Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Sports Editor

Destrehan’s won 27 straight games. Their Class 5A title defense is still alive. And Coach Stephen Robicheaux and his team are among the final four teams playing in the state’s highest classification — and still considered by many as the favorite to win it all.

For now, that means hosting a semifinal game with No. 14 seed Central-Baton Rouge on Friday night. The Wildcats (12-0) upset No. 3 Brother Martin, 13-7, on a blocked field goal return in the regional round, and kept it going with another upset of No. 6 Acadiana, 10-7 in the quarterfinals.

Robicheaux realizes his team is the next on the list of the hunted, and has his team prepared to face that reality.

“That’s a really good team,” he says. “They bring a lot of formations to the table, and it makes them tough to defend. Against two really good teams, they allowed only 17 combined points in the last two games.

“It’ll definitely be interesting to see how it all plays out.”

The Wildcats enter the semifinals 11-1, with only a loss Scotlandville (4-5) blemishing their record. Prolific quarterback Will Briscoe captains a spread style offense that averages 28 points per game — much of that generated through the air — while its defense has only allowed 14 points or more twice this season. Central finished in a tie for first place in District 4-5A, and has won seven straight games.

Destrehan counters with its own well-known spread attack, charged by quarterback Wynrick Smothers who has a host of weapons — the dynamite receiving trio of Corey Vidal, Kyron King, and Brandon Armstrong — to find downfield. Like Central, the Wildcats have allowed 14 or more points only twice this season — and has held nine to single digits.

St. James (9-3), meanwhile, is one of a menacing final four in Class 2A — on one side of the bracket is a Curtis/Calvary Baptist matchup, while on the other, the No. 3 seeded Wildcats go head to head with No. 2 Evangel (12-1).

The Eagles’ offensive numbers are Playstation-esque. A 70-0 win one week is followed by a 51-0 victory in another. Evangel has scored 67 points or more three times this season, and averages 49 points per game.

To put it bluntly, St. James Coach Rick Gaille is impressed.

“Even last year, we had heard lots about the great group of young skill position players they had on both the JV and varsity,” he says. “They’ve obviously got a lot of speed and skill, and they combine that with physicality.

“We have to look at the film and determine where we have an advantage — or where we don’t have one at all. It’s important a lot of times to know where you can’t,, or shouldn’t, attack someone.”

Gaille’s team has faced a selection of spread attacks this season, so the Evangel gameplan itself isn’t a mystery to the Wildcats.

“We know what we’re doing against the spread,” Gaille said. “I feel like we’ve got a good plan of attack against it. But if it becomes a matter of personnel, there’s not much we can do.”

It’s a battle between polar opposites in a way. Evangel attacks — relentlessly — through the air. St. James pounds you on the ground, as over 900 yards in their three previous playoff games. Kenny Zenon, Jaleel Steib, and a deep stable of rushers pave the way, and senior quarterback Marcus Dumas is always there to hit on a big play when called upon.

But stopping Evangel quarterback Dez Duron — who already has an eight-touchdown night (a school record) to his credit this season — will be the toughest task yet for Gaille, defensive coordinator Don Rodrigue, and the wildcat defense.

If St. James can, it could set up a matchup between the Wildcats and Curtis — which would be the fourth straight season teams from their district have faced off in the final.

If Lutcher is to make it to the Superdome for the second time in three seasons, it will have to make a little bit of history.

Sure, the Bulldogs have won semifinal games before — to win five state titles, as Lutcher has, that’s a given.

But Lutcher has never before won a home semifinal game — in three previous tries, it has fallen short at the Dog Yard.

This Friday night, No. 10 Cecilia will attempt to make it a fourth loss for the Bulldogs (10-2) as they face off in a Class 3A semifinal game at Lutcher.

“This team will have to do something no Lutcher team has done,” Detillier said. In ’77, in ’98, and in ’04, we fell short. This is a chance to reverse that trend.”

But the coach can’t be all that spooked by history — he’s still thrilled to host the game.

“Hey, if I didn’t think we could do it, I suppose I could call Cecilia and ask them to host it. I’m sure they’d be pleased with that.”

Cecilia (10-2) has won eight straight games, and has lost two by a combined 15 points. Each came to teams with only one loss.

When the two teams met up in the first round of the playoffs in 2006, Lutcher prevailed 21-0.

But Cecilia, and Coach Terry Martin, left an impression on the victorious coach.

“I remember talking with him after the game and we agreed, for a first round game it was really played at the level of a quarterfinal or semifinal game,” Detillier said. “From that day, I knew they’d be a force to be reckoned with real soon.

“Now, they’ve gotten over the hump. They’ve got a lot of seniors. No real marquee guys, but they’re very, very solid in all areas. It’s a big concern.”

Cecilia won District 6-3A and averages 27 points per game. Martin uses a pro style formation to pound defenses, but isn’t afraid to spread out the opposition.

Contrarily, Lutcher will happily spread defensive units out from start to finish, and the only mystery is how the Bulldogs will attack. Quarterback Gavin Webster has completed 55-percent of his passes for 1467 yards and 15 touchdowns to go with 12 interceptions. But on the ground, Webster is a bruising rusher, bowling over defenders this season for 1016 yards and 21 scores.

“He’s been lights out for the last six or seven weeks. He’s really coming alive,” said Detillier.