Friday. We’ve had good practices, but it will be a while since we’ve played. I hope that doesn’t affect us negatively.”
Vandebilt, the third-place team in District 7-4A, defeated Lusher Charter 21-14 last week.
Brennan Rogers rushed 34 carries for 243 yards and three TDs, helping the Terriers to their first postseason win since 2012.
“They’re a hard-nosed, blue-collar team,” Mahaffey said. “They play very physical, and they’re well coached. I think they’ll come in feeling good about themselves and ready to play.”
U-High will rely on the efforts offensively of senior quarterback DJ White, who has completed 81 of 138 passes for 1,355 yards with 17 TDs and four interceptions. Freshman running back Mike Hollins (148-988, 18 TDs) is the team’s leading rusher.
ST. LOUIS AT PARKVIEW: One of the quirks in the Division II bracket is that because of first-round byes Parkview and St. Louis have had two weeks to prepare for one other.
The Saints won their past six games following a 1-3 start and claimed the District 4-3A championship.
Senior running back Colby Rodriguez (214-1,298, 23 TDs) leads a St. Louis offense that averages 31.4 points per game. The Saints feature an aggressive defense that’s registered 20 sacks, recovered 14 fumbles and a special teams that’s blocked 10 kicks.
Senior quarterback Reggie Hayes Jr. leads the Eagles with 113 carries for 903 yards and 16 TDs followed by Kayin White with 98 rushes for 839 yards and 11 TDs.
Linebackers Matthew Murla (85.5 tackles, 10 CBLs, 3.5 sacks) and Xavier Davis (84 tackles, 11 CLBs, int.) are Parkview’s top defenders.
“They loaded up their predistrict schedule probably for the same reason we did and that’s to be ready for playoff time,” Mayet said. “They’re a solid team. They don’t do a lot to hurt themselves offensively and are aggressive on defense.”