Following Destrehan’s dominant first round victory over visiting West Jefferson, the No. 4 seeded Wildcats prepare to host a Woodlawn of Baton Rouge team led by a premier passer, huge offensive line and talented secondary.
The winner of this game will advance to the quarterfinals to face the winner of No. 5 Ruston and No. 12 Benton.
As the No. 13 seed and preparing to hit the road, Woodlawn enters this one as an underdog, but it has already proven a dangerous foe in that role.
The Panthers (5-4) advanced to round two with a decisive 42-14 win over Natchitoches Central. But three weeks ago, it proved it can stand toe-to-toe with the best as it upset a then top-ranked Catholic-Baton Rouge (and current No. 1 seed in Division I) 35-28, in a game that went down to the wire.
“They did a really good job preparing for that game,” said Destrehan head coach Marcus Scott. “It was back-and-forth and they made a couple more plays than Catholic that night in a very exciting game and big win for them.”
Quarterback Rickie Collins scored the game-winning touchdown on a 1-yard run in that one, on a night where he completed 14-of-20 passes for 198 yards and a touchdown. Collins, a junior, is committed to play at Purdue University and has been rated as a four-star recruit.
“He makes it all go,” said Scott. “He has three receivers he can go to who are all threats, guys who can make plays after the catch.”
But the night’s star was running back Amari Givens, who tallied 161 yards and three touchdowns to pace the Panthers, who handed Catholic its lone loss of the season. The powerful rusher is averaging close to eight yards per carry on the season and figures to draw a ton of attention from a stout Destrehan run defense.
“(Givens) is their primary guy, and then (Jayveon Hayes) also comes in and he’s a good runner as well. They run behind a huge offensive line and they execute well. We’ll have our hands full,” Scott said.
The receivers Scott alluded to include Kyle Jones, Jaylon Henry and Clayton Adams.
Woodlawn did not play a full 2020 campaign, losing all but four regular season games on its schedule due to the pandemic and finishing the season 2-3 overall. Assuredly eager to get back on the field in 2021, it was nonetheless a slow start for the Panthers, who began the season with three losses in four weeks. Things began to turn around in a 27-14 win over Dutchtown. A 48-41 win over St. Amant followed before the Panthers absorbed their fourth loss of the season in a 26-20 loss to East Ascension.
Then came the Catholic win, and then a 62-0 route of McKinley to close the regular season on the upswing.
Defensively, Scott said Catholic poses a challenge up front and on the back end alike, with athleticism across the line and in the secondary, where Marcus Stewart, Dezaray Delmore and Jordan Matthews comprise one of the team’s strongest units. Matthews, a four-star defensive back, has been offered by LSU, Arkansas and California, among many. At 6’2 and 175 pounds, he is a prototype and figures to see plenty of Destrehan top targets Calvin Bullock and Daniel Blood – possibly with time on both, though his size could make him the natural pick to cover the 6’4 Bullock.
But it is Collins that makes this a truly dangerous opponent. Hotly recruited by LSU among many others prior to his Purdue commitment, the 6’3 dual threat puts Woodlawn opponents in a bind. His sophomore season, despite just a five-game sample, saw him total 1,449 yards of offense to go with 16 total touchdowns.
Destrehan got off to a slow start in its last game of the regular season – it was tied 0-0 at halftime of an eventual 31-0 victory at Thibodaux. So, all week, the Wildcats put extra emphasis on starting strong in its round one Class 5A playoff opener against visiting West Jefferson.
The fourth-seeded Wildcats accomplished that directive – leaping out to a 21-0 first quarter lead on the way to an eventual 48-14 victory and ticket to round two.