Written by Kyle Valdez
With the Class 5A playoff bracket release at noon on Sunday, all the speculation of potential matchups has finally been hushed, with the real matchups on deck. While some teams were just hoping to see their name on a bracket, the real contenders have been waiting all year for this week. From here on out, every game is either win or go home. The road to the Dome starts now!
Top 4 Seeds: Playoff Mode Activated
1 Acadiana vs. 32 Benton
Acadiana, the #3 seed a year ago, comes in as the top seed after a perfect 10-0 regular season with quality wins over Carencro, LCA, Sam Houston, and Barbe. Much deserving, the Rams have been the best 5A team in the state all year long. Benton comes into the game at 5-5 on the year and faces a huge uphill battle against a team like Acadiana. Factoring in a 4-hour drive from Shreveport, I can’t imagine Benton keeping the game close. Especially, the way Acadiana never plays down to competition winning games by an average of 32.4 per game.
Final: 54-7 Acadiana
2 West Monroe vs. 31 Central Lafourche
West Monroe comes in as a huge favorite. Central Lafourche has a 5-5 record but hasn’t won a game since Week 6. A 4.5-hour drive for Mathews to Monroe, Central Lafourche will have to be fully zoned in and must play an error-free game just to stand a chance. West Monroe is battle-tested, with 8 of their regular season opponents having records of .500 or better. The only reason for concern is West Monroe sometimes plays down to competition (Ex. 21-14 W Ruston, 20-0 W Ouachita).
Final: 49-14 West Monroe
3 Alexandria vs. 30 West Ouachita
This northern school bout is unique due to the teams playing against each other in Week 10. Alexandria easily handled West Ouachita 35-13 in Week 10, but both teams get double the time to study each other. I fully expect Alexandria to handle the job simply because they proved who the better team was a week ago. However, 9-1 Alexandria have had many close calls with teams that aren’t even close to their level. A 21-17 win against a 3A Brusly team? 17-13 over Ruston? 13-7 vs. Ouachita Parish? Things might get a little closer than expected in Alexandria.
Final: 21-13 Alexandria
4 East Ascension vs. 29 Terrebonne
East Ascension should be the easy pick for this game, but Terrebonne is no joke. Terrebonne has underperformed this season but will be firing on all cylinders with their season on the line. Don’t forget that Terrebonne was 11-2 and reached the quarterfinals just a year ago. Terrebonne’s losses have been by a margin of just 7.8 points. Although they are currently 5-5, that number could easily be 9-1 if they pulled out a few close district games. With the game at Spartan Stadium and East Ascension riding momentum after a convincing 34-7 win over St. Amant, it’s just too difficult to see East Ascension losing in the first round of the playoffs.
Final: 34-24 East Ascension
Seeds 12-21: The Nail-Biters
16 Walker vs. 17 Thibodaux
The Thibodaux-Walker matchup may be the most exciting matchups of Round 1. Both teams hold a 7-3 record and are evenly matched. Even though the game will be in Walker, I predict Thibodaux will pull out the victory. Walker, winners of 6 of their last 7, are playing their best ball of the season with their only loss during that stretch to Zachary by 2 points. However, Thibodaux always competes with who they play, and are proven experts at winning close games.
Final: 30-28 Thibodaux
15 Captain Shreve vs. 18 John Ehret
John Ehret and Captain Shreve should be another entertaining matchup between close seeds. A year ago, John Ehret made the state semifinals en route to a 28-0 loss to West Monroe. Their deep playoff experience might come in handy as they travel 5 hours on the road. Both teams are playing the best ball of the season as Ehret is riding a 7-game win streak and Shreve has won 6 of their last 7. Although both teams are winning games, the two teams have a combined 2 wins against +.500 teams. I will go with Shreve pulling this one out simply due to the home-field advantage.
Final: 42-38 Captain Shreve
14 Barbe vs. 19 Mandeville
Although Barbe is the higher seed, I expect Mandeville to go on the road and hand the 14 seed an L. Mandeville holds a 7-3 record, with quality wins over Slidell, Ponchatoula, and St. Paul’s. They have late-game experience as four of their games have been decided by one score. Barbe also has a 7-3 record, but they are open to getting blown out with losses of 49 to Acadiana and 39 to STM. Not to hold the two losses against them, but the Week 8 scare against Sulphur gives me a hesitant feeling for Barbe. Although Barbe had a tougher district schedule, I get the feeling of Mandeville pulling it out.
Final: 38-31 Mandeville
13 Dutchtown vs. 20 Ruston
This might be one of the most quality matchups throughout the whole state. Although Dutchtown is 8-2 and has one of the hardest schedules in the state, Ruston is no joke and has had an even harder schedule. Ruston is the most battle-tested team in the state with games against Neville, Acadiana, Airline, Rummel, Alexandria, and West Monroe. Excluding their 41-0 loss to composite #1 Rummel, Ruston only lost their games by an average of 5 points. If they can get past Dutchtown, they have the potential to go way deeper than most expect. Keeping the focus on Round 1, I think the game will go down to the wire with Ruston upsetting the higher seed.
Final: 28-25 Ruston
12 Hahnville vs. 21 Chalmette
This seems to be one of the few playoff matchups with two teams that are close in proximity with the two schools just 35 miles apart. Both teams enter the game at 8-2 but it feels like Hahnville is a bigger favorite than the seeding indicates. Although Hahnville has lost two straight to end their regular season, they are competitive with everyone they play and have much playoff experience. Chalmette has won five straight but hasn’t played a team above .500 since John Ehret in Week 5. Considering Hahnville’s only two losses were to Destrehan and Jesuit and the game will be in Hahnville, I think the more prepared team will be Hahnville.
Final: 31-14 Hahnville
Seeds 5-11 vs. 22-28: Be Careful or You’re Going Home Early
5 Zachary vs. 28 Live Oak
A year ago, Zachary won the 5A state championship after finishing the regular season as the #6 seed. In Week 5, these district foes faced off with Zachary prevailing 21-16 on the road. Although it was a close matchup 5 weeks ago, Zachary still has an upper-hand due to their home-field advantage and their deep playoff experience. Zachary hasn’t lost a game since Week 2, and Live Oak has lost 4 of their past 5. I think both teams will be flipping the switch for the playoffs, but Zachary’s late-game playoff experience will come in handy down the stretch: I don’t expect Zachary to struggle at all.
Final: 31-14 Zachary
6 Slidell vs. 27 Comeaux
Slidell, who finished 8-2, improved upon their 12th seed finish last year. Their only two losses were understandably a blowout against Rummel and a 3-point loss to #19 Mandeville. Comeaux feels like the underdog in this game, but if they can hang around until the second half, you never know what can happen. When it comes down to it, I feel like Slidell will pull away in the second half and advance to the second round.
Final: 28-14 Slidell
7 Destrehan vs. 26 Ponchatoula
Destrehan is coming off a season where they finished 7-3 but had no losses of over 1 score. Ponchatoula is riding a 3-game win streak but is very well the underdog. I understand that John Emery isn’t in high school, but Destrehan still has power-five talent at multiple positions such as RB Kyle Edwards (Alabama commit), WR Quincy Brown (Offers include Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Auburn, Florida), and DE Noah Taliancich (Tulane commit). Factoring in the strong turnout and support at Destrehan’s home games, Ponchatoula is going to struggle to find any rhythm on the road.
Final: 49-17 Destrehan
8 Airline vs. 25 Southside
Southside will travel 3.5 hours to Bossier City for the school’s first-ever playoff game. Airline drastically improved from their 3-7 season a year ago and found themselves as the #8 seed. Looking at each team’s resume, I feel neither team has what it takes to make a dome run. Focusing on just Round 1, the easy favorite is Airline due to their much higher ceiling. Southside has been dominated multiple times this year with blowout losses to Acadiana and Comeaux. Including the blowout losses, Southside has barely slipped past too many lesser opponents for me to view them as a legit contender.
Final: 30-7 Airline
9 Central vs. 24 East St. John
To begin this preview, I would like to acknowledge that East St. John might be one of the toughest 20s seeds that you could have gotten paired with. Clearly much better than the average #24 seed, ESJ had their first two wins of the season forfeited due to an eligible player. Both schools are in strong districts with Central from 4-5A and ESJ in 7-5A, resulting in solid resumes from both teams. Central has wins over Scotlandville and Live Oak, while ESJ has beaten Thibodaux and Destrehan. Considering that I haven’t watched Central play yet this season, I get the sense that ESJ will hang around and eventually steal the game in the end.
Final: 17-10 ESJ
10 Sam Houston vs. 23 Covington Sam Houston has played well for every game except their Week 8 loss to Acadiana, in which they gave up 82 points. Last year the #13 seed, Sam Houston is trying to improve on their first round exit to #19 Denham Springs. Covington had a reasonably strong schedule, but nothing that indicates a big upset. Not just their wins and losses, but I don’t think they have a high enough powered offense to keep up with Sam Houston. Over the past three weeks, Covington is only producing 15.3 points compared to Sam Houston’s 42 points. Regardless of the past three weeks, it’s apparent that Sam Houston is the more playoff-ready team in this matchup.
Final: 48-17 Sam Houston
11 Haughton vs. 22 Ouachita Parish In last year’s playoff, Haughton was eliminated in the second round to a far superior John Ehret team. With a gritty #22 seed Ouachita Parish coming into town, it feels like Haughton will have to play to their potential to advance. Ouachita Parish’s record is only 5-5, but they can compete with anyone. Losses to Neville by 3, Alexandria by 6, and Airline by 8 highlights their potential upside. With their season on the line, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ouachita Parish can steal a game on the road.
Final: 42-39 Ouachita Parish
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