By LEE BRECHEEN, Louisiana Football Magazine
What a great week in Round 1 of the playoffs. This is the best time of year for me covering the sport. It is also a tough time for kids and parents who see their seniors play for the last time in a uniform for their schools, and most of those young men will never play another game. So the incentive is sky high.
We saw seasons end last week for Huntington, Green Oaks, Airline and Parkway, but many of the schools in the Shreveport-Bossier area moved on to Round 2 of the playoffs. Today we will take a look at matchups between Benton and Denham Springs, and Haughton playing East St. John. Both Bossier Parish teams have the homefield advantage.
Let’s start with Haughton, coming off a huge upset over No. 6 Airline, scoring a 36-26 win. Haughton, seeded 27th and the lowest remaining seed in all playoff brackets, put it all together and will need another total team effort this week against a very talented East St. John squad. I had a chance to see ESJ in person in Week 7. The main advantage for Haughton is home field and the mental toughness of this team, a perennial playoff participant.
This will be a tougher task this week because this will be the best team the Bucs have played all year. East St. John is one of the most athletic teams in south Louisiana and the Wildcats are huge on the offensive and defensive lines. ESJ is also very tough and will play fast.
The Wildcats are led by QB Yashua Mitchell (5-10, 185), who has a cannon arm but also runs a 4.5 in the 40-yard dash. They have a 4.4 speed WR in Koyal Gray, and a two-way starter I like in Dkhai Joseph (5-9, 150, 4.4 speed), and a big-time RB in George Martin (5-9, 205, 4.55 speed). The big guys in the box who all can run are DE Jamarion Zeno (6-2, 260), LB Freddie Jones (5-11, 215, 4.6 speed), LB Kaden Henderson (6-2, 215, 4.55 speed) — and a huge starter on the OL, Gaylon Fobb (6-3, 370).
This is the same school that produced five-star QB and one-time LSU signee Ryan Perrilloux, and WR Louis Lipps, who is in the Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame.
It’s really important for Haughton to play mistake-free football because ESJ can score very fast and you don’t want to give them anything.
I believe for Haughton, QB Colin Rains, WR Rashad Douglas, WR Jalen Lewis, WR John Ecot and others will need big games to have a chance to keep up with East St. John. But that’s what happened last week against Airline, and this could be a Cinderella run for Jason Brotherton’s Bucs.
Benton is hosting the sleeper team from south Louisiana in Division 1 Non-Select — Denham Springs. Benton is coming off a huge statement win for the program, 41-7 over a talented Ponchatoula squad last week in Round 1.
Benton did something I did not think could happen, and that was beating Ponchatoula by 34 points. The Tigers’ offense was matched by their defense and kicking game.
This week will be a tougher task. Denham Springs is led by senior QB Reese Money, who is committed to Hugh Freeze’s Liberty program. Money has a big arm and good feet in the pocket. The Denham O-line might be the biggest the Benton program has faced this year, averaging over 280 pounds and led by senior prospects Porter Gibson (6-4 290), and 6-5, 285-pound Tyler Kimble.
The Yellow Jackets have one of the best TE’s in Louisiana, senior Andrew Goodwin (6-2, 220, 4.65 speed). Both of their RB’s, Cam’Ron Kelly and Ray McKneely, each 5-10 and around 180 with 4.5 speed, are veterans and tough to contain.
Benton will need a huge game from their defense, headed by All-State DB Sawyer Simmons, who has over 200 tackles combined in the last two seasons. Other anchor guys on the Tigers D are linebackers Zach Halbert and Cole Weir. The key is not to let Denham Springs control the clock by pounding downfield with its big OL and run game.
Benton should do well on offense with its explosive skill players including RB Greg Manning, TE Andy Lim, QB Gray Walters and the exciting WR, Pearce Russell.
This is a game I can see coming down to a field goal or even who has the ball last. Both these programs believe they have the goods to go deep in the postseason, and both programs play with a chip on their shoulders.
Contact Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org