It only took University High a few weeks to establish itself as one of the top Class 2A teams in the Louisiana Sports Writers Association’s rankings.
The sixth-seeded Cubs (12-0) have a chance to move into the 2A hierarchy Friday night.
University travels to Shreveport to take on traditional power Calvary Baptist, the No. 3 seed, in a quarterfinal game at 7 p.m. at Calvary.
Taking a road trip for the first time in the playoffs is a concern for some coaches, but not UHS’ Chad Mahaffey.
“It’s something different, but when I was player I used to love getting on a bus and going to a playoff game,” Mahaffey said. “If you’re not getting on a bus to go somewhere, the chances are you’re not in the playoffs very long.
“Calvary is a good team and a program that is established. This is the kind of challenge you want. As the playoffs go on, it doesn’t get any easier.”
District 7-2A champion University is in the quarterfinals for the first time since 1997. The Cubs were ranked No. 3 in the LSWA’s 2A poll for most of the season and are enjoying a breakout season in Mahaffey’s second year as head coach.
In Calvary, UHS faces an opponent that is in some ways a mirror image. Both teams rely on an aggressive 4-2-5 defense. And both offenses feature a balance of running and passing.
The fact traditionally pass-oriented Calvary has a potent ground game might surprise some. But in Brandon Wilson, the Cavaliers have a running back who has 1,506 yards on 200 carries with 20 touchdowns.
Quarterback Nik McCarty has 2,250 passing yards and 30 TDs, but suffered a season-ending knee injury. Weston Steelhammer, also a safety with five interceptions, is scheduled to start at quarterback. Linebacker Eric Talley, who has 108 tackles, leads the defense.
Calvary has yet to make it to a title game, but has a coach with championship experience in John Bachman Sr., who led Evangel to the 2A title in 2009.
The Cubs will counter with their own high-powered offense led by running back Nick Brossette and quarterback Kyle Crifasi. Brossette, a two-year starter as a freshman, has 1,450 yards and 26 TDs. Crifasi has 1,205 passing yards and 470 rushing yards.
U-High’s version of the 4-2-5 defense is led by end Tim Williams, who has 102 tackles and 12 sacks. Safety Jarrod Franklin adds 95 tackles.
“They’re kind of like us,” Bachman said. “If you give them the pass, that’s what they’re going to do, but I think they’re looking to run the football more than throw it.”
Of Brossette, Bachman added, “He’s (a) north-south (runner), and he’s going to challenge you. This kid looks like he’s got some real nasty in him.”