Football Forecast: LCA vs CCMC, Acadiana vs ASH, Eunice vs Erath [VIDEO]
The second season is officially starting. If you win, there's another round to fight in. If you lose, the Friday night lights turn off until next season. Welcome to the playoffs.
We have tons of local teams spread throughout the nine brackets. Some are underdogs, others are favored to run the table, and others are quietly sleeping smack dab in the middle. It was harder than ever to pick my three games of the week for the first round of the LHSAA playoffs, and I ended up having to leave off a few games I can't wait to see.
One first matchup is a District 7-1A rematch, our second game features a juggernaut masquerading as a sleeper, and the third features two teams with identical records separated by one seed in the bracket and a couple miles on the map.
Before we sink our teeth into the playoffs, let's give credit to the men who put on a show in their regular season finale.
Players of the Week: Zach Clement, Brontre Griffin, Tre Benjamin
We'll start with the winner of this week's Twitter poll, Lafayette Christian Academy's star Quarterback Zach Clement.
The Knights lean on Clement to lead their charge each and every week, and he always delivers. It's a regular day at the office for Clement to have 300+ total yards and four or five touchdowns, and he's only a sophomore. He has a lot of growing left to do at LCA, and he helped the Knights make history in Week Ten.
Clement carried LCA to their first win over Vermilion Catholic in program history, in dominant fashion. To sweeten the deal, their 7-3 record was the highest win total in LCA's brief history. Clement's been a machine all year long, and he deserved the recognition.
If you don't know about Brontre Griffin yet, you need to. All he's doing is dismantling defenses with his bare hands.
Over the last two weeks, Griffin has over 700 total yards and 12 TD's. That isn't a typo, that's just the facts. Highland Baptist is feeding him the rock, and he's doing scary things with the ball. He racked up 1,701 rushing yards and 23 TD's this season, and he didn't even play every game. The most terrifying part? He's only a junior. The entire state has to endure one more year of his wrath.
Speaking of youngsters, Tre Benjamin is only a sophomore for St. Martinville, but he doesn't run like one.
In a double overtime win against Cecilia, Benjamin rushed for 248 yards and five TD's to help St. Martinville get a share of the District 5-4A title. He had over 100 yards in the first quarter alone, ripping off huge chunks of yards to gash Cecilia's defense. Benjamin is a weapon of mass destruction, and he's just getting started.
Who will shine the brightest in the first round of the playoffs? Time will tell, so let's get into our matchups.
GAME ONE: #5 LCA Knights vs #12 Central Catholic-Morgan City
Trev Faulk took a blossoming LCA Knights team and poured Miracle Grow on the entire roster. In his first year as head coach, he reached new heights at Lafayette Christian Academy.
Faulk took a group of inexperienced players, and turned them into winners. They have freshmen and sophomores all over the field, including Zach Clement, their fearless leaders. There are a couple upperclassmen like senior Treven Kately helping the team along, but largely, they rely on production from guys who just recently hit their growth spurt.
The biggest difference between LCA and Central Catholic is experience. What the Knights lack, the Eagles have in excess.
Playing Central Catholic is like watching a train coming and not being able to get out of the way. They only run a few plays on offense, and they dare you to stop their rushing attack. Their offensive line is big, strong and mean, and their backs are trained so well in the system that the decisions they make are almost subconscious. Head Coach Tommy Minton doesn't mind the fact his team got the #12 seed, all it does is make the chip on their shoulder even heftier.
If you're a fan of the running game, this one is for you. Central Catholic will try to hit LCA with their battering ram and break them down physically, and the Knights will rely on Clement to create explosive plays like he has all season. If LCA can get past Central Catholic, nobody can question their toughness.
Trev Faulk said there is a positive and a negative to playing Central Catholic. It's nice they're familiar with their opponent, but it's rough knowing the style they play and how difficult it is to defeat them. We're all in for a war at Knight Field.
LCA and Central Catholic love the running game, but nobody loves it more than Acadiana.
GAME TWO: #14 Acadiana Wreckin' Rams vs #19 Alexandria Senior High
Every year, the Acadiana Wreckin' Rams have the same goal: get into the playoffs and win the whole damn thing. Ted Davidson cares little to none about the power point system or seeding, he just takes care of business on the field and dares people to stop the Rams.
The Rams played well enough to earn a top ten seed, but an LHSAA ruling cost them valuable power points. It's funny though, because things actually worked out in their favor. As the #14 seed, they still get to host a home game and they have a chance to play a #3 seed in Ponchtoula that they had on the ropes and let off the hook earlier in the regular season. If you beat the Rams once, it's almost impossible to beat Coach Davidson twice in a row after he's had time to make adjustments.
I won't look past Alexandria though. The Trojans ended up with a 6-4 record on the season, and the Rams never look past an opponent.
ASH is a proud program with fans that will be willing to travel all the way to Scott to fill the bleachers. They also scored over 40 points five times this season, so they have the offensive fireworks to put up a good fight.
There's one thing I haven't mentioned though. The Rams don't lose home playoff games. They just don't. The last time they lost in the postseason at Bill Dotson Stadium was back in 1999, before some of the players who will be on the field Friday were even born.
I have all the respect in the world for ASH and their players, but I would bet all my worldly possessions that the Wreckin' Rams defend their turf and advance to the second round.
GAME THREE: #16 Eunice vs #17 Erath
This game is at good as it gets and so close it's impossible to predict. Eunice and Erath have identical records (7-3), and both of them rode through the ups and downs of the season.
Eunice's three losses came at the hands of Jennings, Rayne and Northwest, all teams that received single digit seeds in the brackets. Every time they faced a "lesser" opponent, they blew them out of the water. Here's the key: the Bobcats are 3-2 in one score games this year, so they have experience walking the tight rope when the game gets close.
Erath had one hiccup this year, but it came against a talented Patterson team that got brutalized by an insane schedule. Aside from that, their other two losses came against Kaplan, an undefeated steamroller, and Catholic High-New Iberia, a team that could very well reach the semifinal round (or one step farther) in the Division II playoffs. Their coach said they played their best game of the season against E.D. White to close out the regular season, and oh yeah, they have Elijah Mitchell.
Mitchell led the state in rushing yards this season with 2,358 yards and 36 TD's, but if you think that's impressive, take a look at his career stats: 6,403 yards, 86 TD's and 9.36 yards per carry. If you're a Ragin' Cajuns Football fan, you should be ecstatic he already committed. Coaches dream of getting players like Mitchell on campus, and he never disappoints.
Eunice is the home team, which gives them the home field advantage, but Erath has a little extra fuel too. They don't want this to be Elijah Mitchell's last game at Erath. Both teams are fighting to extend their season though, so anything could happen. I would tell you who I think is the favorite, but I have absolutely no clue.
Here's a harsh reality: only nine teams will finish the postseason on wins. It's the nature of the playoffs. A select few teams will hoist a trophy in the Superdome at the end of the playoffs, but everyone else will say goodbye to their season with a fatal kiss.
There's another reality though: somebody in the Acadiana area is going to win a state championship. Notre Dame, Catholic High, Ascension Episcopal, Kaplan, Iowa, STM, Loreauville, Rayne, Carencro, Acadiana...the list of contenders is longer than that. We will all cheer for our favorite team, but as the numbers thin out, the Acadiana area comes together and backs the survivors. The talent on the field is strong, but the football community is even stronger.
The time is finally here. This is just the first round, and the blood is already pumping a little harder through the veins of Louisiana. Soak it in, football fans. It will be over way too soon.