It’s easy to talk about game plans and Xs and Os when Port Allen High and Parkview Baptist are involved.
Port Allen coach Guy Blanchard said his team’s Class 3A quarterfinal football game with Parkview will come down to something more fundamental than strategy.
“Because we’ve played them the last couple of years, I think there’s a mutual respect,” Blanchard said. “We’ll come in with a great game plan and so will they.
“Once you get past the Xs and the Os, it comes down to the Jims and Joes. Who’s going to make the plays? Will it be their Jims or our Joes? That’s the thing we don’t know.”
Game time is 7 p.m. Friday at PBS in a game featuring teams from different districts.
There are some obvious differences between the two teams. Parkview (8-3), seeded 11th, is the defending Class 3A state champion and has one other title and a runner-up finish in the past four years.
Port Allen (10-2), seeded 14th, makes the first quarterfinal appearance in the school’s 64-year history. The Pelicans, of District 7-3A, also have 10 wins for the first time and have literally doubled the school’s all-time playoff wins total.
That’s why coach Kenny Guillot said the District 6-3A Eagles put no stock in the 32-7 (2009) and 38-0 (2010) regular-season wins over the Pelicans the past two years.
“They’re definitely a talented and well-coached team,” Guillot said. “You could see that talent last year when we played them. They were a young team then, and now they’ve matured.
“One thing that impresses me, besides the 10 wins, is how they’ve won. They’ve been able to come back and win several games. They’re playing with a lot of confidence right now.”
There are ties between the two teams. Blanchard was an assistant to Guillot at PBS early in his career. Both teams employ some of the same option strategy on offense.
The Pelicans rely on junior quarterback-linebacker Darian Claiborne. The 6-foot-1?, 214-pound Claiborne celebrated his 17th birthday last Friday with a game-changing 73-yard TD run against Loranger.
Claiborne has rushed for 1,153 yards and 19 touchdowns and passed for 1,399 yards and 15 TDs. Defensively, he has a team-high 106 tackles. Running back Ricky Merritt (600 rushing yards), receiver Ashton Paul Williams (875 receiving yards) and linebacker-end James Pollard (86 tackles) are other leaders.
Parkview counters with running backs Hezekiah Randolph (773 yards, nine TDs) and Conner Hodgeson (768 yards, nine TDs). Quarterback Brennan Bozeman has 601 rushing yards and six TDs along with 252 passing yards despite missing three games with an injury.
PBS linebacker Brody Burkhalter has 81 tackles, including 17 tackles for loss and has returned three of his four interceptions for TDs. Linebacker Adam Smith (82 tackles, 17 tackles for loss) and nose guard Tom Bove (70 tackles, 20 tackles for loss) are other leaders.
“Both teams expect a lot of themselves,” Blanchard said. “I expect this one to be a real slobber-knocker.”