Mandeville, Catholic coaches disregarding earlier matchup

Any Louisiana High School Athletic Association Class 5A quarterfinal football playoff game is not just another game. What kind of game it will be for Catholic High (9-2) and Mandeville High (9-2) provides an interesting question.

Catholic High coach Dale Weiner said it won’t be anything like the game the two teams played Sept. 7 when Catholic claimed a 26-14 come-from-behind win at BREC’s Olympia Stadium. Weiner expects a battle of wills during the 7 p.m. Friday game at MHS’ Sidney Theriot Stadium.

“I tell you what, (the Skippers) play as hard as anybody we’ve faced,” Weiner said. “They come after you, and they are relentless. They have adopted the same persona we have. Both teams will be ready to play a full 48 minutes. There will not be a point in the game where either team is going to give in. If one team gets the upper hand, the other is not going to throw in the towel.”

The winner meets the Archsbishop Rummel-Ouachita winner in the semifinals. Though Mandeville was a semifinalist last year, there is no chance either team will be caught looking ahead, even though the two coaches already have.

The fact the Skippers and Bears have agreed to play a nondistrict home-and-home series again for the next two years provides another footnote for two teams looking to make tracks to the semifinals. Catholic seeks its first semifinal berth since 2009.

“In the first game (the Bears) just beat us. They were better than us,” Mandeville coach Guy LeCompte said. “They beat us in every way. They were better across the board.

“Now it comes down to execution at this point of the season. It’s all about execution.”

The way the teams have developed since that Week 2 game in Baton Rouge adds to the intrigue. CHS has become a run-oriented team led by Khalil Thomas and Derrius Guice.

Despite being just 5-foot-8 and 175 pounds, Thomas has done plenty of heavy lifting, rushing for 1,317 yards and 12 touchdowns, along with 18 catches for 312 yards and five TDs. Guice, a sophomore, played only on special teams in Week 2, but has evolved into a game-breaker with 734 yards and 12 TDs.

Both teams were trying to settle on a quarterback in Week 2. Catholic’s Nick Coomes passed for 177 yards and Mandeville’s Glen Cuiellette threw for 198. Each player went on to win the job for their respective teams.

Coomes has run for 456 yards and passed for 1,009 yards and 16 TDs for the Bears. Cuiellette passed for 215 yards and three TDs in the Skippers’
38-20 win over No. 4 seed Central. He has 1,942 yards and 22 TDs. Zach Boudreaux (53 catches, 942 yards) is the top MHS receiver.

Mandeville’s offense features a number of screen passes, similar to what the Bears saw last week from New Iberia. The fact MHS, which returns eight defensive starters from last season, forced four turnovers last week is another concern for the Bears.

“Their quarterback is very consistent, and their receivers will be a bigger than the ones we saw last week,” Weiner said. “Your guys have to come with their ‘A’ game now. There’s no ‘We just had an off night.’ If you have an off night now, you’re through. I think both teams understand that.”