The field has been set for the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Prep Classic in the New Orleans Superdome this weekend, and for the most part, those advancing to the state football finals did so in convincing fashion.
The exceptions were top-seeded Metairie Archbishop Rummel in Class 5A, second-seeded Shreveport Evangel Christian Academy in Class 2A and two-time defending state champion South Plaquemines in Class 1A. Rummel needed an interception return for a touchdown to win by a point. Evangel escaped with a one-point victory in overtime, and South Plaquemines scored a one-touchdown win.
As for the other seven semifinal contests, they were decided by an average of just under 41 points per game. In another unusual twist, many of the semifinals were contested in a rare light snowfall that struck the state.
Class 5A: West Monroe rolls; Westgate’s magic ends
Rummel may have struggled to beat No. 21 New Iberia Westgate, 7-6, but second-seeded West Monroe had no trouble in routing No. 11 Baton Rouge Catholic, 52-6. The two 14-0 teams will face each other Saturday.
West Monroe scored on every first-half possession. West Monroe quarterback Paul Turner threw three touchdown passes, including a 64-yarder to Teshadi Talton on the Rebels’ second drive.
Turner also ran for a pair of scores and finished as the game’s leading rusher with 103 yards. Catholic was held without any rushing yardage. Most of its 132 yards passing came late in the game. Westgate’s Cinderella season finally ended when Rummel junior safety Ben Jefferson returned a third-quarter interception 31 yards for a touchdown and Marc Raziano kicked the game-winning extra point at the 3:44 mark.
Rummel reached the state championship game for the first time in 46 years of competition.
The status of Rummel starting quarterback Damian Williams remains in question after he suffered a leg injury three minutes into the fourth quarter. He watched from the sidelines on crutches as junior Luke Cartozzo replaced him. Cartozzo started the first eight games before injuring his thigh.
Classes 4A-3A: Four shutouts recorded
No. 1 Franklinton and No. 2 Monroe Neville outscored their Class 4A semifinal opponents by a combined score of 102-0. Franklinton overwhelmed Slidell Salmen, 60-0, and Neville spanked Lutcher, 42-0.
Franklinton (14-0) will be advancing to the Superdome Classic for the first time since 1981. The Demons owe a debt of gratitude to junior running back Josh Robinson, who rushed nine times for 189 yards and scored four touchdowns.
The outcome was a far cry from their regular-season meeting, which Franklinton won in overtime, 20-14.
As for Neville (12-1), it easily ended Lutcher’s 20-game win streak that extended over two seasons. Lutcher (13-1) had won last year’s Class 3A state title before moving up in classification.
Neville didn’t throw a pass but rushed for 219 yards, with Rico Pollard gaining a game-high 132 yards. The state title game is scheduled for Saturday.
The Class 3A semifinals turned into laughers, too, with top-seeded Notre Dame of Crowley (14-0) beating Catholic of New Iberia, 43-0, and second-seeded Baton Rouge Parkview Baptist defeating Thibodaux E.D. White, 42-0. The winners will meet Friday.
Notre Dame tailback Logan Venable rushed for 127 yards and two touchdowns, while quarterback Ryan Leonards scored on a 10-yard run.
Parkview Baptist will be returning to the Superdome for the second time in three years, as it tries to win its third state championship this decade.
Parkview Baptist quarterback Brady Wilson rushed nine times for 101 yards, fullback Brandon Johnson ran eight times for 52 yards and a score and Michigan commit Drew Dileo ran for 37 yards and a touchdown. All of the Eagles’ 232 yards total offense came on the ground.
Classes 2A-1A: Familiar teams return
Top-seeded River Ridge John Curtis and No. 2 Evangel will be rematched in the Class 2A title game Friday, but Evangel nearly didn’t make it.
The Eagles survived a scare from Baton Rouge Capitol when sophomore slot receiver Trey Taylor caught a 14-yard touchdown pass in overtime to lift Evangel to a 21-20 victory. John Curtis swamped district foe LaPlace St. Charles Catholic, 27-0.
Evangel freshman quarterback Dakota Duron, subbing for his injured older brother, David Dee, threw the game-winning pass.
Capitol responded with the last of Frankie Jackson’s three touchdowns. But Evangel recovered Jackson’s fumble on his two-point conversion attempt. Jackson finished with 218 yards rushing.
John Curtis’ Torrey Pierce ran for three touchdowns, as the Patriots had much less trouble with St. Charles Catholic than they did during a 19-18 regular-season victory. John Curtis is seeking its 24th overall state title and its seventh in a row.
John Curtis (13-0) defeated Evangel last year, 48-0. Evangel (13-1) has won 11 state titles.
Class 1A didn’t turn out as expected, with top-seeded St. John of Plaquemine losing to Haynesville, 26-0, and South Plaquemines having to rally past Oak Grove, 20-13, to set up Saturday’s final showdown.
Fourth-seeded Haynesvlle (12-2) returned a fumble and interception for touchdowns and used a dropped punt snap to set up another score. South Plaquemines (12-2) fell behind after one quarter, but went ahead for good in the second period on Manuel Black’s touchdown runs of 7 and 5 yards and Mike Barthlemy’s 33-yard touchdown run and two-point conversion run.
Hilliard wins Gatorade award
Patterson junior tailback Kenny Hilliard was named the Gatorade Louisiana Football Player of the Year after rushing 278 times for 2,512 yards and 32 touchdowns this past season.
Hilliard, the nephew of former LSU and New Orleans Saints standout Dalton Hilliard, averaged 8.5 yards per carry. He also caught 17 passes for 332 yards and four touchdowns. Hilliard has rushed for 94 career touchdowns.
The Gatorade National Player of the Year will be announced in February.