Defensive linemen Willie Baker, Terrell Williams cogs for Livonia, West Feliciana _lowres

Terrell Williams, West Feliciana defensive lineman

Everyone loves offense. If your football mantra is “Defense Wins Championships,” Willie Baker and Terrell Williams may be the players to watch when top-seeded Livonia hosts No. 5 West Feliciana for a Class 3A semifinal at 7 p.m. Friday.

The two defensive linemen are different in size and style but have played key roles in their teams’ success.

Baker’s story is one of validation. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Baker broke his fibula and tore a ligament in Livonia’s final regular-season game in 2013. He missed the Wildcats run to the 3A title game.

It’s more about vindication for Williams and West Feliciana. The Saints were expected to make a deep playoff run last season but now are making their first semifinal appearance since 2010.

“Being able to play this year and do what we’ve done, means a lot,” Baker said. “It was tough to just watch last year. I’ve been through some things and so has the team. I’m proud of the way we all came together. It took some work, but I feel like we’ve gotten better every week.”

The Wildcats (12-0) have thrived under first-year coach Guy Mistretta and have successfully added players from Pointe Coupee Central, a Pointe Coupee Parish school that closed last spring.

Baker has done his part with a team-high 71 solo tackles, 28 assists, 27 tackles for loss, 12 sacks and six forced fumbles. The junior said he has scholarship offers from Arizona State, Louisville, Louisiana Tech and Tulane.

Ditto that for West Feliciana’s Williams, a 5-9, 210-pound converted linebacker who has excelled as a nose guard. The senior, who said he has scholarship offers from Alcorn State and Southern Mississippi, has 69 tackles, four tackles for loss and three sacks.

“Last year I thought I played pretty well,” Williams said. “I think I was strong and fast, but I really didn’t know what to do. This year I feel like I’ve put it all together.

“It’s a lot like that with our team. I think we trust each other now, whether we play on offense and defense and know that the job is going to get done. It’s really come together the last couple of weeks.”

Williams’ point is notable since the Saints (11-2) have outscored their last two playoff opponents 98-28. Last week WFHS beat No. 4 Union Parish 48-21. UPHS is the team that beat Livonia in last year’s 3A title game.

“Terrell is a little undersized, and that’s probably why the jury is out on him with recruiters,” WFHS defensive coordinator James Cupit said. “He’s fast, and he’s so strong, especially for his size. That’s why he’s able to do so many things for us at nose guard. His quickness off the ball is just as important as his strength.”

Livonia defensive coordinator Chuck Guidry said Baker is determined to make up for missing the playoffs last season and is a driving force for teammates. Baker’s forceful play is just as impressive.

“Willie is an outstanding football player,” Guidry said. “He’s got great athletic ability and knowledge of the game. He’s a playmaker.”

The two linemen have respect for each and their respective teams.

Livonia’s Baker talks about the need to control West Feliciana’s playmakers, a group led by quarterback Ryan Reed and receiver Jazz Ferguson, an LSU commitment. Williams of WFHS talks about the speed and strength of a Livonia offense led by running back Malcolm Dedrick, quarterback Cee Jay Powell and receiver Stephen Guidry.

Extra bleachers being added to accommodate what may be the biggest crowd ever at Livonia only adds to the excitement.

“I can’t wait,” Baker said.