No. 7 Southern Lab, Kentwood to meet for District 7-1A title
November 05, 2012
When they meet Friday night at Mumford Stadium to decide the District 7-1A championship, Kentwood and Southern Lab high schools will renew a rivalry that features two of Class 1A football’s most recognizable programs.
Kentwood has won seven state championships. Southern Lab has won four.
As longtime district rivals, they have staged some memorable battles over the years.
So it’s only fitting that Southern Lab coach Nick Mitchell reached back to the past this week, inviting a wave of former Kittens to share their memories from the Kentwood-Lab series with a roster that includes 11 freshman starters.
“A lot of our freshmen, they don’t know what they’re walking into,” Mitchell said. “They don’t know what the traditions are and what the rivalry is. They don’t know how far back it goes. They don’t know about the state championships. It’s easier told by someone that’s been there.”
Mitchell hopes the history lesson will have the Kittens (8-1, 4-0), ranked seventh in the 1A state poll, prepared when they meet second-ranked Kentwood (7-1, 4-0) in the latest big-time matchup of the old foes.
Kentwood advanced at least to the state semifinals 10 times between 1996 and 2006. But the Kangaroos have won only two playoff games the past four years.
Led by 16 returning starters from last year’s 7-1A champion, Kentwood this season has returned to vintage form.
Junior quarterback Tavarious Battiste, who took over behind center after playing wide receiver and defensive back last year, has thrown for 908 yards and eight touchdowns while rushing for 322 yards and six scores.
Junior running back Leslie Collins has 434 yards rushing and 159 more receiving. A bundle of big plays, freshman wingback Shyheim Carter has 328 yards rushing on only 29 carries and 341 yards receiving on just seven receptions.
A veteran linebacking corps anchors the defense.
“We hope to win district and go far in the playoffs,” Kentwood coach David Currier said. “We’re playing good football and we’re healthy. Anything can happen, but we do have some potential.”
Southern Lab has a chance to finish the regular season with nine straight wins after losing to 5A Zachary on opening weekend.
Veteran quarterback Deonte Shorts has helped offset the youthful flavor that permeates Mitchell’s roster. He has connected on 89 of 134 passes for 1,434 yards and 19 touchdowns, and has rushed 73 times for 583 yards and 11 more scores.
Lab enters Friday at No. 5 in the state power rankings and Kentwood at No. 7, so each team is bound for a home game in the first round of the playoffs.
But only one will leave Mumford Stadium with its latest district title.
Mitchell reminded his players that they soon will have something in common with the alumni who visited campus throughout the week.
“When that clock hits zero, you’re going to have your own story to tell,” Mitchell told them. “It’s up to you how you want it to end. Whether you want your story to be one of triumph or one of sorrow. But you will have a story to tell.”