Baton Rouge’s three remaining teams in the Class 5A football playoffs have seemingly been connected all year long.
Fourth-seeded Central High (10-1), the District 4-5A champion, beat No. 5 Catholic High (8-2) in predistrict action. Catholic, in turn, beat No. 11 Dutchtown (8-2) in Week 10 to claim the District 5-5A title.
Now the three teams face what is arguably their biggest challenges to date Friday night. At stake is a chance to move on to the quarterfinals in the upper half of the LHSAA bracket. Wins would put Central and Catholic together for a game next week, but no one is ready make those predictions.
Dutchtown travels to play top-seeded Archbishop Rummel (10-0) at East Jefferson’s Joe Yenni Stadium. Central hosts No. 13 Mandeville (8-2), a semifinalist a year ago, while Catholic hosts No. 12 New Iberia (9-2) at BREC’s Olympia Stadium. All three games start at 7 p.m.
“Rummel is No. 1 for a reason,” Dutchtown coach Benny Saia said. “I think they’re equally adept on offense and defense. Their quarterback (Damian Williams) is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time. To get to where you want to go in the playoffs, you’ll have to play a top team some time. This is our time. We’re excited about that challenge. And I think our guys also know they’ll need to play their best game of the year.”
Williams has 1,964 passing yards and 21 touchdowns for Rummel. Dutchtown’s catalyst is quarterback Mason Nickens, who has 1,000 yards passing and more than 600 yards rushing.
“It’s the first time meeting between the two schools,” Rummel coach Jay Roth said. “They’re better than a 16 seed, I can tell you that. I hope we continue to play like we have all year. They’ve gotten up for big games all season, and this is a big one. We’ve got to execute and keep Dutchtown from making big plays.”
The Dutchtown-Rummel winner meets the Ruston-Ouachita winner in the quarterfinals. Central coach Sid Edwards and Catholic coach Dale Weiner aren’t even entertaining talk of a quarterfinal rematch. The teams the Wildcats and Bears are entertaining this week have their attention.
“The thing I keep going back is that Mandeville was in the semifinals last year and pushed (eventual state champion) West Monroe to the limit,” Central coach Sid Edwards said. “They’ve got eight starters back from that team on defense and will be the best defense we’ve played so far.
“When you get to this point, that playoff experience means something. With that said, I think our guys are anxious to show what they can do. We’re a big-play offense, but this may be the week we need to move the chains.”
Quarterback Brett Courville leads Central with 900 rushing yards and 12 TDs to go along with 2,165 yards passing and 17 TDs. Lamontae Juneau (787 rushing yards, 17 TDs) and Gary Triplett (786 receiving yards, seven TDs) are other leaders. Glen Cuiellette has 1,719 passing yards and 19 TDs for Mandeville. Zach Boudreaux (883 receiving yards, eight TDs) and Nate VanHorn (464 rushing yards) are other leaders for the Skippers.
Catholic’s Weiner said New Iberia has given the Bears some new challenges to prepare for with a spread offense and an aggressive defense/special teams.
“I don’t know that we’ve played a team like them,” Weiner said. “They’ll throw a lot of screen passes, but they’re also willing to go under center and run it out of the spread. So on defense, it will be assignment football. Defensively, they run a lot of safety blitzes and stunts that we haven’t seen this year. We’ve got to be able to handle the pressure they’ll put on us.”
The Bears are led by Khalil Thomas, who has 1,241 rushing yards, 297 passing yards and a total of 17 TDs. Nick Coomes has passed for 951 yards and 15 TDs.
Quarterback Jason Jones passed for 132 yards and two TDs in NISH’s win over Scotlandville. Tyler Archon ran for 111 yards on 21 carries for the Yellow Jackets.