JIM DERRY’S CRYSTAL FOOTBALL: PLAYOFFS WEEK 4
Teams around the state continue their quest for a state championship, as the Select schools have reached their title week and the Non-Select schools are in the semifinals round. We take a look at some playoff facts for each of the metro-area teams, and Jim Derry of VSN Louisiana makes his predictions.
Note: Capsules are listed in order of classification/division from smallest to largest.
DIVISION III CHAMPIONSHIP
(3) ST. CHARLES (11-1) vs. (1) LAFAYETTE CHRISTIAN (11-1)
Where/When: At Louisiana-Lafayette’s Cajun Field on Saturday at 6 p.m.
Last week’s semifinals: St. Charles defeated (7) New Iberia-Catholic, 43-42 in double overtime; Lafayette Christian defeated (5) Dunham, 49-15.
State championships: St. Charles has one title (2011); Lafayette Christian has two titles (2017, 2018).
Pretty sure this is a 1st….Frank Monica (St. Charles Catholic) and Nick Monica (Archbishop Rummel) the 1st father-son tandem to lead programs to a state title game in the same year. That is awesome. Great coaching family! @ArchRUMMEL @SCC_Comets @LHSAA
— LHSCA (@TheLHSCA) December 5, 2019
- Charles is in a state championship after dropping back down from Division II. The last season the Comets were in Division III, they lost to Riverside in the 2016 state championship game. Conversely, Lafayette Christian has won the past two Division IV championships – defeating Ascension Catholic both times: 10-0 in 2017 and 56-7 last season.
- The 42 points the Comets allowed last week were the most they have given up this season and most since a 49-7 loss to St. Thomas More in the Division II semifinals last year. Prior to last week, the most they had allowed in a single game was to Arch Manning and Newman in a 28-27 win in Week 8 in a game that was seen on VSN Louisiana.
- The Knights now have won 10 consecutive postseason games, which is second best in the state to Karr, which has won 18 in a row. In all, Lafayette Christian is 38-2 overall since the start of the 2017 season.
Jim Derry’s pick: Those who don’t know all that much about high school football in Louisiana might automatically assume the team coming from Division II the past two seasons would have an advantage over the team coming from Division IV. However, the truth is it really doesn’t matter where Lafayette Christian is playing – they seem to steamroll everyone.
Their only loss this season came at the hands of powerhouse Acadiana – the top seed in Class 5A – and they only lost by 14.
It was an incredible accomplishment for Frank Monica and his Comets to make it to the state championship game once again after a couple of frustrating postseasons playing up in class. But these Select brackets are so top heavy, this Knights team is going to be a tough piece of armor to crack.
Lafayette Christian 40, St. Charles 19
CLASS 3A SEMIFINALS
(12) UNION PARISH (9-4) at (1) ST. JAMES (13-0)
When: Friday at 7 p.m.
On the air: This game will be broadcast live on VSN Louisiana and the Varsity Sports Now app on Apple TV, along with iOS and Android devices. Jason Duhe will handle the play by play, and Terrence Jones will offer color analysis.
Last week’s quarterfinals: Union Parish defeated (4) Madison Prep, 35-26; St. James defeated (24) Brusly, 32-13.
State championships: Union Parish (formerly Farmerville) has won two state titles (2001, 2013); St. James has won four titles (1959, 1960, 1966, 1979).
Next week: The winner will face the (23) Jennings at (6) McDonogh 35 winner in the Class 3A state title game in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Friday, Dec. 13.
- The Wildcats have won nine consecutive games by 19 or more points (and in all but two games all season), and they have won seven games this season by four touchdowns or more. They have given up double-digit points just four times this season.
- The last time St. James was in the semifinals – in 2015 – they made it to the championship game after a forfeit victory against Amite, which had a brawl the week prior against Bogalusa.
- None of Union Parish’s four losses this season were to any team still remaining in the playoffs.
Jim Derry’s pick: St. James was so used to making a run as a high seed, it must be strange for them as the top seed and with all these home games. Not strange enough to have their train derailed before pulling into the Superdome station, but strange nonetheless.
The real question is: Why is this game going to be any different than any other they have played in the playoffs, especially against another team with a much lower seed than they’d expect in this round. Don’t bother trying to figure out the answer, because it isn’t going to be any different.
St. James 41, Union Parish 13
(23) JENNINGS (8-5) at (6) McDONOGH 35 (9-3)
Where/When: At Pan American Stadium on Friday at 7 p.m.
Last week’s quarterfinals: Jennings defeated (2) Sterlington, 39-38; McDonogh 35 defeated (11) Lake Charles College Prep, 22-14; Baker defeated (14) Iota, 18-13.
State championships: Jennings has won two titles (1939, 1992); McDonogh 35 has never won a state title.
Next week: The winner will face the (12) Union Parish at (1) St. James winner in the Class 3A state championship game on Friday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Congrats to the McDonogh #35 Roneagles who defeated Baker 19-8 in the Class 3A Quarterfinals! The Roneagles haven’t been to the semifinals since 2016 and are excited to go into the 2019 semifinals in hopes of making it all the way to the Dome for the LHSAA Prep Classic! pic.twitter.com/UmXC1XBBNb
— LHSAA (@LHSAA) November 30, 2019
- The Roneagles are looking for their first ever trip to the LHSAA Superdome Prep Classic.
- McDonogh 35 has held eight consecutive opponents to 19 points or fewer and has allowed 28 total points in three playoff games.
- This is the first time a seed worse than 20 has made it to the semifinals since McDonogh 35 did it as a 21 in Class 4A in 2012. A 20-plus seed hasn’t made it to a championship game since 27th-seeded Acadiana won the Class 5A state title over fourth-seeded West Monroe in 2010.
- In Jennings’ surprising victory last week against second-seeded (and previously undefeated) Sterlington, a regular participant in the Superdome Classic, the Bulldogs fended off a two-point conversion attempt with 11 seconds remaining to hold on to victory.
Jim Derry’s pick: We said a few weeks ago the brackets were shaping up nicely for the Roneagles, and it kept getting better and better since then. They now will have faced a 27, a 30 and a 23 seed in three of four weeks with 11th-seeded Lake Charles College Prep sandwiched in between.
Not that anyone should be complaining, mind you. But I will tell you this: If any team can beat St. James, it might be McDonogh 35, which has a swarming defense that is playing with the ultimate confidence.
The step down in classification obviously has been good for the home team, which should be able to take it one more step into the Dome for the first time, and make 3A an all-New Orleans-area final.
McDonogh 35 26, Jennings 19
DIVISION II CHAMPIONSHIP
(2) DE LA SALLE (9-2) at (1) ST. THOMAS MORE (10-2)
When: Friday at 7 p.m.
Last week: De La Salle defeated (3) University, 17-14; St. Thomas More defeated (5) St. Louis, 52-21.
State championships: De La Salle has never won a state title; St. Thomas More has won one title (2016).
De La Salle Football will play Friday Night for the State Championship at #1 seeded St. Thomas More in Lafayette. Game time is 7pm. Go Cavs! pic.twitter.com/OzqKARoLrO
— De La Salle Athletic (@dls_athletics) December 3, 2019
- In the only previous meeting between the two teams this century, De La Salle (11-0) defeated St. Thomas More, 28-14, to continue their unbeaten streak in 2017 into their first state championship game appearance in 56 years. They went on to lose to University in the Superdome before returning the favor last week at Yulman Stadium.
- In that game, Julien Gums carried 26 times for 131 yards and three touchdowns.
- De La Salle has outscored its previous six opponents by a combined score of 228-37.
- Last week, the Cavaliers broke University’s string of winning eight consecutive postseason games.
- This is the fourth time in five seasons in Division II the Cougars have appeared in the state title game. They are 1-2 in previous contests, having lost to University (55-46) last season and Parkview Baptist (24-21) in 2015 and defeating Parkview Baptist (54-29) in 2016.
- Cougars quarterback Caleb Holstein is one of the state’s top passers this season, completing 65 percent of his 366 passes for 3,535 yards and 38 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. He has passed for 596 yards and six scores in the playoffs. Receiver Jack Bech has caught 81 passes for 1,482 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Jim Derry’s pick: There’s no question the Cavaliers are officially now a program and are living off what Ryan Manale has instilled in them. They truly believe they belong in the Dome each year, even though this is just the second time under his reign.
That being said, they now must face another “program” team in St. Thomas More, which has played in more Division II title games that past five years than anyone else. One could argue, that no other team besides Karr, Curtis and possibly Notre Dame has been this successful during that time period.
My heart says go with De La Salle, who really shouldn’t be here – not this year. That being said, in December, my head is right way more often than my heart.
St. Thomas More 33, De La Salle 23
CLASS 4A SEMIFINALS
(20) WARREN EASTON (8-4) at (1) LAKESHORE (13-0)
When: Friday at 7 p.m.
On the air: This game will be broadcast live on VSN Louisiana and the Varsity Sports Now app on Apple TV, along with iOS and Android devices. Jim Derry will handle the play by play, and Jim Rapier will offer color analysis.
Last week: Easton defeated (5) Carencro, 34-22; Lakeshore defeated (8) Bastrop, 57-0.
State championships: Easton has won two titles (1921, 1942); Lakeshore has never won a state title.
Next week: The winner will face the (3) Karr at (2) Neville winner in the Class 4A state championship in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Saturday, Dec. 14.
- This is a matchup of the past two 4A state runners-up, as each lost to Karr in the Dome. Easton lost, 28-20, last season, while Lakeshore fell to the now three-time defending champs, 48-26, in 2017.
- After Week 6, Easton was 1-4, including a forfeit loss to De La Salle in the opener and a cancellation in Week 5. Since then, the Eagles have reeled off seven consecutive victories by an aggregate score of 320-88.
- Lakeshore has won its last seven games by an aggregate score of 336-41. The Titans haven’t had a winning margin by less than three touchdowns since Week 1 – a seven-point victory over crosstown rival Fontainebleau.
- This is the sixth consecutive season Easton is in the semifinals, and they are 2-3 in those games, losing twice to Neville and once to Karr.
- In three playoff games, Easton senior running back Ashaad Clayton, a Colorado commit, has rushed for 670 yards and 12 touchdowns.
- Lakeshore quarterback Christian Westcott, who had a hand in all eight Titans touchdowns last Friday night, had now has rushed for 35 touchdowns and passed for 30 more.
The pick: I don’t think I have taken more heat on social media for a column I wrote in years than the one I wrote for The St. Tammany Farmer (and nola.com) that said no one is going to stop Lakeshore. My question is: How come no one was upset when I said the same thing about Karr last year or the season before? Or how about John Curtis last year?
It can’t be that it’s all about Easton peeps getting their feelings hurt, because they weren’t that upset about me saying Karr would beat them WITH Lance LeGendre.
Problem is, this isn’t Karr. And that proves the point I am trying to make.
Anyone can look at a schedule and say “They haven’t played anybody.” But I have seen the team. They are THAT GOOD.
Don’t get me wrong, I mean no disrespect to the Eagles. I love y’all, and along with John Curtis, no one has welcomed me with open arms more than your coaches and your fans the past seven seasons.
I’ll be the first one to eat my words if I am wrong about the Titans. Easton fans, my Twitter door also will be wide open for you on Saturday morning.
Copy and paste: “Wow, Jim, Lakeshore really is that good.” (Optional additional sentence: “But you’re still an idiot.”)
Lakeshore 38, Warren Easton 16
(3) KARR (10-2) at (2) NEVILLE (10-2)
When: At Behrman Stadium on Friday at 7 p.m.
Last week: Breaux Bridge defeated (11) Belle Chasse, 15-0; Karr defeated (19) Carver, 48-13.
State championships: Karr has won five titles (1992, 2012, 2016, 2017, 2018); Breaux Bridge has won one title (2005).
Next week: The winner will face the (20) Warren Easton at (1) Lakeshore winner in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for the Class 4A state championship.
No Talk! Just Actions! No Excuses! Just Results! ✊💪 #Focused 👀 (James 1:12) (10….)
— Karr Football (@karrfootball) December 4, 2019
- Karr has won 17 consecutive postseason games dating back to 45-26 loss to Neville in the 2015 Class 4A title game, and hasn’t lost in the playoffs before the semifinals since falling to Tigers in the 2014 quarterfinals. They have finished their season in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome every year since and in all but one year this decade.
- The Cougars have won 27 out of their last 29 games overall, losing only to Catholic and John Curtis this season, both of whom are playing one another in the Division I semifinals this weekend.
- This is the first trip to the quarterfinals for Breaux Bridge since they made it to the Class 4A semifinals in 2011.
Jim Derry’s pick: All season, I have been thinking about who would win this game, because at no point the past four months was it anything but inevitable. While Lakeshore might have surprised people by gaining the No. 1 seed, these two teams were my preseason favorites. (Well, they were everyone’s favorites.)
For the past six weeks or so, I was sure I was going to pick Neville. But how can I pick against the three-time defending champs the way they are playing? I try to go with who I think is the better team this time of year, but occasionally a “program” can cloud my judgment (see John Curtis last week).
That being said, both these teams are programs, so who or what is clouding who?
How’s that for a pick that is about as clear as the dishwater from the leftover gumbo pot still sitting in the sink? (Don’t call me gross, and no I am not lazy – it needs to soak. But I digress.)
Should be another heck of a game, but I want to see Karr with a chance to make it four in a row. And no matter who wins the other game, it would be one fun day in the Dome.
Karr 19, Neville 14
DIVISION I CHAMPIONSHIP
(2) CATHOLIC (12-0) at (1) RUMMEL (12-0)
Where/When: At Yulman Stadium on Friday at 7 p.m.
Last week: Catholic defeated (3) John Curtis, 14-0; Rummel defeated (4) Brother Martin, 37-27.
State championships: Catholic has won two titles (2015, 2017); Rummel has won two titles (2012, 2013).
Come out this Friday night for the DIVISION I STATE CHAMPIONSHIP when our Raiders take on Catholic High!
Where: Tulane’s Yulman Stadium Time: 7 PM
Pre-sale tickets: $15 for sale in our bookstore
Tickets at the gate: $20
— Archbishop Rummel HS (@ArchRUMMEL) December 2, 2019
- Not only did Catholic end John Curtis’ streak of not being shut out in 18 seasons, but it was only the second time they were shut out in the past 40 years. In fact, Curtis had dished out 50 shutouts since taking their last one from O. Perry Walker in 2001.
- Catholic has won 28 of their past 30 games and haven’t lost since falling to Curtis in the title game last season.
- The Bears had scored 55 or more points in four consecutive games before St. Paul’s held them to 28 two weeks ago.
- Rummel has now given up 61 points in two playoff games, which is 16 more points than they gave up the entire regular season.
- This is the fifth state championship game appearance for the Raiders, all since 2009. They are 2-2 overall in the title game – having won Class 5A in 2012 and then the first Division I championship in 2013.
Jim Derry’s pick: Picks are supposed to be tough this time of year, but this is proof of just how tough they can be, and it comes down for me of which Rummel defense is going to show up?
Obviously, they have had a much better output from their offense as of late, but why do I remain much more unimpressed than I was about five or six weeks ago?
Maybe I am a defensive-minded kind of guy? Maybe a 7-0 victory tells me way more than a 34-27 win. Maybe the level of competition wasn’t nearly as good as I thought it was. Maybe I overthink things and should start looking for a therapist.
Whatever the reason, I simply think Catholic is a better football team. They have won both shootouts and defensive battles. So had Rummel, but not against the likes of University, St. Thomas More AND Curtis.
This should be a tight football game, but this is one where my gut and my head are in agreement. And the Bears have been on a mission since getting destroyed in the Dome last year.
(Too bad this one isn’t in the Dome, but that’s a whole ’notha story.)
Catholic 24, Rummel 17
CLASS 5A SEMIFINALS
(11) HAUGHTON (11-2) at (7) DESTREHAN (10-3)
When: Friday at 7 p.m.
Last week: Haughton defeated (19) Mandeville, 34-14; Destrehan defeated (2) West Monroe, 20-17.
State championships: Haughton has won one title (1977); Destrehan has four titles (1949, 1973, 2007, 2008).
Next week: The winner will face the (5) Zachary at (1) Acadiana winner in the Class 5A state championship game on Saturday, Dec. 14 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
— Destrehan High (@DHSWildcats) November 30, 2019
- In nine of 10 victories this season, Destrehan has limited opponents to 21 points or less – giving up 34 in a first-round victory against Ponchatoula, in which the Wildcats pitched a shutout and with the game well in hand, LSU commit TJ Finley had his hand in five second-half touchdowns.
- In three losses (Weeks 4, 6 and 7 against St. James, Terrebonne and East St. John, respectively), Destrehan gave up a combined 75 points.
- Destrehan running back and Alabama commit Kyle Edwards has now rushed for 490 yards and eight touchdowns in three playoff games and has upped his total to 1,580 and 24 for the season. Last week, he also caught three passes for 54 yards and completed a 25-yard pass for a touchdown – the first of his prep career.
- The Wildcats, who have won six in a row after losing three of four, are in the semifinals for the fifth time in seven seasons. They are looking to advance to the championship game for the first time since 2014. Interestingly, their opponent that season was Acadiana, who sits as the top seed and in the semifinals on the other side of the bracket.
- Before the first round, Haughton had won just three playoff games the past eight seasons. The Buccaneers had never made it even as far as the quarterfinals in Class 5A before this season, and it had been their furthest trip in the postseason since Dak Prescott led them to Class 4A quarterfinals in his senior season in 2010, where they lost 49-41 to eventual state champion Franklinton.
- None of the six Haughton coaches have ever previously coached in a semifinals game, and this is the first time the Buccaneers have gone this far in football since being shutout by John Curtis in the 1990 Class 3A semifinals.
- Haughton has not allowed more than 23 points in any game this season, and has held nine opponents to 14 points or fewer.
The pick: Find a team I have been more wrong about in the playoffs than the Destrehan Wildcats, and I will give you one of those leftover Thanksgiving pies to toss in my face. Even when I get them right, my scores have been ridiculously off, and I have certainly underestimated how good the Wildcats’ defense is (or at least can be).
Oh, I know everyone over in the River Parishes (except maybe Hahnville fans) are hoping I pick against them at least one more week. But how can I?
No question Haughton has skill players to make it to the Dome, but their road to the semifinals has been filled with fortuitous bounces, playing seeds with numbers such as 22, 27 and 19. And if they don’t get tons of breaks in the first quarter against Mandeville – in a game not nearly as lopsided as the score would indicate – it might be the Skippers traveling to Destrehan.
Maybe I am underestimating the Buccaneers’ defense, as well, as they haven’t given up a ton of points either in the postseason or 10 weeks of regular season, but I am fairly certain they haven’t faced a running back like Kyle Edwards.
It’ll be close. It’ll be low-scoring. But sorry Wildcats – I can’t pick against you here.
Destrehan 21, Haughton 17
JIM DERRY’S PICKS RECORD
Week 3 playoff games: 8-5 (.615)
Playoffs: 44-18 (.710). Top 10 games (regular season): 72-28 (.720). Overall in 2019: 349-79 (.815)
VSN LOUISIANA BROADCAST SCHEDULE
(All games Friday at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted)
NON-SELECT SECOND ROUND / SELECT QUARTERFINALS
Warren Easton at Lakeshore
Union Parish at St. James
Zachary at Acadiana
Jim Derry is a Regional Reporter and Play-by-Play Announcer for VSN Louisiana and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.