If you're still playing in the middle of November, that means you're doing something right. The STM Cougars and Teurlings Rebels want to make it all the way to December.

While other teams were battling it out in the first round, the Rebels and Cougars were resting and preparing for their separate postseason paths. They're on opposite sides of the bracket in Division II, which means there's a chance they could meet up in the Superdome if the story plays out right. Both teams enjoyed first round byes, giving two of the best coaching staffs in the state time to perfect their game plans.

Jim Hightower took the Cougars all the way to the Dome last season, and Sonny Charpentier's Rebels possess an explosive offense that can give anybody trouble. An STM-Teurlings championship game would guarantee a state title for the Acadiana area, so let's investigate how both teams could reach the final goal.

Teurlings' has to grabble with the reigning state champs in their first taste of postseason action, but as the saying goes, you have to beat the best to be the best.

(photo by Benjamin Massey)
(photo by Benjamin Massey)

The Rebels' possible road to the Dome is rough, but the playoffs aren't supposed to be easy. There are serious heavyweights in their way, so they better come ready to throw down.

Hayden Cantrelle is flying through his senior season. Teurlings' star quarterback and emotional leader recently signed his letter of intent to play baseball for the Ragin' Cajuns, so this is the last taste of football for him. Every game at this point could be his last, and he's not the type to go down without fighting with everything left in the tank. The Rebels relied on his playmaking ability all season long, and their approach won't change now.

Cantrelle, along with Jansen "P" Lormand and Tyler Bruno, shoulder a heavy load in the backfield. The Rebels typically like to air it out a bit, but this year Coach Charpentier, and his son Roch, used their big offensive line and tried to put their athletes in situations to succeed on the ground. In their first matchup, physicality will be key.

As the #4 seed, Teurlings is paired up with the #5 seed, Parkview Baptist. On paper, the Rebels are the favorite, but Parkview is trying to defend their state title.

Last year, Parkview Baptist defeated St. Thomas More in dramatic fashion to win the Division II championship, so they're familiar with the offensive onslaught both STM and Teurlings have in common. This season, their defense held teams like U-High, Brusly and Breaux Bridge to a single score in big wins, and the only teams to score more than 24 points against them were John Curtis and Riverside Academy. They can suffocate you, and it will be Teurlings' job to answer the bell on defense to keep the score down too.

Parkview's only losses this season came to John Curtis, Riverside, West Feliciana (all #1 seeds in their respective brackets) and Catholic High-Baton Rouge. Their 7-4 record slotted them in the #5 seed, but throw that to the side. They competed with possible state champions for a reason. They ran the table in Division II last year, and they want to repeat this time around.

Teurlings is going to have to be patient. If you make mistakes against Parkview, bad things happen. Hopefully, the Rebels learned from their slip-ups and turnovers earlier in the season that cost them against STM. They bounced back to defeat Carencro though, so they won't be intimidated by talent. If they protect the ball and play solid defense, the Rebels have a chance to survive and advance.

It doesn't get any easier after the second round either. De La Salle lurks in a possible semifinal matchup, and the Cavaliers demolished opponents all year long. The bracket was brutal to Teurlings, but there's no time to complain about a poor draw in the playoffs.

The Rebels are two wins away from the Superdome but one loss away from their season ending...but remember, it takes pressure and heat to make a diamond too.

(photo by Benjamin Massey)
(photo by Benjamin Massey)

In 2015, the Cougars reached new heights by getting Jim Hightower to the Superdome. Unfortunately, they were the state runners-up, not the state champs. Last year, they got through the door. This time, they want to hang a plaque up on the mantle.

STM is heavily favored in their first game of the playoffs. They face an E.D. White team that had three wins in the regular season, but they avenged one of their losses last week against Vandebilt Catholic. The first time E.D. White played them in Week One, Vandebilt blew them out, 41-7, but the Cardinals got playoff payback last week with a 24-17 first round victory. Clearly, the Cardinals improved a ton from the beginning of the season, but they're still major underdogs against the Cougars.

E.D. White improved as the year went on, but so did STM. Coach Hightower's team caught their stride in District 4-4A play after stumbling out to a 2-3 start in the regular season. To be fair, their losses to Sulphur and Hahnville were only by four combined points, and they were close to being 4-1 instead of 2-3. They learned lessons from the gut-wrenching finishes and carried them into district play, where they went undefeated and collected the district title outright.

Going into the 2016 season, people looked at Nate Cox as a basketball player on the football team. In his first year starting at quarterback, Cox broke the STM school record with 32 TD passes, which was also the highest total in the state. He averaged 245 yards per game in the regular season and finished in the top five in the state in yardage too.

At 6'8" and 189 pounds, some people were worried Cox wouldn't survive the bumps and bruises of a football season. What we all learned was, you can't get hurt if you don't get touched. Cox gets the ball out in a hurry, and he has pinpoint precision with his passes. He picked defenses apart all year long, and his offensive air raid shouldn't slow down in the playoffs.

If the Cougars handle their business against E.D. White, the test will get much tougher in the next round.

By earning the first round bye, STM ensured they would only need to win twice to reach the Superdome again. The first win could come easily, but their next hurdle would either be against U-High or Loyola Prep. Both teams are dangerous.

U-High is always loaded with collegiate talent, but they had trouble on the road this year, losing three of their five away games. That would play into STM's advantage because they would get to host the possible semifinal game. Being fair though, U-High's four losses came against West Feliciana, Parkview Baptist, Mandeville and Archbishop Rummel, all serious juggernauts. The Cougars won't take U-High lightly, if it ends up being their matchup.

Loyola Prep poses another set of problems. They're battle tested in close games, with one point victories over Cedar Creek and West Ouachita earlier in the season. That type of experience is priceless in the playoffs, and hopefully the Cougars learned from their narrow losses against Sulphur and Hahnville. The most intriguing detail comes from Loyola's only loss. They fell to a Mansifield team who entered Week Ten with a 3-6 record, which is a major hiccup on Loyola's resume.

No matter if STM gets Loyola or U-High in the next round, their path to the Dome is doable. It's not easy, but it's certainly a possibility. Two straight years in the state championship game would be a blessing, but Coach Hightower's been doing this for too long to take anything for granted.

The thought of a Teurlings-STM state championship game is tantalizing. It would be a dream come true for the Acadiana area, but neither team can afford to look that far ahead. If you're too focused on the Dome, you could trip on the path leading to it.

(photo by Benjamin Massey)
(photo by Benjamin Massey)

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