There’s a definite north Louisiana flavor to the quarterfinal round of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s football playoffs for Springfield High, University High and Southern Lab.
While there’s nothing wrong with a unique flavor there’s one thing the three Baton Rouge area teams want to avoid — that bitter taste of defeat Friday.
Third-seeded U-High (11-1) travels to Shreveport to play No. 6 Calvary Baptist (9-3) in one of two Class 2A games to note. It is the second straight season UHS has traveled to play Calvary in the quarterfinals. Meanwhile, the area’s other 2A team, No. 4 Springfield (10-1), hosts No. 21 Many (8-4). It is the first quarterfinal appearance for SHS.
In Class 1A, ninth-seeded Southern Lab (10-2) travels to Monroe to take on No. 1 Ouachita Christian (12-0), the defending state champion. All three games are at 7 p.m.
“This is the quarterfinals and I think you go into it knowing you need to be prepared to play your best,” UHS coach Chad Mahaffey said.
UNIVERSITY AT CALVARY: A year ago, Calvary beat the Cubs 23-20 in the quarterfinals, but some factors have changed since then.
Weston Steelhammer was a do-everything player for Calvary who stepped into the quarterback role for the quarterfinals because of an injury to the Cavaliers’ starter last season. Calvary now relies on 6-foot-6 Daniel Fitzwater, who passed for 2,701 yards and 29 touchdowns in the regular season.
“Their quarterback is impressive,” Mahaffey said. “He throws the ball well, and he’s not just a statue back there. He’s able to run it enough to keep the defenses from countering what he does with the blitz. We believe in our kids, and what we’ve done all year. We want to go in and do the things we do well: play solid defense and execute on offense.”
Steelhammer leads Calvary with 679 receiving yards and also has 79 tackles and five interceptions.
U-High counters with an offense led by Nicholas Brossette and Nik Krathorpe. Brossette has run for 1,606 yards and 38 TDs. Kragthorpe has completed 113-of-163 passes for 1,564 yards and 17 TDs. D’Vontae Dotson has 19 catches for 432 yards for the Cubs.
Jarrod Franklin (88 tackles) and lineman Tim Williams (641/2 tackles, 14 tackles for loss) lead the UHS defense.
MANY AT SPRINGFIELD: Springfield is at home and SHS coach Ryan Serpas said the key will be taking a run-oriented Many team out of its comfort zone.
“Many is a very physical team that likes to run right at you,” Serpas said. “They’re a heavy run team, so its going to be a difficult challenge for us to match them up front because they have some big boys.
“I think that scheme-wise we have a good game plan for this week. We need to try and take some things away from them and force them to throw the ball more than they’d like.”
The quarterbacks will be worth watching. SHS’ Shaquille Smith has rushed for 820 yards to complement running back Ghermaine Ashton (839 yards). Smith also plays defensive back and returns kicks.
Many’s Xavier Dias is a sophomore. Though the Tigers have relied heavily on Cortez Sweet, who has 1,206 rushing yards and 24 TDs, Dias adds 1,158 passing yards on just 47 completions. That’s an average of 24 yards per catch.
SOUTHERN LAB AT OUACHITA CHRISTIAN: Southern Lab coach Nick Mitchell said OCS offers a blueprint for success in 1A. Mitchell has also spent the week trying to prepare for all the things Eagles might throw at his team.
“They easily have the most complex offense we’ve faced,” Mitchell said. “They want to run the ball first, and they’ll run the same play out of four or five different sets. We have to follow our assignments on defense. On offense, we can’t turn the ball over and we need to use our speed to make plays. Speed is the one thing we should be able to use to our advantage.”
Quin Graves, the son of former LSU quarterback Sol Graves, has passed for 1,400 yards and is one of two QBs OCS uses. Southern Lab’s Deonte Shorts has thrown for 2,089 yards and 30 TDs and has Curtlan Williams (48-853, nine TDs) and Marquise Ricard (36-712, 15 TDs) as top receivers.