Two teams from different Class 5A districts and different playoff systems.
Two teams bound by one common game. And two coaches with a bond also bound by playoff expectations.
Yes, it’s the semifinal/quarterfinal week of the LHSAA’s football playoffs for Catholic High and Zachary.
“In our Division I setup, you had to earn the right to get the first-round bye, and that was an accomplishment,” Catholic coach Dale Weiner said. “It’s power packed. It’s like compressing an atom. There’s a lot of power with those few teams.
“This is very significant for us, and we’re very thankful. Evangel doesn’t throw as much as they used to. They can run or pass. They go with whatever works best in each situation. On defense, they’ll man up with you and say we’re going to disrupt what you’re doing with our front.
“You can’t take advantage of it on the back side because they do it so well. So far they’re right on with it.”
Sixth-seeded Catholic (8-3) travels to Shreveport to play No. 2 Evangel Christian Academy (9-2) in a Division I semifinal. It’s the first semifinal berth for Catholic since 2009 and a win would put the Bears in a title game for the first time since 1990.
Catholic is a win away from a trip to the first weekend of the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Prep Classic. Meanwhile, No. 2 Zachary (11-1) hosts seventh-seeded Hahnville (9-3) in a 5A quarterfinal. Both games are set for 7 p.m. Friday.
The Broncos need one win to equal their semifinal status of a year ago and two wins from the school’s first Prep Classic berth.
“The thing I try to do is make this week as normal as possible,” ZHS coach David Brewerton said. “We come in and lift at the same time and practice at the same time. The goal — getting to next round of the playoffs — hasn’t changed.
“Last week we played what I thought was our most complete game of the year. This week you have to play better. Hahnville is a team from the River Parishes. They have a lot of talent and a coach (Nick Saltaformaggio) who has won a championship. Our guys have been very focused on the task each week, and that needs to continue.”
Saltaformaggio led East Jefferson to a 4A title in 2013. Brewerton, who played for Weiner on Catholic’s 1990 title team, led Livonia to a 3A runner-up finish in 2013. Zachary beat Catholic 41-26 in Week 2 of the regular season. The Bears regrouped and went on a six-game winning streak after that.
Each team has its share of key players. Two are typically in the spotlight.
Zachary quarterback Lindsey Scott Jr. has accounted for 45 TDs and has 1,454 rushing yards and 2,366 passing yards. Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire of Catholic has 1,249 rushing yards and 661 receiving yards. Edwards-Helaire’s status will be a game-time decision because of a concussion suffered in last week’s win over Brother Martin.
“I’m a defensive guy, and Scott is the kind of player who makes you lose sleep,” Saltaformaggio said. “He’s a playmaker and does so much with his feet. We don’t have that kind of offense … We need to stay ahead of the chains.”
Receiver Anthony “Pooka” Williams is a big-play threat for Hahnville. Evangel’s balanced attack is led by quarterback Connor Curry, who passed for 1,523 yards in the regular season.
“We will have to play sound football and be disciplined in our assignments to win,” Evangel coach Byron Dawson, a former ECA star and four-year LSU defensive line starter, said. “We have a great challenge coming to down on Friday night.”