The deeper teams get into the high school football playoffs the more likely games won’t be the decided until the fourth quarter, many coaches seem to agree.
Although his team won its Class 3A playoff opener handily over Marksville 39-0 last week, you can count St. James coach Robert Valdez with the aforementioned sentiment as his Wildcats prepare to travel to Baton Rouge to take on Madison Prep on Friday.
“It will be a slugfest, I think. I think this is one of those games you have to pull out in the fourth quarter. You will not be able to get too comfortable and all that with a big lead. It will definitely be a playoff atmosphere and playing four quarters of football,” the St. James coach said.
While St. James, the No. 4 seed, was winning by a comfortable margin a week ago, Madison Prep, the No. 20 seed, was pulling off an upset with a 28-8 triumph over Caldwell Parish, the No. 8 seed.
Madison Prep, which lost 28-27 to Sterlington in last year’s Class 2A finals, struggled to a 4-5 mark in the regular season in Class 3A before pulling off the upset of Caldwell Parish. Among the Chargers’ defeats were loses to the likes of Scotlandville, Zachary, West Feliciana and Southern Lab.
“They are big and very athletic. They are a physical football team,” Valdez said of the Chargers. “They have played a very tough schedule as well to get them ready for this time of year. This will be a real, real tough draw for Round 2.”
Madison Prep’s acting coach this season is Landry Williams. Williams is filling in for Mike Roach, who has been out all season with an illness.
Williams and Valdez were college teammates at Southern University.
“I can see that he is opening up the offense a little more to allow the athletes he has to make some plays,” Valdez said of Williams’ stamp on this year’s Madison Prep squad.
The Chargers like to hand the ball to running back Tyrese Walker behind a large offensive line, according to Valdez.
“They are methodical in what they do offensively. They try the ball and take their chances with play-action. They have been more spread as of late. To me, the spread would suit them because they have a lot of athletes,” said Valdez.
Kirk Snearl, at 6-foot-4, 260 pounds, plays tight end on offense and on the line and at linebacker on defense.
“He brings it,” Valdez said of Snearl. “When you have a linebacker that is that big and can run as well as he can and is as aggressive as he is, that’s impressive.”
Joining Snearl on the defensive line are 6-foot, 240-pound Michael Henderson, 6-foot, 260-pound Luther Lamotte and 5-foot-11, 240-pound Aaron Daniel.
Walker also plays in the secondary.
“Defensively, they are man-to-man and in your face. They play a 52 base defense. They like to blitz and press and apply pressure. They hang their hats on the fact they have enough athletes to match your athletes in coverage so they want to put pressure on the ball,” Valdez said of the Madison Prep defense.
With the teams being fairly equal in terms of having similar types of playmakers, the difference in Friday night likely will be determined at the line of scrimmage, according to Valdez.
“Our defensive line played exceptionally well last week against Marksville. If we can bring that same effort this week it will give us a good chance. Our offensive line will have to be able to get a push and sustain some blocks against a very athletic defensive line,” the St. James coach said.