Some numbers are mind-boggling. Top-seeded University High has won 25 straight games over the past two seasons with only Friday’s Division II select title game against No. 3 St. Thomas More remaining.
The Cubs (12-0) have outscored opponents 578-128, including 487-100 in the regular season. They were ranked 16th nationally in the most recent USA Today Super 25.
Comparing numbers and rankings can be misleading. However, a group of local coaches, both past and present, offer a unanimous opinion — this U-High team is not just one that ages opposing coaches. They say the 2018 Cubs are a Baton Rouge team for the ages.
“I hate to go against some of my own teams, but I haven’t seen a local team that matches them across the board and I’ve coached since 1986,” Central coach Sid Edwards said. “The Redemptorist teams we had in 2002-03 were 29-1, beat John Curtis and were very good. In terms of talent, the only other team I’ve seen on that level was the 1990 Ruston team.”
The Cubs were unofficially deemed Louisiana’s top team in all classes/ divisions after beating De La Salle 45-19 in the last year’s Division II final. The Cavaliers were deemed the top team all season because of conquests that included wins over top New Orleans competition, including Class 4A champion Edna Karr.
When it was all said and done, University had wins over De La Salle and three other 2017 champions — Class 5A Zachary, 3A West Feliciana and Division I Catholic.
Coach Chad Mahaffey’s team has been just as impressive this fall. The Cubs beat Division I finalist Catholic by 20 points and 5A finalist Zachary by 22. Cynics can point to a roster with seven players scheduled to sign with Power 5 conferences and say winning is easy with talent. Mahaffey and the coaches/former coaches see other things.
“This group, especially with these seniors, is extremely close,” Mahaffey said. “Some teams come out and don’t play well after a winning a title. This senior class saw other goals and ways they could continue to improve. They are very focused and take a lot of pride in what we do.”
The senior group includes athlete Christian Harris (Alabama), linebacker Bryton Constantin (Clemson), receiver Makiya Tongue (Georgia), offensive lineman Dylan Rathcke (Arkansas), running back Mike Hollins (Virginia), defensive back Jordan Clark (Arizona State) and defensive lineman Donald Berniard (Navy).
The list does not include junior defensive lineman Jacquelin Roy (LSU) and two seniors set to play college baseball, linebacker Jacob Burke (Southeastern Louisiana) and defensive back Will Safford (LSU).
Not convinced? Check out what this group of coaches has to say:
David Brewerton, Zachary head coach
“When I played at Catholic we played the 1990 Ruston team. U-High has got marquee names at the skill positions like that (Ruston) team. What gets overlooked is how good they are up front. And their chemistry. Chad Mahaffey is a heck of a ball coach and so is (associate coach) Andy Martin and the rest of their staff.”
Robb Odom, West Feliciana
“You ask me to name a Baton Rouge team on their level and I really cannot. In this day and time, it is hard to get kids to play together and for each other. They do that. Plus, they get coached up every day. They are in the right schemes, they execute and they play hard.”
Former Catholic coach Dale Weiner
“It is one thing to be good, fast or big. They are good, big and fast, which is a rare combination. Baton Rouge has had some great teams over the years. People point to our teams in the mid-1990s as special and the teams at Redemptorist and Parkview. In the last 20 or so years, I don’t think you can say there has been a team like this.”
Barrett Murphy, former coach at Catholic, Belaire, East Ascension
“Most of top teams have maybe two of three high-level recruits. U-High has what … seven or eight? And they will have other guys who sign, too. You have some great teams at Catholic, Parkview and Redemptorist in the last 30 years, but not one like this.”
Mahaffey is reluctant to rate his team. He lists a Catholic High team he played on the mid-1990s, the 2001 Parkview Baptist team and those 2002-03 Redemptorist teams as some of his favorites.
Murphy provides the final word, “What U-High has is unparalleled.”