Few would have figured that one half of football in the season opener could have such an impact on the status of the Class 5A playoffs.
In Destrehan’s initial game under new coach Marcus Scott, the Wildcats held a 14-3 halftime lead before eventually losing 21-14 to St. Paul’s of Covington.
The Wildcats pretty much have won every half since, going on to finish the regular season with a 7-1 record, but the final two quarters ended up costing Destrehan a loftier playoff position.
“We are one half away at St. Paul’s of being the No. 2 seed. When you look at it from that perspective, it’s kind of disappointing. But on the other hand, we have a chance to be in the top five, which is a good position. We are just thankful to be in and start the second season,” said Scott, whose team opens the playoffs as the No. 5 seed.
As the No. 5 seed, the Wildcats will host Ouachita Parish at 7 p.m. Friday.
The fortunes of Ouachita Parish have been different than that of Destrehan. Because of coronavirus concerns, the Lions were limited to five games. Destrehan, on the other hand, was able to play all eight games of an abbreviated schedule, giving the Wildcats three more games than the Lions to develop over the season heading into the playoffs.
“Anytime you get a chance to play and get better and improve, it’s always a positive. Obviously, our players and coaches are thankful to be playing at all and have an opportunity to complete because they worked so hard in the offseason to get prepared for the season,” Scott said.
Ouachita Parish’s disjointed schedule led to a 1-4 record, including losses of 24-0 to Ruston and 23-14 to West Monroe.
“They played a very tough schedule. Their district is one of the best in the state if not the best in the state in 5A. They have good players, good coaches, and traditionally they have been one of the better programs in the state,” said Scott.
The Ouachita Parish offense is led by 6-foot-2, 220-pound senior quarterback Zach Shaw, a University of Louisiana at Monroe commitment.
“He’s a big kid. He throws the ball well. He throws it on the run down the field accurately,” Scott said.
The Lions feature a bruising runner in 6-foot-2, 205-pound Boris Richard.
“Arm tackles down bring him down. Usually, multiple people are needed to get him on the ground,” Scott said of Richard.
Fast and shifty Marcell Henderson provides a change of pace in the backfield.
Shaw’s favorite target is 6-foot-4 Jocolby Conner.
Other receivers include D.J. Jacobs and Brandon Kimes.
The Lions also get tight end Jacob McCullars involved in a variety of ways on offense.
“They usually play with a tight end that’s backed off the line and they motion him and put him in pass protection and put him in the routes,” Scott noted.
The Lions generally line up in a four-man front on defense.
“They have four down linemen and two linebackers, and a lot of cover-3 and they will blitz you. They do well in pass coverage as well as stopping the run,” Scott said.
Two of the top players along the defensive line are Eric Pleasant and Divin Gix.
“They come off the ball and they attack up front,” said Scott.
The Lions feature a pair of active linebackers in Cayle Wheeler and Carmycah Glass.
Among those roaming the secondary are Jaylen Kincaid, Keyongtae Blunt and Winston Sanders.
Although Destrehan is a No. 5 seed instead of a possible No. 2, the Wildcats do get to host to open the playoffs.
“Take it from somebody like me who’s been on the road plenty of times in the first round, it’s always good to be at home and not have the added stress of travel logistics and things like that,” said Scott.