No one is driven by the challenge of playing and winning on the road more than University High football coach Chad Mahaffey.
But with the opportunity of hosting Friday’s Division II select state semifinal for a return to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the thought of being home for the Thanksgiving holiday didn’t sound so bad.
“With Thanksgiving week, it’s nice not to have to worry about finding a travel itinerary,” he said. “I think our school will come out and support the guys on a holiday weekend and give them a great atmosphere for a home playoff game.”
Top-seeded University (11-0) hosts No. 4 seed Notre Dame (9-2) at Richard Gill Stadium-Jeff Boss Field at 7 p.m. Friday, and No. 7 seed Parkview Baptist (8-3) entertains No. 3 St. Charles (9-2).
The winners meet in the state title game at 5 p.m. Dec. 5 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
“We have a lot of respect for (St. Charles),” Parkview coach Jay Mayet said. “They’re a lot like us and Notre Dame. Their kids are going to play hard, physical and be well-coached. Regardless of how many stellar athletes each team has, we know we’re going to be playing a solid team.”
NOTRE DAME-UNIVERSITY HIGH: Notre Dame is on a six-game winning streak in which its rugged defense has yielded a total of 19 points.
The Pioneers follow the lead of their front four, which boasts the team’s top two tacklers: senior tackle Connor Kirsch and end Nate Link, a UL-Monroe commitment. Both have 58 tackles.
“They’re physical and have good size,” Mahaffey said. “They’re always well-coached, and they’re not giving up a lot of points. It will be a challenge. We’re a lot younger up front than they are.”
Notre Dame relies on a balanced attack directed by three-year starting quarterback Brad Stoma, who has completed 79 of 126 passes for 1,234 yards and 15 TDs, to go with running backs Damon Comeaux (101-928, 16 TDs) and Lance Bertrand (97-663, eight TDs).
U-High counters with a fast-paced offense that generates 42.5 points per game. The Cubs are led by senior quarterback Manny Miles with 1,586 yards and 21 touchdowns on 100-of-143 passing.
Senior running back Nick Brossette, an LSU commitment, is the Cubs’ main threat on the ground with 163 rushes for 1,393 yards and 21 touchdowns. Miles’ top receiving threats are junior Tre Jackson (38-752, eight TDs), a Florida commitment, and senior Jake Wharton (24-409, five TDs).
“Over the last 10 years in 3A, it’s been either Parkview or Notre Dame or both of them have made it,” Mahaffey said. “That’s kind of who you had to go through to win the title. They’re certainly used to being in this position, probably more than we are. It should be an outstanding matchup.”
ST. CHARLES-PARKVIEW: St. Charles has won its past four games, including a 24-0 quarterfinal win over District 11-3A foe De La Salle. The Comets are in the semifinals for the first time since winning the Class 3A crown in 2011.
Running back Justin Loupe rushed 21 times for 81 yards with a TD, while Erron Lewis added 14 carries for 69 yards and a score in last week’s game. Patrick Ratliff came on to replace starting quarterback Austin Weber, who was knocked out of the game with a concussion.
Parkview Baptist has reeled off consecutive wins since a 19-18 loss to West Feliciana in the regular-season finale, jumping to a 35-17 halftime lead in last week’s 49-20 quarterfinal win over No. 2 St. Michael.
“It’s one of the best (games), if not the best, we played all year, but I don’t think it’s the best we can play,” Mayet said. “If we can eliminate some of the penalties, then I don’t think we’re going to be far off from playing as well as we can.”
Junior quarterback Reggie Hayes is the catalyst in PBS’ triple-option attack with 113 carries for 971 yards and 17 TDs. Production also comes from junior Kayin White (81-949, 13 TDs) and Rice commitment Houston Robert (75-690, six TDs).
“I think the kids are finally hitting their stride,” Mayet said. “The West Fel game was an eye-opener for our kids. We’re also healthier than we’ve been all year.”