Acadiana coach Matt McCullough doesn’t need to be reminded about the accolades of the Wreckin’ Rams’ opponent in the Class 5A semifinals. He can rattle them off.
Fifth-seeded Zachary, which has won three of the last four 5A championships under David Brewerton, comes to Bill Dotson Stadium at 7 p.m. Friday having won its last 13 playoff games and 16 of their last 17. At quarterback for the Broncos during the last four playoff runs is Keilon Brown, the three-star prospect who’s committed to Memphis. The dual-threat Brown has accounted for more than 3,000 yards total on the season.
McCullough and the top-seeded Rams know Zachary all too well. Since 2010, the two teams have played six times in the postseason. Acadiana won the first four, including a 9-3 victory in the 2014 semifinals during the Rams’ last title-winning season. The Broncos have gotten the better of the Rams in the last two playoff meetings, both of which have come in the quarterfinals, including last year’s 26-14 win in Scott.
Brewerton is one of the more decorated active coaches in Louisiana high school football. Including his final two years as Livonia’s head coach in 2012 and 2013, Brewerton’s teams have reached at least the semifinals every year with four state finals appearances. His overall record with the Broncos is 72-13.
“They just do a good job,” said McCullough, who led Acadiana to its first undefeated regular season since 1984 in his second year as head coach. “They’re coached well. They’ve got good athletes. Their quarterback is 16-1 in the playoffs. He’s only lost one game. He lost to West Monroe as a freshman in the semifinals. It’s a really good program. They know how to win, and they compete. They won some close playoff games this year and competed and played well in the quarters. We know it’s going to be a tough test.”
Indeed, the 10-2 Broncos will likely be the Rams’ toughest test yet, but last year’s meeting shouldn’t tell you much about how this game will go. Quarterback Keontae Williams didn’t play in last year’s quarterfinal loss because of an injury, forcing halfback Dillan Monette, the program’s all-time leading rusher, under center. Two other key offensive players, tackle Josh McDaniel and halfback Larryll Greene, were sidelined by injuries during the game.
Still, Acadiana trailed only 20-14 midway through the fourth quarter. The fact the Rams competed so well despite being short-handed didn’t surprise McCullough.
“We try to go into every game thinking we have a chance to compete,” McCullough said. “We were a little shorthanded last year of course because we lost Keontae and we lost a running back and a tackle in the game. But if you go out there and play and you’re physical, you’ll have a chance. I thought we played OK last year, and we had a chance. But we’re never surprised about having a chance to win.”
Although Brown is the vocal point of the offense, the Rams will have to keep a close eye on wide receiver Chris Hilton, who is the No. 1 junior prospect in the state according to 247Sports. In a 35-27 win against Ruston in the quarterfinals, one of two one-score wins by the Broncos in the playoffs thus far, Hilton caught eight passes for 112 yards and a touchdown in the first half. Senior Jayden Williams also finished with more than 100 yards receiving.
Hilton missed the first three games of the season, when the Broncos started 1-2, as he was recovering from an offseason foot injury.
“They run the football well,” McCullough said. “The quarterback is a good runner. Of course, they’ve got the Hilton kid that’s a tremendous receiver, and they’ve got a couple of other receivers that are good receivers. So we’re just going to have to play good defense like we’ve been doing — play assignment and tackle. But they’re very explosive on offense.”