For Monroe’s Ouachita Christian, it’s déj? vu with a Mercedes-Benz Superdome view.
Top-seeded OCS (14-0) meets No. 6 West St. John (12-2) in the Class 1A final that opens Friday’s action at the Louisiana High School Athletic Association-State Farm Prep Classic.
“They’re big and physical, and they operate like a machine,” West St. John coach Robert Valdez said. “They’re the kind of team that just comes right at you.”
The 3 p.m. game opens the two-day LHSAA championship event. At 7 p.m., top-seeded Neville-Monroe (13-0) takes on No. 7 Edna Karr (11-3) in the Class 4A title game.
Ticket prices range from $15 to $20 at the gate.
A year ago, Ouachita Christian flew into New Orleans for the 1A championship game with a high-powered passing offense and lofty expectations..
However, the Eagles saw their title hopes evaporate as another team from the Baton Rouge-river area district, White Castle, forced 10 turnovers - five interceptions and five fumble recoveries - en route to a 32-20 win.
Now, OCS faces the Rams, a District 9-1A rival of White Castle and a team with a long history of title-game appearances. West St. John was the 1A runner-up four years ago and won a 2A title in 2004.
“This is the biggest (test) yet,” OCS coach Steven Fitzhugh said. “Our guys have met every challenge that they have faced.
“We have certainly been faced with every scenario, and some great running backs and great offenses as well as defenses. This team is battle tested.”
Each team comes in with its share of marquee players. For example, West St. John defensive end Ronnie Feist is an LSU commitment.
WSJ running back Kylum Favorite has 1,938 yards rushing yards and 23 touchdowns, including 273 yards and four touchdowns in a semifinal win over Vermilion Catholic.
Quarterback Austin Howard has 1,867 passing yards and 27 TDs. Jairus Moll has 800 receiving yards for the Rams.
Ouachita Christian is led by receiver-defensive back Mark Laird, who has 38 catches for 962 yards and 12 TDs. He also has 326 rushing yards. Braden Bristo plays quarterback and receiver.
Valdez, a former Southern University player who spent one season as head coach at McKinley High locally, also said his team is battle tested.
“It’s going to be a war,” Valdez said. “The thing we have to do is make them play a full game and make them earn everything they get.
“And when we do get a turnover or a chance to score, we have to take advantage of it.”
KARR VS. NEVILLE: Expect quarterback play to be a key factor as Neville tries to win its second 4A title in three years.
Neville’s John Diarse has 1,107 rushing yards on just 115 carries with 15 TDs. Diarse, a junior, also has 637 passing yards and nine TDs. He is attracting the attention of SEC recruiters.
Karr’s Devante Noil has accounted for 2,426 yards rushing and passing in 12 games as the starter, including 1,654 passing yards with 26 TDs.
Noil is a first-year starter for Karr, which lost to Franklinton in overtime in last year’s 4A title game.
Also notable is a powerful Karr defensive line that has recorded 74 tackles for loss.
A year ago, the 1A and 4A games were played Saturday. The LHSAA changed the format this time around, moving the games to Friday.