The playoff seeding is a little different and the opponent has changed, but the similarities are so striking that Dutchtown High football coach Benny Saia has made it a point to drive them home to his team.
“Last year we got a big scare in our first playoff game,” Saia said. “That could have got us beat. The same thing could happen if we’re not careful because Ponchatoula is a good football team.”
The Griffins (10-0), seeded fourth, host No. 29 Ponchatoula (6-4) in a Class 5A first-round playoff game at 7 p.m. Friday.
It is one of 10 games involving teams in Classes 5A and 4A from Baton Rouge’s metro area Friday.
Dutchtown is one of three 5A-4A teams playing at home. Plaquemine (6-4), seeded 14th, hosts No. 19 Washington-Marion, of Lake Charles, in one 4A game, while No. 15 St. Michael the Archangel (7-3) hosts No. 18 Franklin Parish (6-4) at Louisiana Leadership’s Doug Williams Stadium in the other.
Under the circumstances it is easy to see why Saia is having a flashback to last year when the Griffins, then seeded No. 1 and also 10-0, edged past another northshore area district team, Covington, 35-27.
“Ponchatoula is a sound team,” Saia said. “Other than maybe (top-seeded) St. Paul’s, no one has beaten them by a lot.
“Their coach is Hank Tierney, who has been successful every place he has been. And they’re an option team, which gives you a lot to prepare for.”
Tierney, a former head coach in the New Orleans area at Archbishop Shaw and West Jefferson, coached an older brother of DHS star Landon Collins, who grew up on the West Bank of Jefferson Parish and came to the Baton Rouge area after Hurricane Katrina.
When asked about players to watch for the game, Tierney quipped, “The player to watch is Landon Collins, and I’m afraid we might end up watching him all night. I’ve had some good players through the years, and he’s as good as any I’ve coached.”
Collins averages 13.5 yards per carry and has 1,200 rushing yards with 21 touchdowns. Ponchatoula is led by quarterback Nathan Callais, who has more than 2,300 yards of total offense.
Plaquemine faces a foe that is familiar in a different way. Both the Green Devils and Washington-Marion like to run the football. Fullback Julius Maracalin has 1,018 yards and eight TDs for PHS, while Osha Jackson has 1,086 rushing yards and 13 TDs for the Chargin’ Indians.
St. Michael hosts a playoff game for only the second time in school history and seeks its first playoff win. Brandon Fields is 1-1 as the Warriors’ starting quarterback following a season-ending injury to Dash Duncan.
Sonny Adams has 744 receiving yards and 13 TDs for the Warriors. It is the first meeting for the two schools. Franlkin Parish is located in the Winnsboro area.
Teams set to play on the road include 4A Broadmoor (6-4), 5A Central (6-4), 5A Denham Springs (7-3), 5A East Ascension (7-3), 5A Scotlandville (8-2) and 5A Zachary (7-3).
Central, a No. 32 seed, faces top-seeded St. Paul’s (10-0) in Covington for a game that isn’t a normal David vs. Goliath game.
“They are the No. 1 and they’re very good,” Central coach Doug Dotson said about St. Paul’s. “We’ve played them the last two years, and I think that helps. I think our schedule has prepared us.”
Broadmoor, seeded 20th and playing at Salmen (6-4), is in the playoffs for the first time since 2008. EAHS, in the playoffs for the first time since 2006, travels north to Haughton.
Denham Springs travels to Ruston for the second time in four years. Zachary travels to Acadiana (7-2) for the second straight year. Scotlandville plays Barbe for the first time.
“I think we both have skill players,” Scotlandville coach Ken Hilton said.
“It may be decided in the trenches. The team that controls the line of scrimmage will have an edge.”