While many of the teams remaining in the prep football postseason will be adjusting to the challenge of preparing for a game during a holiday week, for Destrehan, Thanksgiving week is business as usual.
The Wildcats have advanced through the state quarterfinals in each of the past two seasons and will attempt to make it a third straight season when No. 3 Destrehan hosts No. 6 Parkway Friday night.
Destrehan coach Stephen Robicheaux says having a game this week is a special experience, in large part, because it means all of the Wildcats’ goals are still very much in reach.
“We’ll be having donuts with the team Thanksgiving morning, and it’s where we want to be,” Robicheaux said. “At this point, if you’re still in it, you’ve got something to play for. Hopefully, we can carry the momentum we’ve built and keep this thing going.”
The Wildcats will be hosting a playoff game for a third consecutive week, and it will be the team’s seventh consecutive postseason home game in the past two seasons (not counting the team’s state championship game appearance, as all title games are contested in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome). Destrehan (11-0) has not lost a regular season or postseason game at home since 2012, going a perfect 23-0 in that span.
While the Panthers (11-1) must make a long road trip from Bossier City, a very talented squad will arrive in Destrehan Friday night. Parkway’s lopsided 55-28 defeat of Acadiana denied a potential Class 5A championship rematch between AHS and Destrehan; Acadiana eliminated Destrehan in each of the past two seasons, toppling DHS in that championship game and in the previous year’s semifinal.
“It might not be a good thing,” Robicheaux said with a laugh last week, after being asked if he was glad to see Acadiana bumped out. “I don’t know. You’ve got to watch what you ask for.”
Parkway boasts one of the most prolific offensive attacks in the state, and hails from one of Louisiana’s toughest districts, 1-5A, where it split that league’s title with Byrd and Evangel. The Panthers average 41 points per game and boast wins over Bastrop (10-2) and Byrd (10-2) this season. Parkway’s lone loss was a 56-21 defeat at the hands of Evangel in Week 4. The Panthers have won eight in a row since then, their smallest victory margin standing at 14 in their 20-6 win over Byrd.
“When you beat that Acadiana team like they did, you realize real fast that Parkway’s a force to be reckoned with,” Robicheaux said.
It’s also a team playing with a chip on its shoulder in 2015. Last season, an ineligible player ruling cost Parkway five victories, and with those wins a playoff berth. Parkway finished as state runner-up two years ago, falling to Acadiana in the 5A championship game behind then-quarterback Brandon Harris, now LSU’s starting quarterback.
Quarterback Keondre Wudtee, wide receivers C.J. Morgan-Walker and Kendall Brown and running back Robert McKnight fuel the Panthers’ explosive offense.
Wudtee, a senior, is in his second season as starter. The Louisiana Tech commitment operates out of a shotgun spread attack. He topped 2,100 yards passing and tossed 20 touchdowns during the regular season. McKnight rushed for 15 touchdowns during the regular season.
“They score a lot of points,” Robicheaux said. “They’re kind of like us. They’re very good on both sides of the ball.”
Parkway boasts an excellent run defense. Last week, the Panthers held Acadiana without a run longer than 14 yards, an impressive accomplishment given Acadiana’s consistent standing as one of the elite option offenses in the state.
If Destrehan cannot find more room to operate on the ground, the Wildcats may look to take to the air more than usual and ride the arm of Kohen Granier, who has been especially sharp of late.
“I’d say anyone who wants to see a good, offensive football game should come out to Destrehan on Friday night,” Robicheaux said. “I think whichever defense is the one that steps up is going to be the key.”
Parkway, Robicheaux said, boasts great team speed and safety play defensively. The Panthers look to keep the offense in front of them and rally up for tackles. Nose guard Nick So’oto keys the team’s 3-3 stack front.
For Destrehan’s defense to come up big, Robicheaux said it must likewise limit the number of explosive gains for Parkway.
“They’re a big play offense,” Robicheaux said. “They want to score quickly. We’ve got to contain their quarterback. He’s a big kid who throws it real well, and we’ve got to get some pressure on him with our front.”
Last week, Destrehan had little trouble rolling past Barbe in the second round, winning 52-27 in a game Robicheaux said was perhaps his team’s most impressive effort this season.
Barbe (7-4) scored 20 of its 27 points in the fourth quarter, after Destrehan took a 52-7 lead.
Kristian Mosley finished the game with a team-high 145 yards rushing. Granier accounted for six total touchdowns, rushing for two and tossing all four of his scoring passes to John Williams. Granier finished with 207 passing yards, while Williams caught six passes for a total of 150 yards.