There was no bravado or macho approach when coach Robert Valdez met the Scotlandville High football team for the first time in July.
Valdez told the Hornets he was scared and it was OK if they were too. Fast-forward four months and Scotlandville (9-1) could be one of the scariest teams on the Class 5A football playoff bracket.
“Change is scary because it takes you out of your comfort zone,” Valdez said. “I definitely moved out of my comfort zone by leaving West St. John and they were out of theirs because they had a new coach about a month from the start of the season.
“We developed a level of trust very quickly and that’s a tribute to the coaches and the student/athletes. Everybody bought into what we were doing, which is the key to what we’ve done.”
That buy in led to the ultimate benefit — a high playoff seed. The fifth-seeded Hornets host No. 28 Sam Houston (5-5) to open the 5A playoffs Friday night.
It’s one of three games that feature a Lake Charles area west-comes-east scenario in 5A-4A. Second-seeded Zachary (9-1) hosts No. 31 Sulphur (5-5). In 4A, Livonia (7-3), the No. 18 seed, travels to Lake Charles to play No. 15 LaGrange (6-3).
“Sam Houston had to win last week to make sure they got in the playoffs and they played a classic game with Sulphur (and won 56-42),” Valdez said. “They play hard, have play in a strong district and they have our attention.”
The one-and-done scenario the playoffs bring offers a different kind of fear factor. At this point, Valdez seeks the right combination of confidence and fear. Quarterback Levi Lewis has 871 rushing yards and 1,895 passing yards is the leader for the Hornets, who are one of only four area 5A-4A teams hosting playoff games tonight.
In addition to Scotlandville and Zachary, No. 10 St. Amant (8-2) hosts No. 23 Covington (6-4) in 5A, while 12th-seeded Plaquemine (7-3) hosts No. 21 Carver (6-4).
Plaquemine advanced to the quarterfinals in 2013 and the semifinals a year ago. Despite the success, the Green Devils are sticking to basics.
“I guess people probably do expect more than they did four years ago,” Plaquemine coach Paul Distefano said. “The game is the same. I put it on the board today ‘Do or Die’ and ‘Go hard or go home.”
Eight teams in 5A-4A open the playoffs on the road Friday. That number includes St. Michael the Archangel (3-7) which travels to Teurlings Catholic (7-3) for a Division II select game.
Livonia, last year’s 3A state champion, and 5A Live Oak (6-4), a No. 25 seed that plays at No. 8 Ouachita Parish (6-3) makes just its second 5A playoff appearance. No one is complaining about the travel.
“We feel fortunate to have the opportunity to keep playing,” coach Paul Bourgeois of 5A No. 24 seed East Ascension said. “John Ehret (ninth seed, 8-2) is very aggressive on defense and very talented. If we play it right, some good things can happen.”