University High football coach Chad Mahaffey has plenty of reasons to be excited about Friday night’s game against White Castle at Jeff Boss Field.

For one thing, the Cubs have answered high preseason expectations with two blowout wins to start the year. For another, the team will be playing for the first time this season in front of the home crowd.

But there’s reason for apprehension, too.

Central Catholic did U-High no favors last week when the Eagles handed White Castle its first loss since Week 4 of the 2010 season. The Bulldogs had won 12 straight games before returning from Morgan City on the wrong end of a 23-14 upset.

“We’ll get their best effort, for sure,” Mahaffey said. “I’m sure they’re ready to get out there and try to get another victory.”

The loss to Central Catholic dropped White Castle, which last year won the school’s first state championship in 11-man football, from the top spot in the Class 1A poll down to No. 6.

With lopsided wins over Newman and Ascension Christian to open Mahaffey’s second year at the helm, U-High has climbed all the way to No. 3 in 2A behind John Curtis and Winnfield. Now they will have to deal with a White Castle squad loaded with speed and — thanks to last week’s setback — incentive.

All-state running back Tyre Bracken has picked up where he left off as a 3,000-yard rusher last year, running for 278 yards through two games.

But if the loss to Central Catholic surprised some, White Castle coach Ferrante Dominique said he could see it coming. He cited poor practice habits as the team’s undoing.

“If our work ethic doesn’t pick up, we’ll be having this conversation over and over,” Dominique said. “You can’t practice the way we have and expect to beat good teams.”

White Castle was in position to win its 13th straight last week when the Bulldogs entered halftime with a 14-6 lead, but Central Catholic started a 17-0 run when Lloyd Grogan recovered a fumbled snap in the third quarter and returned it for a touchdown.

Dominique said his team lost focus.

“I haven’t slept in five days, just trying to figure this thing out,” he said.

White Castle will look to get back on track against a U-High team that hasn’t missed a beat since shutting out Brusly in an Aug. 25 jamboree.

Freshman running back Nick Brossette leads a balanced offensive attack with 252 yards and three touchdowns on 38 carries. The defense held Ascension Christian scoreless last week after giving up six points to Newman in the opener.

But this marks U-High’s biggest challenge of the young season.

“When you’re a team like (White Castle) and you’ve gotten to that level, probably the best thing that happens is you just always expect to win,” Mahaffey said. “Whatever’s going on during the game, I think it just gives you some confidence that you’re always going to expect to win at the end. I’m sure that’s the way they feel, and I’m sure they’re very disappointed after losing last week.”