Acadiana will host Destrehan this Friday night in the Class 5A semifinals, and to put it mildly: these two teams are no strangers.
2019 marked the third time Destrehan and Acadiana met in the Class 5A championship game, with the Wrecking Rams emerging winners in an 8-3 defensive slugfest, securing their program’s fifth state crown and an unbeaten season. In 2014, Acadiana earned the win as well, 23-7; in 2007, the Wildcats finished off a perfect season, taking the crown by a 41-21 score. The two teams also matched up in a 2013 state semifinal at Acadiana, won by the Rams on a chilly night on their home field.
This season, only one of Acadiana (No. 1 seed, 9-1) and Destrehan (No. 5, 11-1) can make it to the final weekend – which means Friday night promises an emotional ride for all involved, be it players, coaches or spectators.
Perhaps it’s no surprise their paths have crossed so much in the postseason: the two programs each make a habit of deep playoff marches. This will be Destrehan’s sixth state semifinal appearance in the past eight years; Acadiana, its fifth in the past eight.
“They present challenges in all three phases,” said Destrehan head coach Marcus Scott. “Defensively, their front seven is as good as anybody’s. They’re really good up front offensively and their backs and quarterback are very good. Their backs are skilled guys who run through arm tackles. That’s a complete ball club.”
Both of these teams are hard to beat, to put it mildly. Acadiana’s only loss came on Nov. 14 at the hands of Catholic-Baton Rouge, which has reached the Division I state championship game to face C.E. Byrd. Acadiana lost that game by six, 27-21 – it represents not only the lone loss, but one of the only close games on its schedule. The other? A 21-13 victory over John Curtis. Acadiana has won four in a row since the Catholic loss, besting Lafayette, Covington, East Ascension and Mandeville by an average of 27 points per game.
Destrehan, meanwhile, has won 11 straight games since its opening week loss to St. Paul’s, fueled by a stifling defense full of returning players who were on the field for last year’s Superdome loss to the Rams – and who almost certainly remember the feeling. Destrehan shut Ruston out last week 6-0 to advance, the lone win among the Wildcats’ 11 to not come by double-figures.
Since Week 8 of last season, when Destrehan began its winning streak to reach the Superdome, the two teams are a combined 34-2 – and 14-0 in the playoffs – outside of their championship game matchup.
The 2019 matchup between the teams showcased the talent and fortitude on each side. Acadiana’s powerful running game-led offense outgained Destrehan handily, but the Wildcats were resourceful and forced Acadiana turnovers inside the DHS 5-yard line – though one of those instances led to a safety. The game wrapped up with an intense fourth quarter that saw Acadiana’s defense come up with a stop with just under two minutes left to seal the win. Two video replay reviews on very close plays near the goalline also added to the ample drama.
For the many Destrehan fans familiar with this series, Acadiana offers few surprises – the Rams once again are a physically imposing, Veer option football team that, like Destrehan, brings a suffocating defense to the field each week. Acadiana has rushed for more than 3,000 yards thus far this year and has passed for 498. Coupled with Destrehan’s own run-heavy style, this game doesn’t figure to be a marathon time-wise.
“It ought to be pretty fast,” Scott said. “We both run the ball … it should be a physical game. They play that way on both sides of the ball and we have to be able to match that in order to compete. All of those guys that carry for them can score from anywhere. They can make you miss, they can break tackles. You’re sometimes looking at three really good runners back there who can all make a big gain.”
The Rams also shut out their quarterfinal foe, Mandeville, winning 21-0 last week. Acadiana nearly topped the 300 yard rushing barrier in that one, led by junior running back Omiri Wiggins’ 129 yard effort. Quarterback’s Jerimiah Brown rushed for 90 yards and two touchdowns.
Brown, Wiggins and Tyler Zeno form the heart of the Rams’ rushing attack, with Wiggins and Zeno forming a 1-2 punch at running back.
Defensively, linebacker Derrick Bercier is the team’s leading tackler. Ian Montz is a playmaker at safety.
Perhaps the most dangerous group comes up front, where Cam George and Walter Bob are the cornerstones of the Rams’ wall of a defensive line. The two have combined for 26 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks this season.
“That group is very impressive,” Scott said. “They’re all big, play with their hands and are aggressive. The linebackers flow to the ball well. A lot of those kids have played a lot of football games and experienced a lot of big games.”