Rematches highlight Friday’s state final games _lowres

Advocate file photo by VERONICA DOMINACH -- Many's Xavier Davis gets tackled by Kinder's Derric Mayfield, Collin Williams and Welles Cooley during last year's state championship game in the Mercedes Superdome in New Orleans.

How well the teams match up with each other isn’t always the deciding factor in a state championship football game.

What happens when a matchup becomes a rematch? Plenty, thanks to the fact that the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Prep Classic opens its second weekend with two rematches at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

“It’s just a matchup between two schools with good tradition and good followings,” Mangham coach Tommy Tharp said. “I don’t know what else you could ask for. It’s some pretty tall cotton to chop but we’re going to go swing at it.”

Top-seeded Mangham (14-0) takes on No. 2 Haynesville (13-1) in the Class 1A title game that kicks off the action at 4:30 p.m. Haynesville claimed the crown last season, but Mangham, seeking its first state title since 1956, is the higher seed this time.

At 8 p.m., top-seeded Many (14-0) faces defending champion Kinder (14-0) in the 2A game for the second straight year. Many seeks its first state title in football and is the top seed for the second straight season.

The two games open a weekend of nonselect title games. Championship games for Classes 3A, 4A and 5A follow Saturday starting at noon.

“Watching them is just like watching us,” Many coach Jess Curtis said. “The offense and defense are a little different, but we have the same mindset, the same physicality and the same record.

“The scores throughout the season are almost eerie. Last week’s scores were almost identical. It’s been like that all year, and it should make for such a great game.”

MANGHAM VS. HAYNESVILLE: Haynesville has 16 state titles, which ranks second to John Curtis on Louisiana’s all-time list. The Golden Tornado is making its second third straight 1A final appearance and fourth since 2009.

Last year’s 42-21 win over Mangham was ignited by a big play from Kendrick Jackson. The Arizona commitment stripped the ball from Mangham’s top runner, Kemme Weeks, and rolled into the end zone to score a third-quarter touchdown. That play helped end the Dragons’ comeback hopes.

Jackson and company are back. Keandre Harris leads Haynesville’s balanced rushing attack with 747 yards and also is a key part of the defense with 38 tackles for loss.

“We were just talking about that (Monday) and how fortunate we were to have been so many times (to the final),” Haynesville coach David Franklin said. “We’ve played a lot of games in the last three years. There’s a lot of pressure on these kids, but I’m certainly glad to be where we are right now.”

Weeks has graduated, but the duo of Jakarie Nichols and Abdullah Rhone have each rushed for more than 1,500 yards for Mangham.

MANY VS. KINDER: A year ago, Kinder raced out to an 18-7 lead only to see Many rally to claim a 20-18 lead late in the third quarter. Kinder scored the final 16 points and won its first state title since 1978.

“Last year’s loss is definitely a big factor for them. They’ve looked all year long at this game,” Kinder coach Bret Fuselier said. “That’s a big motivation for them. For us, we’ve just got to worry about playing good football. That’s all we can worry about.”

Several key players return for both teams. The list starts with quarterbacks Xavier Dias of Many and Welles Cooley of Kinder. Both are capable of running and throwing the ball well.

Many has three 1,000-yard rushers, thanks to an offensive line led by Garrett Thomas, a Texas commitment. A defense, led by linebacker Bryce Baker, will be charged with equalizing the Tigers.