Every team aspires to be playing its best football as the postseason begins, and it would be tough to argue the Destrehan Wildcats aren’t doing exactly that as the Class 5A playoffs kickoff this week.
Destrehan (9-1) earned the second seed in Class 5A after wrapping up the District 7-5A championship last week with a decisive win over Terrebonne. The Wildcats will host No. 31 Hammond this Friday night at Wildcat Stadium, with both teams riding in on respective winning streaks—Hammond has won four in a row, while Destrehan is on a seven-game streak.
The Wildcats posted arguably their most impressive performance of the season last week, hitting on all cylinders in a 49-20 win over Terrebonne that saw Destrehan effectively finish the then-No. 6 team in 5A in the first half of play. That followed wins over Jesuit, H.L. Bourgeois and Central Lafourche — the latter in a game Destrehan scored 51 first half points.
“I think the team’s really coming together,” Destrehan coach Stephen Robicheaux said. “J.R. (Blood) is playing (quarterback) at such a high level. (Running back) John Emery’s playing just phenomenal football, living up to that five-star hype. Defensively, we’re not making many mental busts.”
This has been a season of high expectations, with a heralded and very experienced senior class leading the way. A long postseason run and state championship have always been the goals. With the postseason here, Robicheaux says he has no doubt that his team is mentally prepared to face the intensity of the win-or-go-home format of the postseason.
“This team has been business as usual all season long. They understand the expectations,” Robicheaux said. “Terrebonne came in and there was all the hype, but our kids don’t get caught up in that. They settle down, play football and get it done between the lines. That’s the mark of a mature team playing with a lot of confidence. Confidence, not cockiness, and that’s a very good thing.”
HOW HAMMOND ATTACKS: Hammond boasts plenty of speed on both sides of the ball. The Tornados are led by a collection of skilled playmakers, with receiver Marnell Davis, running back Edward Ratcliff and quarterback Kevin Primus all difficult players to bottle up.
Robicheaux said the Hammond offense can’t be classified strictly as a Wing-T, but that its misdirection-based attack in many ways does closely resemble that form of an option-style attack.
“They’re a little smaller up front, they like to run it outside and get the ball out on the perimeter,” Robicheaux said. “They’ll move (Davis) into the backfield and run the ball with him. He can fly.”
Defensively, defensive back Tyrone Lewis is a Division I commitment (Utah) who can give teams fits.
“He’s their stud on that side of the ball,” Robicheaux said.
Linebacker Floyd Green and defensive lineman Tyrik Mitchell are other standouts on defense.
Robicheaux said Hammond has established a reputation as a strong defensive unit, with the overall speed of the unit contributing to a season of few big plays allowed. Hammond hasn’t allowed any team to score more than 28 points in a game, and has held opponents to 20 or less six times.
“They’re playing well and run to the ball,” Robicheaux said. “They’re a formidable opponent.”
BRACKET TALK: If the Wildcats advance, their round two draw will yield a difficult matchup one way or the other—and also a chance to avenge a recent postseason loss. Destrehan would draw the winner of No. 15 Barbe and No. 18 Landry-Walker, the two most recent teams to eliminate the Wildcats from the postseason (Barbe – round two, 2017; Landry-Walker – state semifinals, 2016).
Destrehan’s No. 2 seeding, meanwhile, was something Robicheaux stressed the importance of earning to his team greatly before its last two games.
“It guarantees if you get to the semifinals, you get that home game,” Robicheaux said. “I felt it was very important for us to get that two seed and our kids got it done.”