Northeast defense facing high-powered Many _lowres

Advocate file photo by ANGELA MAJOR -- Northeast football coach David Masterson: Historically as a program we’ve always focused on defense. You can make an offense out of it. If you hold people down defensively, you’ve always got a shot.'

It’s been 10 years since Northeast High last made the semifinals, but coach David Masterson plans to use hindsight and experience from his five previous visits to guide his current team.

Masterson’s main focus, as it always has been as a head coach, is defense — and slowing down undefeated Many High, last season’s Class 2A state runner-up.

Fifth-seeded NHS (10-2) travels to Many (13-0) for a 7 p.m. Friday semifinal.

“Historically as a program we’ve always focused on defense,” Masterson said. “You can make an offense out of it. If you hold people down defensively, you’ve always got a shot.”

In Class 1A, No. 4 Kentwood (9-2) travels to the Monroe area to play top-seeded Mangham (12-0) in another 7 p.m. Friday semifinal.

Mangham (12-0) is averaging 51 points per playoff game, outscoring its two opponents 103-34. Kentwood coach Jonathan Foster said his team is ready for the opportunity to play the top-ranked team on its home field.

“Mangham has been the No. 1 team in 1A all season, they do have the bull’s-eye.” Foster said. “Our kids are ready for it. It’s a big challenge.”

Quarterback Ridge Heisler leads the way for Mangham, but Foster said the key to victory over the Dragons is stopping the run and limiting turnovers. Foster wants his athletes to experience playing for the title, but knows taking down Mangham won’t be easy.

Alabama commitment Shyheim Carter plays a variety of positions, including quarterback for Kentwood.

“Every high school kid looks forward to playing in the Superdome, and our kids are excited about the opportunity, but Mangham is a big mountain, a big climb.”

Masterson echoed the thought of not looking past the No. 1 team and also noted that his quick, skilled defensive line will match well with Many’s big, steamrolling offensive line.

“Their quarterback is a phenomenal athlete and their big boys up front create a lot of holes, but we’re not going to be overwhelmed with size,” Masterson said.

“Our focus is strictly on Many and this game only.”