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Friday, November 30, 2007

The end

Unfortunately, I was right. The three local teams playing in the state semifinals tonight all lost. Evangel lost at John Curtis. Calvary lost at St. James and Benton lost at home to Bastrop.

It's an unusual year around here when we don't have any teams playing in the state Superdome Classic. But a down year in talent coupled with some tough draws in the bracket and, well, we're out of the football business for another year.

But it was fun while it lasted. And we had some fun here at The Times and hope you had some fun as well. And that is the most important thing about sports - having fun (well, and winning, but that's another blog post).

Walking to New Orleans....

Were it not for the warm glow of the stadium lights and the flashing police cruisers, St. James, La., would almost certainly be lost in the darkness and wilderness of south Louisiana tonight.

I'm here at Wildcats Stadium, which is nestled up against the Mississippi River and bordered by sugar cane fields and railroad tracks - about 30 minutes west of New Orleans. In about an hour, Calvary and St. James will tee it up for the right to advance to the Class 2A championship game at the Superdome next week.

Unless you've been here before, you've probably never been to a place like this.

Shortly after school let out at 2:30 p.m., the first of thousands of tailgaters gathered under an old oak tree in the large grass field fronting the campus. Cars lined the horseshoe-like driveway hours before dusk, taking up most of the available parking spaces.

Along state Highway 18 - the street that runs in front of the school and along a levee - the smell of jambalaya, beer and smoke tempted the taste buds. The sounds of Louisiana hip hop artists such as Lil Boosie, Juvenile and Hurricane Chris filled the air (Sorry, Scott. There was no Cupid Shuffle).

About three hours before the kickoff, I caught up with Calvary head coach Doug Pederson, who seemed to be his normally jovial self. He and the Cavs were well-rested: they spent the previous night at a Baton Rouge hotel, practiced for an hour at LSU's indoor complex, had lunch at an Italian-style buffet and spent the rest of the afternoon in St. James' gymnasium.

"I'm just worried about their speed," Pederson confessed, referring to the Wildcats. "They're gonna get theirs, you know?"

Maybe. But Calvary might get theirs, too. They seemed to revel in the unfamiliar and unique atmosphere. If they can conquer the novelty of this experience , the Cavs might be heading a little further down Interstate 10 next week.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Curtis sees little drop-off at Evangel

Much has changed since John Curtis last faced Evangel, a classic showdown at the New Orleans Superdome in 1999 between private school powers at opposite ends of Louisiana.

The Eagles scored the game's first 28 points and managed to hold on for a 28-20 victory over John Curtis on that special Saturday. The stars of the afternoon were quarterback Brock Berlin and Phillip Geiggar, who returned the opening kickoff for a score.

That same team went on to win the mythical national championship, according to some pollsters.

Of course, the Eagles are nowhere near that good anymore. There's quite a few reasons for that, including the emergence of another local private-school (Calvary Baptist) that's competing in the other 2A semifinal this Friday.

But the most visible difference, John Curtis coach J.T. Curtis said, is in the physical size of those Eagles.

"That team might have been a little bigger," Curtis said earlier this week. "That was an awfully good Evangel team in terms of size and skill. This team has its share, but not quite as many."

To be sure, Evangel is still plenty big and plenty good compared to most other schools. Whereas the Eagles were one of the top five programs in the country a decade ago, now they're merely among the top 100.

"Evangel is doing what they always do. Now they're just one of the top 40 teams in America," said Ken Trahan, a New Orleans-based radio personality and Louisiana prep football savant. "Look at what Evangel did to Westgate."

Trahan was referring to Evangel's season-opening 38-6 rout of Westgate, one of four Class 5A teams still vying for the state crown.

You see, Evangel might never completely slip too far from the top. Despite this slight dip in talent, the Eagles are two wins away from their fourth-straight state title. Curtis pointed to the stability of the program, noting the Duron family and the innovative spread offense have been the constants during Evangel's string of success - 11 state championships in 17 years of LHSAA competition.

"They're very much like they always have been," Curtis said.

We'll see for sure Friday night, down in Jefferson Parish.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Evangel's terrific twosome

There will be much more to come on Calvary and Evangel and Benton in the coming days but I wanted to point out a couple of guys for the Eagles who really caught my eye during their 35-point romp over Newman in the 2A quarterfinals: sophomore running back/receiver Virgil Williams and freshman defensive end Jermauria Rasco.

At 5-foot-7, 140-pounds, Williams has added a much-needed spark to an unusually staid Evangel offense in the postseason. In three playoff games, Williams has scored seven touchdowns - three against Newman, including one on the first play from scrimmage.

Williams had been playing defense throughout much of the season but Evangel head coach John Bachman got the idea to move their little stick of dynamite over to offense once the weather got cooler and the games got tighter.

"We just got another bullet in our gun," Bachman said after Friday's game.

As for Rasco, I can't imagine a more horrifying thought than having to line up across from this 6-3, 230-pounder in 2010. To borrow a phrase from Sports Illustrated's Austin Murphy, Rasco could well be a "helmeted Godzilla wreaking havoc on innocent teenagers." I've played in and watched thousands of football games in my life - I've never seen a more physically impressive ninth-grader than this dude.

"I'm just lucky I have him for the next three years," Bachman said.

Ok, there will be more to come later today, Thursday and Friday. And, sorry for those Evangel-haters, there will be much more about the Eagles.

Looking ahead

I hope something changes in the next three days, but right now, I don't like the chances of our teams in the playoffs.

In 2A, I have a feeling that St. James and John Curtis are probably the two best teams in the state in that class. And making matters worse, Evangel and Calvary are both on the road.

In 4A, Bastrop has been such a machine these last couple of years that a Benton win would be truly shocking.

Again, I hope I'm wrong. I hope something changes my mind. But right now, I don't see any of our locals advancing to the Dome.

Monday, November 26, 2007

You know it's soccer season when ...

It's 40 degrees and raining outside.

For whatever reason, the LHSAA has given soccer the worst possible draw from a weather standpoint.

The weather was a factor again today, postponing a full slate of soccer matches. The highlight was a top-10 showdown between the Parkway and Loyola boys.

That one is supposed to be made up on Wednesday and figures to be a good early test for both teams.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Mind games

The biggest challenge facing Benton football coach Mitch Downey this week may not be Xs and Os.

Rather, it may be getting his team to believe it can beat Bastrop.

Bastrop is a two-time (on the field at least) defending state champion with a 42-game winning streak.

While every Benton player would tell you they think they can beat Bastrop, there's a whole lot of difference between thinking and believing.

It's going to take that belief - along with a ball-control running game and strong defense - to pull this one off.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Congrats and some challenges

Congratulations to Benton, Calvary and Evangel for advancing to the semifinal round of the state football playoffs.

Those celebrations probably didn't last long when the teams looked at who was coming up in the semifinals.

Benton is at home against defending state champion Bastrop. That's a tough matchup for any team, let alone one in its first season up from Class 3A.

Calvary is on the road at St. James. If you haven't heard of St. James, you weren't paying attention during the regular season when St. James upset John Curtis.

And speaking of Curtis, Evangel will play John Curtis in a Class 2A game.

Those are some tough challenges. But if you're going to win a state title,you'll have to go through those teams at some point.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thanksgiving Classic update

There is pretty much basketball all day today and Tuesday at Booker T. Washington.

Here is a list of the boys teams playing in the tournament - Fair Park, Red River, Green Oaks, Plain Dealing, Woodlawn, Huntington, BTW and North Caddo. The girls teams playing include Green Oaks, Captain Shreve, Fair Park, Northwood, BTW, Red River, Woodlawn, Mansfield, Huntington and Plain Dealing.

The boys championship is set for 7:40 p.m. on Wednesday. The girls title game will be played at 5 p.m.

It should be some good basketball.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Yes, we're to the football playoff quarterfinals. But if you have a basketball jones, well, this is your week.

With school out this week, it will be nonstop hoops at BTW for the Thanksgiving Classic. There's also a big tournament in Natchitoches.

It's way early in the prep basketball season, but these tournaments should help get teams ready for December and district play in January.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

On the road again

Vandebilt Catholic won today and the Benton Tigers will be on the road again on Friday.

I foolishly picked against Benton last week. But it wasn't because of the travel to New Orleans. I was figuring Benton to have some of the same problems with McDonogh #35's size that Haughton did the previous week.

As it turned out, speed trumps size -- again.

Benton will be on the road this week, but again, I don't think travel will be an issue. But as we get deeper into the playoffs, the competition will continue to get better.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Down goes No. 1

West Monroe won't win the state Class 5A football championship. The Rebels lost to Acadiana in the second round.

The Rebels may have been dominant in a perfect regular season. But their first-half struggles with Captain Shreve a couple of weeks back should have been a warning that not all was right in Rebel land.

Now the Class 5A bracket is wide open.

Well, open for everybody south of Alexandria. Byrd's loss at John Ehret effectively wiped out Shreveport in the state's highest classification.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Expectations too high?

As someone who doesn't get out of the office that much, it's easy for perception to blur reality.

Case in point -- Charles Winborne.

The Loyola basketball standout put up some ridiculous scoring numbers last year so, for some of us, it's fun to hear Loyola come up in a phone call just to hear what Winborne did.

So here's where said perception bursts reality. I took a call from Loyola's 59-41 win over Benton on Thursday and was disappointed to hear Winborne scored "only" 24.

Oh well. Such is life on this end of the phone.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Hangin' with Mr. Cooper

I headed out to Calvary yesterday to interview Randy Zeigler about his decision to switch his college baseball commitment from Florida State to LSU. When I arrived at the campus, Randy and Khiry Cooper, Zeigler's Calvary baseball teammate and standout wide receiver on Class 2A's No. 1-ranked football team.

While Zeigler gave measured responses to the questions, Cooper was his usual effervescent self, cracking jokes and not taking anything too seriously.

Until his baseball future came up. He joked he would announce his signing at Independence Stadium and I made a crack about Minnesota drafting him as Torii Hunter's potential replacement.

We all shared a laugh before the money part of the conversation took over. Cooper's stock sits in the top-10 round range and possibly higher at this point, which inevitably led to the "how much money would it take" part of the conversation.

Cooper never threw out an amount he would sign for. In fact, in a rare moment for a high school athlete, he made a response that would make Scott Boras jump off a cliff.

"It's not all about the money guys," Coooper said. "God will provide me what I need."

There, in those 10 or so words, Cooper summed up all that is good with student-athletes of his kind -- the ones with their heads on straight, not looking for a quick seven-figure payday.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Ready for some hoops

High school basketball season for larger classification schools begins tonight.

Perhaps the most interesting boys game on the docket is Haughton at Airline.

This will be the Airline coaching debut of Chris White.

At Bossier, White had perennially strong teams. Airline has enjoyed success in recent year as well.

In talking to White on Sunday night, he said he likes where his team is for this point in the season. While he is not loaded with returnees, White at least will have some young players who can learn his system as they go and not have to learn anything new.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Best Game of the Season, Part 2

Only seven days elapsed before I covered a game that I enjoyed as much, if not more, than the Evangel-Calvary thriller that I prematurely dubbed "The Best Game of the Season."

I guess I was destined to cover a Captain Shreve-Byrd game. I missed the earlier matchup, a 21-10 win by Captain Shreve on Oct. 11 because I was off on a short out-of-town trip. Usually, these sorts of things - the football games, I mean - come around once a year.

But, thankfully, the LHSAA's wacky power-rating process produced a rematch in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs. Neither Byrd coach Mike Suggs nor Captain Shreve coach Ken Ivy wanted to see it happen and for understandable reasons. For most everyone else, it was an unexpected gift from the computers.

Who could've asked for more? Captain Shreve took the early lead and seemed on its way to an easy victory when Byrd rallied and won on 34-yard field goal with only seconds left in the game. There was genuine passion on both sidelines and in the bleachers and, for that, I'm grateful that I was there to witness it all.

For beautiful football, I'd have to say my preference would be Evangel-Calvary. But for a beautiful event, Captain Sheve-Byrd is my choice.

The most notable difference between Captain Shreve-Byrd and Evangel-Calvary, to me, seems to lie in the source of the passion and the origin of the rivalry.

With Evangel and Calvary, both relatively small private schools, the parents and boosters seem to harbor most of the hostility. Call it a holy war of sorts.

There's no need to recount everything that has made Calvary-Evangel what it is today, but there remains a lot of bitterness on both sides. If I were a vengeful man, I'd post some of the nasty e-mails I've received from boosters of both schools, many of them accusing me of picking sides and having a bias toward theirs (there are some notable exceptions to this, of course. Thanks Rodney for the kind note). While the administrators, coaches and players have all been as polite and friendly as any I've encountered during my years as a reporter, it's the supporters of both programs who seem to lug around chips on their shoulders.

However, with Captain Shreve and Byrd, the players and students are the ones who seem to breathe life into the rivalry. Certainly, the alums and other supporters may share cross words but last night felt truly special because it all seemed centered around the actual game. And, ultimately, who can take a simple game played by teenage boys too seriously?

Maybe it's the difference between a "rivalry" that dates back to 1967 and another that only goes back to 2005. Maybe the Calvary-Evangel game will evolve as the alums get older and the past grows more distant and grudges are buried and the football becomes the focus.

It seemed corny at the time, but my experience was summed up nicely by a kind gentleman in the press box whose name I can't remember and that I wouldn't dare to spell. Moments before the kickoff, as I'm going through my usual pregame routine, the man looked over at me and said earnestly: "You know, no matter what anyone says, it's all about the kids with Shreve and Byrd. It really is."

And that's the difference. For now.

From the Observation Deck at Lee Hedges ...

I thought I'd never see a game better than the Evangel-Calvary epic of a week ago. Well, a week later, there's already a contender to the top spot. But more on last night's Captain Shreve-Byrd thriller later. This space is usually reserved for my thoughts on all the games I couldn't actually get to:

- In only one night of the Louisiana preps postseason, all the hype I'd heard about the strength of south Louisiana schools seemed to be verified. Karr over Parkway and McDonogh No. 35 over Haughton were the two scores that really caught my eye.
A pair of 5-5 teams from District 10-4A came north - following interminably long bus trips - to put a whuppin on two of the best three 4A teams in northwest Louisiana last night. That makes me wonder how good Benton really might be as the Tigers head south to face McDonough No. 35 next weekend.

- By the way, unintentionally, Haughton really fouled things up for district rival Benton. Had both teams won - only Benton did, of course - and the bracket held form, Benton wouldn't have had much of a road trip next Friday. Instead, with Haughton's loss, the Tigers will head to New Orleans for a game with McDonogh No. 35.

- Another Benton note: Casey Henderson is a beast. And, for those who don't know any better, that's a compliment.

- BTW's offense, as advertised, is pretty awesome. Thing is, the Lions' defense let them down again in a 42-12 loss at Cecilia. BTW allowed 346 yards and 20 first downs in the defeat. Jessie Sheppard, the area's leading rusher, closed out an all-star junior season with 207 yards rushing and a touchdown.

- Four of the five playoff teams from District 1-2A won their openers Friday night, with only fifth-place Loyola losing 46-44 in OT on the road at St. John. Not bad for a district I still think is probably one of the state's toughest.

- Can't say that I know much about Arcadia, but I was surprised to see the 24th-seed pull off a road upset in the first round over Central Catholic of Morgan City, La.Good for them.

- Two second-round games of note that I wish I could cover but won't: Acadiana at West Monroe, pitting last year's 5A champ against the top-ranked Rebels; and Neville at Bastrop, a rematch of a district matchup that Bastrop won 27-12 earlier in the season.

- That said, I have no idea how Mansfield was taken apart so easily at home by a former 1A school (Westminster). Even worse, the Wolverines were dominated along the line of scrimmage where, theoretically, 320-pound blue-chipper Chris Davenport is supposed to be dropping anchor. That was eyebrow-raising, to say the least.

- I save this final note for Huntington, where its improbable journey into the playoffs ended in disappointing fashion: a 56-8 loss to Hahnville. There's no need to delve too much into the game. If you're interested, check out this offering from the New Orleans Times-Picayne. But I really, truly think the Raiders have lived a storybook of a season this year, even with a story that ended so abysmally. I'd like to salute those kids and wish them well in the future. I'm not normally one who believes there's a lot of parallels between real life and football but I can't see how they - and all of us - couldn't learn something about the Raiders' perseverance and determination against the odds.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Huntington hits the road

Somewhere in south Louisiana, Huntington's football team is on a bus, closing in on their first-round playoff destination of Boutte, La.

The Raiders will meet Hahnville, a Class 5A power and one of the state's top-ranked teams, for their first postseason appearance in four years and ninth in the past 37. From the outset, this looks like a mismatch for Huntington, especially when factoring in the almost nine-hour bus ride from Shreveport.

But it's been unwise to pick against the Raiders all season, as I've found out on more than a few occasions. The obstacles facing Huntington have been recounted numerous times, most recently in this story that ran Tuesday's newspaper.

Point is, I wish the Raiders well and, though I'm not really supposed to root for teams, I do hold a special place in my heart for this resilient bunch of kids and coaches. I had initially planned to travel with them on their charter bus and document the trip and the game for a longer, more in-depth piece the next week. Unfortunately time and health issues (namely, I got sick Wednesday) prevented that from happening. Thanks to Coach Foppe for the invite, though.

Maybe they'll be back in town next weekend to host a game.

I wouldn't bet against them.

Breaking Down The Ballot, Week 9

So, thanks to a recent post from my editor Scott Ferrell, I realized that I'm an idiot (some of you have already suggested that you've already known this).

On the front of our sports section Wednesday, I broke down the five LHSAA playoff brackets and picked the team that I figured would emerge as the champion in each class.Well, silly me, I picked all of the No. 1 teams as my eventual titlists. History, in almost sport or endeavor, shows that rarely do the favorites always win out. I should have mixed it up, if only to satisfy my contrarian streak.

Oh well. I'm just a lemming.Anyway, here's the last edition of the "Breaking Down the Ballot." Enjoy.

Class 5A
1. West Monroe 2. Destrehan 3. St. Thomas More 4. Catholic-BR 5. Sulphur 6. Hahnville 7. Byrd 8. H.L. Bourgeois 9. Rummel 10. Carencro.
Comments: Notwithstading that scare in Shreveport last week, West Monroe is the state's clear top team. That said, the Rebels could face defending champ Acadiana in the second round. Like I said earlier, "to be the man, you've got to beat the man." ... I've said all season Byrd was the city's best team. Maybe the Yellow Jackets will go out and prove it Friday by getting a bit of revenge against Captain Shreve.

Class 4A
1. Bastrop 2. Shaw 3. Teurlings 4. Franklinton 5. Eunice 6. Benton 7. Northside 8. Vandebilt Catholic 9. Zachary 10. Parkway.
Comments: So, Benton went out and proved - without a doubt - that it's the best Class 4A team in northwest Louisiana. That's no shot at Parkway but the Tigers asserted themselves like I thought they would. Still left on their to-do list: knock off Haughton, if given the chance, in the second round of the playoffs.

Class 3A
1. Notre Dame 2. Parkview Baptist 3. Westlake 4. Redemptorist 5. Lutcher 6. Rayville 7. Marksville 8. Cecilia 9. Rayne 10. Amite.
Comments: Not much to say here locally, as usual. Cecilia had better be good, though. BTW has an awesome offense.

Class 2A
1. Calvary Baptist 2. St. James 3. John Curtis 4. Evangel 5. Donaldsonville 6. Oakdale 7. Ferriday 8. Clinton 9. St. John-Plaquemine 10. Springhill.
Comments: Not to gloat too much but this is what I said in this space on Oct. 2: "I truly believe the Cavs could be the best team in 2A. As of today, at least, they are to me." So, guess I was right. Then again, I did pick Evangel to win the day before the game. Sheesh. I can't win for losing.

Class 1A
1. Cedar Creek 2. Hamilton Christian 3. South Plaquemines 4. Delhi Charter 5. Kentwood 6. Catholic-PC 7. Haynesville 8. Ouachita Christian 9. Oak Grove 10. Central Catholic.
Comments: Haynesville simply isn't getting it much-deserved props. The Golden Tornado will just have to go out and earn them over the next few weeks. I really think they're underrated.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Playoff time

The playoffs began tonight (Goodbye Lafayette High) but get in full swing on Friday.

I know there are some who don't like the seeding system from the power rankings. But it beats the alternative of good teams left at home so a second-place team from a weak district can make the playoffs.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Overheard at practice

Said Bossier assistant to one of his players:

"Son, you're like a French tank. You've got eight gears and seven of them are reverse."

Monday, November 05, 2007

Polls time

We'll see how much the state's sports writers know about football in the next five weeks with the start of the prep playoffs.

The final LSWA polls were released about 20 minutes ago. According to the sports writers, here is how the state champions should look next month:

Class 5A - West Monroe
Class 4A - Bastrop
Class 3A - Notre Dame
Class 2A - Calvary
Class 1A - Cedar Creek

If they're right, that would put two state champions in northwest Louisiana and two more in northeast Louisiana. Notre Dame of Crowley would be the lone south Louisiana champion.

For all of the perceived "south Louisiana bias'' it sure looks the other way from the top of those polls.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Playoff time

Well, we've seen the good and the bad of using power points to determine seeding for the state football playoffs.

The good: Teams that finish past second in a strong district aren't penalized at the expense of teams in weaker districts.

The bad: You get Byrd and Shreve playing again in the first round. You get Benton and Bossier playing in the first round. You get South Cameron traveling to Oak Grove.

No system is perfect. But hey, unlike major college football, at least there IS a playoff in the Louisiana High School Athletic Association.

Selection Sunday raises as many questions as answers

After a somewhat tiring afternoon of perusing playoff brackets, I have a few thoughts about my first LHSAA "Selection Sunday."

This has been a little different to a Texan like me, where the top four teams in each district advance to the playoffs and the largest school in each district plays in the Division I bracket. I'm not sure which system is better, to tell you the truth, after watching how things went down today.

- The top seeds in the playoff field: (Destrehan in 5A, Shaw in 4A, Parkview Baptist in 3A, John Curtis in 2A and Cedar Creek in 1A). To compare, the LSWA Top 10 poll's No. 1 teams from the previous week, which should hold true because none of the top teams lost: (West Monroe in 5A, Bastrop in 4A, Parkview Baptist in 3A, Calvary Baptist in 2A and Cedar Creek in 1A).

- So ... just like with the BCS and the AP poll in college football, computers and humans find themselves with a difference of, um, analysis. Three of the No. 1s are different in the respective rankings but, unlike in the NCAA, the playoffs will ultimately settle it all on the field. However, seeding can play a big role in the route certain teams take to the Superdome. I'm not sure which system is better because, as a poll voter, I've seen only a couple handfuls of the 50 teams I vote for weekly. But something more clinical, like plucking off the top 3 teams in each district would seem to be more sensible to me. So, advantage Texas.

- I'll probably delve deeper into the LHSAA ratings system in a story later this week. I'm curious as to how this process developed and how the ratings are tabulated. If anyone cares to steer me in the right direction, please feel free.

- I can't understand why the LHSAA would release the brackets on their Web site hours before the TV show announcing the matchups. Unfortunately, I missed the TV broadcast because of, well, the Patriots and Colts game. Sorry - I truly forgot the LHSAA show was on.

- Seems weird to me that four teams from District 1-5A would be forced to play one another in the first round. Somehow, it doesn't seem fair to whittle down the district's ranks one round into the playoffs. And, trust me, none of the coaches involved are too happy about it either. "This is ridiculous," said Captain Shreve coach Ken Ivy, whose Gators will have a rematch with Byrd on Friday. I'd have to agree, coach.

- The power ratings did District 1-4A no favors either. The winner of the Benton-Bossier game on Friday could have to face Haughton in the second round, should the Bucs get past McDonogh #35 in their playoff opener.

- Not sure how John Curtis can lose to St. James in the regular season but still grab the top seed in Class 2A. I bet undefeated and top-ranked Calvary would want to know the reason behind that, too.

OK. That's plenty. Check back for more this week. There's plenty of playoffs stuff to get into.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Best Game of the Season

When it was all over and Calvary had finally vanquished its only true nemesis, I wanted to see more.

Behind some late-game heroics from Jake Booty, Sam Walker and James Michael Miller, the Cavaliers pulled out a 28-21 victory over Evangel that ranks among one of the finest prep football games I've ever seen. At the moment, I can only think of one that ranks with it: Vince Young's final high school game, a loss in the Texas Class 5A state semifinals.

The bad thing about some game stories is that they're written on tight deadlines, they're usually focused way too much on the game's biggest plays and there's hardly ever enough space to discuss a variety of storylines. Of course, I've sat through some games where I would have been better off copying down the box score. But Friday was not one of those times.

Here's a few things I just couldn't cram into an already long game story from Friday:

- I picked Evangel to win before the game because I thought the Eagles' size gave them an, uh, huge advantage over Calvary in the trenches. Not so. In fact, the upstart Cavaliers imposed their will over the Eagles down the stretch. A shining example was a 14-play, 74-yard drive in the third quarter that ended with Jake Booty's 9-yard touchdown run and tied the game at 14. Twelve of the plays on that pivotal series were runs.

- Sam Walker, a 5-foot-11, 163-pound senior, only touched the ball twice in this game but both times he came up big for the Cavs. On the second-to-last play of the third quarter, Walker picked off Dez Duron and returned the ball 57 yards to the Evangel 14. Seven plays later, Calvary took a 21-14 lead on Miller's 1-yard dive into the end zone on fourth-and-1. Then, of course, Walker scored the game-winning touchdown on a 22-yard reception with 16 seconds left.

- After what seemed to be a season of throwing short to CerDerrick Tyson, Duron and the Eagles finally opened up their playbook against Calvary. Duron threw deep a few times and thrice connected for long touchdowns that kept Evangel in the game. I've been somewhat critical of the Eagles' offense this season for its overreliance on Tyson and for forcing Duron to throw too deep in the pocket out of the shotgun formation. All of those things showed up in the loss to Calvary, as I figured it might when Evangel played a team with similar talent and coaching.

- It's amazing to me that Evangel has been so good for so long. Their district winning streak was ended at 89 games, dating back to a 70-20 loss at Plain Dealing on Nov. 2, 1990. To put that in perspective, Jake Booty was only about 18-months-old at the time. Regardless of what happened Friday, I don't think the Eagles are going anywhere for awhile.

- I hope the Cavs enjoyed their postgame party at Camp Bethany. They earned it. What a gutsy comeback. (And, yes, I sound a little like Peter King here).

- Few people could find fault with last night's game, one that was well-played (only five penalties total), well-attended (at least 6,500 fans were stuffed into Jerry Barker Stadium) and well-celebrated (both teams gathered at midfield for a postgame prayer despite the slugfest they had staged for 48 minutes). Call me selfish but I hope to see these teams again in New Orleans, this time with the Class 2A state title on the line.

- I've written more than enough about Jake Booty but I thought I'd close with this postgame quote from classy Evangel coach John Bachman: "He's a warrior, has a great bloodline and showed himself to be a champion tonight. He made plays when he had to make plays." Well said. Coach Bachman could have been saying the same about his guy, Dez Duron, even in defeat.

From the Observation Deck at Jerry Barker Stadium...

I'll share my thoughts on the fantastic Evangel-Calvary game this weekend in another post. But, just a day before the playoff brackets are set, I thought I'd try to cover as many bases as possible:

- There's a part of me that wonders if West Monroe wasn't "playing possum" in its sluggish 35-20 win over Captain Shreve at Lee Hedges Stadium. Sure, the Rebs lost starting quarterback Shelby Aulds on the first play of the game but West Monroe should have had more than enough talent to roll over the aching Gators. West Monroe had its closest game of the year but, to me, not-so coincidentally in regular-season finale. I don't envy the team that will face the Rebels in the first round of the playoffs.

- Congratulations to Sarepta for ending its 29-game losing streak (though some of its fans have some crazy theory that I've got it in for their kids) and Woodlawn for winning its second game of the season. Woodlawn coach Dwight Woods is one of my favorite interviews and it's good to see him build a little momentum for a program that sorely needs it going into the offseason.

- Huntington should be concerned. Very concerned. Falling behind against pitiful Airline, even for a quarter, is no way to go into the playoffs. The Raiders will get a tougher-than-expected draw in the first round, probably Hahnville. Now is the time for Huntington to show its true colors (Sorry, Carlton).

- My vote for one of the best players not playing in the postseason has to be Green Oaks' Lemarien Parson. The area's leading rusher until he was slowed by a back injury, Parson likely wrapped up his prep career in a 17-14 loss at Wossman on Friday. Strangely enough, his only touchdown of the game came on defense - a 51-yard fumble return.

- As it stands now, according to the latest power ratings, District 1-2A will have five teams among the top 24-rated teams in the playoffs. That's mighty impressive.

- In Class 3A, Caldwell Parish is going to screw it up for someone in the playoffs. Probably 32nd-rated Buckeye. The Spartans won all three of their District 2-3A games but still finished 4-6, good enough for a rating of 41. No matter. With a district title, the Spartans are going into the postseason.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Breaking Down The Ballot, Week 9

One week to go in the regular season and, as a result, one more Top 10 poll to submit to Baton Rouge and have scrutinized by all six of my readers.

Class 5A
1. West Monroe 2. Destrehan 3. St. Thomas More 4. Catholic-BR 5. Sulphur 6. Rummel 7. Byrd
8. H.L. Bourgeois 9. Central 10. Dutchtown.
Comments: With leading rusher Brittain White sidelined for the season, Byrd rolled to an impressive 31-21 win tonight over Ouachita - the 12th-ranked team on my ballot. That makes the Yellow Jackets' loss to Captain Shreve earlier this season all the more inexplicable. Byrd remains Shreveport's best hope of having a Class 5A team make some noise in the postseason.

Class 4A
1. Bastrop 2. Shaw 3. Teurlings Catholic 4.Franklinton 5. Eunice 6. Parkway 7. Benton 8. Northside 9. Vandebilt Catholic 10. Zachary.
Comments: Parkway and Benton can settle, once and for all, who is Bossier's best team. I'm going with the team that has won its past five games 230-19. Uh, by the way, that's Benton.

Class 3A
1. Notre Dame 2. Parkview Baptist 3. Redemptorist 4. Lutcher 5. Westlake 6. Rayville 7. Marksville 8. Cecilia 9. Rayne 10. Iowa.
Comments: Rayville comes to BTW on Friday to close out an undefeated season in District 1-3A. Maybe I'm crazy, but I think the B-T-Dub Lions can hold their own in this one. Not win. But keep it close.

Class 2A
1. Calvary Baptist 2. Evangel 3. St. James 4. John Curtis 5. Donaldsonville 6. St. John-Plaquemine 7. Oakdale 8. Clinton 9. Ferriday 10. Springfield Pine.
Comments: To much has been said - and written - about the Calvary and Evangel showdown on Friday. I'll save my thoughts for later on this one. ... In the actual Top 10 poll, St. James leaped Evangel to take No. 2. Too bad. I would have liked to have covered a 1-2 matchup.

Class 1A
1. Cedar Creek 2. Hamilton Christian 3. Kentwood 4. South Plaquemines 5. Delhi Charter
6. Ouachita Christian 7. Haynesville 8. Catholic-PC 9. Oak Grove 10. St. Edmund.
Comments: Haynesville is overdue for inclusion in the Top 10. If Haynesville had to play Cedar Creek today, I might go with the Golden Tornado. As is, I'll just settle for inching them up my ballot.