When the 2018 regular season ended, District 8-2A rivals Friendship Capitol and East Feliciana were headed in opposite directions. On Friday they both get a rebirth at the same starting line.
At 5-5, both teams are touting the new season of the playoffs which begins at 7 p.m. Friday at East Feliciana.
The game is a rematch from a 20-6 East Feliciana victory in Week 3 but plenty has changed for both teams since then. The Tigers, seeded No. 15, are on a four-game win streak after starting the season 0-3. Capitol started 3-0 but has dropped its past two.
“We’re coming together at the right time,” East Feliciana coach Cedric Anderson said. “It’s nice to be on a roll going into the playoffs. We had a rough start, some tough teams we were up against. All three were fresh out of the (Mercedes-Benz) Superdome (West Feliciana, St. Helena and Kentwood). Hopefully we can spring forward into the playoffs.”
Capitol is enjoying the playoff berth as a No. 18 seed after an 0-10 record last season. The Lions' last foray into the playoffs was 2016 when they were a No. 29 seed and lost 59-28 in the first round to eventual state champion Sterlington.
“I feel good going in,” Buckels said. “We have a few guys injured that won’t be with us Friday, but I think the next man will step up. It’s a much improved East Feliciana team but I feel like we are much improved as well. It should be a good matchup.”
The coaching matchup features former Tulane football player (Anderson) vs. a former LSU player (Buckels) although that aspect of the rivalry is downplayed by both coaches. Anderson was a defensive back for the Green Wave in 1994-95 while Buckels was a linebacker at LSU from 2001-04.
The teams are also somewhat divergent in terms of health. East Feliciana was without quarterback Caleb Anderson, son of the coach, and two other players in the early part of the season. Buckels said he could be missing as many as three starters Friday, including leading scorer Jacoby Bellazar, a wide receiver with 10 touchdowns.
“We got healthy in Week 7 just about when we started our winning streak,” Anderson said. “We have been playing real good ball. Several seniors stepped up and made plays, like Richard Davis (defensive back), D’Andre Patin (running back-linebacker), Jontrellius Goudeau (lineman), Javontae Barnes (lineman).”
Anderson added that Rodney White, who filled in at quarterback, has had an impact since moving back to wide receiver.
“It’s playoff time and we’re lucky to have a home game in the first round,” Anderson said. “I feel like things are clicking.”
Buckels said LaRay Shelton will take over for Bellazar and that quarterback Colby Tucker has been coming on strong of late.
“We’re running the ball better, throwing the ball better and we’re more physical and aggressive on defense,” he said. “We have more confidence. Our last game (20-6 loss to Jewel Sumner) was 12-6 with one-minute left. The first meeting with East Feliciana was closer than the score indicated. We had some mistakes on special teams.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve had a win in the playoffs. This season has been a good start. The kids are just learning about having a winning attitude. We’re going to get there. I don’t want them to feel like just making the playoffs is good enough, we want to go there and win.”