St. Michael the Archangel is no stranger to the state football playoffs. All too familiar is the one-and-done result.
The Warriors are making their 12th consecutive appearance dating to before the select/nonselect split and will be looking for their first victory Friday at E.D. White in Thibodaux.
First-year coach Joey Sanchez, a veteran assistant, is leading the search party for the Warriors (5-5) and is confident he’s making inroads. It may not happen against the Cardinals (7-3), but he’s confident in eventually breaking the spell.
“We have changed the culture here with a positive outlook on football,” Sanchez said. “And it’s not all about football, it’s about being a good student and good person. We’ve preached from Day 1 we want them to be the leaders in school. They’ve done a good job of that.
“We have not won a playoff game. We hope one day to change that. We want to make history.”
Five other local select schools will be hosting first-round games. In Division IV, No. 1 seed Southern Lab (9-1) welcomes St. Mary’s (3-7) and Ascension Catholic (9-1) plays Hanson Memorial (3-7). In Division III, Episcopal (6-4) plays Menard (5-5), and in Division II, Parkview (4-6) meets Teurlings Catholic (4-6).
Division II top seed University High and Division I No. 2 seed Catholic High have first-round byes.
Every school in the select bracket makes the playoffs in the format started in 2013, but St. Michael had established itself in Class 4A before that with six consecutive appearances starting in 2007. It’s best showing came in 2014 when it earned the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye, but lost to Parkview Baptist 49-20 in the second round.
Sanchez, an assistant on the St. Michael staff last season, decided to retool the offense into the double-slot option run by Parkview. Sanchez spent 11 years in two stints on the Redemptorist coaching staff under his longtime friend Sid Edwards. He also was head coach at Central Private for three seasons before coming to St. Michael.
Because of the offensive changes, the Warriors sputtered at times but got a little better each week.
“Especially on offense which was all new,” Sanchez said. “The kids got more familiar with it, relaxed and were able to execute it. Defensively it was the same as last year, and we had seven starters back. They played well all year.”
Sanchez said the turning point came in a 14-9 victory against Woodlawn in the District 6-A opener cam when senior quarterback Cole Garafola and the offense finally started clicking.
“We played a quality opponent, and he had to produce,” Sanchez said of Garafola. “A light went on for him that night.
Garafola and fullbacks Chris Sehring and Connor Badeaux get 90 percent of the rushing attempts in the grinding, ball-control offense. That will be a key Friday against the Cardinals, who boast a talented all-around quarterback in Brandon Legendre, a Louisiana-Lafayette commitment.
“He will be one of the best athletes we face all year,” Sanchez said. “It all revolves around him.”