Written by Kyle Valdez
In the Class 5A playoffs, things were shaken up in the second round with #3 Alexandria and #4 East Ascension dropping tight games. Instead of EA and Alexandria, now #20 Ruston and #19 Mandeville get to continue their season in hopes of playing in mid-December. As for the rest of the bracket, the top teams handled their business, highlighted by #1 Acadiana’s 49-0 win over #16 Walker. Some teams barely slipped past their opponent like #5 Zachary’s 21-19 over #12 Hahnville, and #11 Haughton’s 23-21 win over #27 Comeaux. However, at this point in the season, a win is a win and every team can beat each other. With the quarterfinals approaching during Thanksgiving week, here are the previews for 5A:
#1 Acadiana vs #8 Airline
Acadiana may be one of the most dominant Louisiana high school teams that we’ve seen in recent years. The Wreckin’ Rams’ offense is putting points on the scoreboard at a crazy alarming rate - averaging almost 52 points per game. Army commit RB Dillan Monette ran for 253 yards against Walker and their offense moves the ball down field almost too easily. Not just their offense, but the defense shut out a solid Walker team that scored 63 points on Thibodaux the week prior.
Airline has a 10-2 record and may be Acadiana’s hardest opponent yet. This will be Airline’s second trip to the quarterfinals in the past three years. Although finishing 3-7 last year and missing the playoffs, Airline is 7 wins improved and gets to host a quarterfinal game. Even with Acadiana having to travel 3.5 hours north to Shreveport, the Rams are still the favorites and will continue to be the favorites until they either lose or win the State Championship.
Final: 52-21 Acadiana
#2 West Monroe vs #7 Destrehan
A week ago, West Monroe topped Captain Shreve 38-21 and Destrehan beat Covington 17-7. Since 2012, West Monroe has been to two state championships and three semifinals. Destrehan has been to two state semifinals in the past three years. Both teams in this highlighted matchup have plenty of playoff experience and pedigree. West Monroe is currently 11-1 with their lone loss coming to the hands of out-of-state Longview, TX. The two teams both look very solid on paper, but West Monroe is clearly the more battle-tested team with games against Ruston, Neville, Longview, Ouachita Parish, and Alexandria. Nineteen of West Monroe’s starters are seniors; led by offensive linemen Daniel Hawthorne (Offered by Baylor) and Ethan Boyer. Destrehan has dynamic playmakers in Kyle Edwards (Alabama commit) and Quincy Brown (Former Miss St. Commit), but West Monroe’s defense is elite, allowing just 7.8 points per contest. Even though Destrehan is the host and has more power-five talent, West Monroe seems more equipped for a return to the semifinals.
Final: 34-13 West Monroe
#5 Zachary vs #20 Ruston
After completing the regular season at 5-5 and getting seeded at #20, it was obvious that Ruston was the most underrated seed in 5A. After facing two additional serious opponents in the past two weeks, Ruston officially has the hardest schedule in Louisiana with games against Rummel, Acadiana, West Monroe, East Ascension, Dutchtown, Alexandria, Neville, and Airline. Although Ruston finished the regular season with five losses, they stayed competitive with every team besides Rummel. After achieving their two biggest wins of the year, Ruston has no time to ease up for their next opponent.
Zachary, the 5-seed, holds a 10-2 record and is the two-time defending 5A state champions. Led by QB Keilon Brown (Memphis commit) and receiver Christopher Hilton (Top offers include Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Notre Dame), the Broncos have tremendous playoff experience. Dating back to 2014, Zachary is 23-2 in the playoffs. However, this year’s Zachary isn’t the same dominant team that we’ve seen in past years. There have been many close calls during Zachary’s current 10-game win streak. When predicting the outcome, you must factor in that the only mutual opponent that the two teams share is East Ascension; Ruston defeated EA by 8, while Zachary lost by 9. Out of the four quarterfinal matchups, this game has the highest upset alert - even for the two-time defending champs.
Final: 22-21 Ruston
#19 Mandeville vs #11 Haughton
After completing a crazy 13-12 upset over #3 Alexandria, Mandeville’s road to the Dome gets a little harder this week. Alexandria was a tough matchup, but this game will take place at Haughton High in Shreveport. Haughton carries a 10-2 record into the matchup and has shown glimpses of crazy high upside. Haughton beat East Ascension by 18 points and hasn’t lost a game by more than 7 points all season long. Regardless of how the teams played in the regular season, it’s hard to predict the outcome of the game based on how well both teams have played so far in the playoffs.
While some teams struggle on the road, others feed off the atmosphere, and fewer off-field distractions allow the players to keep their heads clear. Haughton is a perfect 6-0 at home, and Mandeville has a 5-1 record on the road. Mandeville has recorded four wins of less than three points, with three of those games coming on the road. With the long bus ride during Thanksgiving break, there should be no distractions for the visiting Mandeville. The Skippers have a better resume at this point in the time and great late-game experience: I expect them to be the hungrier team come Friday night.
Final: 28-24 Mandeville
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