Focus big emphasis for coaches in Catholic-St. Amant matchup _lowres

Advocate staff photo by JOHN OUBRE -- St. Amant's Briggs Bourgeois looks for an opening as he runs up the field against East Ascension earlier this year.

You can develop strategy and practice it. The one thing coaches can never predict is how focused players will be.

Based on oddly lopsided scores the past two years, focus is a focal point Catholic High and St. Amant on Friday night.

“If you’re not focused, a game can get away from you in a hurry,” St. Amant coach David Oliver said. “Last year, it was 10-7 Catholic, and we were going for a field goal to tie it. About four minutes or five minutes later it was 37-7. The year before pretty much the same thing happened to them.”

Catholic (5-2, 2-0) travels to take on St. Amant (6-1-, 1-1) at The Pit-St. Amant Middle School in a game that helps highlight Friday’s Week 8 schedule in Class 5A-4A.

East Ascension (3-4, 1-1) travels to Dutchtown (5-2, 2-0) in the other 5-5A game of note. Seventh-ranked Zachary (6-1, 2-0) travels to Live Oak (5-2, 2-0) and Denham Springs (5-2, 1-1) travels to Central (4-3, 1-1) in 4-5A.

Denham Springs and Central meet for the 68th time, renewing one of the area’s oldest series. In District 6-4A, co-leaders Woodlawn (4-3, 2-0) and Plaquemine (4-3, 2-0) meet at PHS. All games start at 7 p.m.

“That’s exactly right … it can slip away from you real quick,” Catholic coach Dale Weiner said when asked about the last two Catholic-St. Amant games. “That’s been a strange part of this series the last couple of years. Normally these games go down to the wire. Both teams expect that.

“Last year, it kind of snow-balled on them like it did on us the year before. The Pit is one of the special places to play. St. Amant really supports their team, and the atmosphere is great. One of the key parts of this is being able to handle that atmosphere. The other thing you’ve got to be able to do is move on to the next play when something bad happens.”

Catholic won 44-21 last season, while St. Amant won 41-14 in 2013. The Catholic-St. Amant game features some of the area’s most dynamic offensive performers. St. Amant quarterback Hayden Mallory ranks third in the state in passing with 1,722 yards and 22 TDs. Briggs Bourgeois has 635 receiving yards and 120 points for the Gators, who are looking to rebound after last week’s 31-10 loss to East Ascension.

Ian Brian has passed for 1,155 yards and 12 TDs for Catholic, which puts a five-game winning streak on the line. The Bears’ Clyde Edwards-Helaire has 874 rushing yards and 8 TDs. Oliver said Catholic’s attention to detail and efficiency have wiped away memories of losses to Parkview Baptist and Zachary.

“Last week is over for both us,” Weiner said. “That loss last week doesn’t matter. We know that’s going to fuel them to play better this week.”

Oliver added, “Every year we’ve got four games on our schedule circled. There’s Lutcher, East Ascension, Dutchtown and Catholic. So yes, this is a big one.”

The Denham Springs-Central game showcases a series that dates to 1948. Denham Springs holds 32-31-4 edge. The Yellow Jackets won last year, snapping a three-game winning streak for Central.

This series is even on many levels with Denham Springs scoring 1,091 points and holding a slim edge over Central’s 1,086 points. DSHS has a 16.3 points per game average in the series, compared to 16.2 for Central.