While St. Charles Catholic is certainly familiar with Division II semifinal opponent University High, the stakes are much higher when the teams meet Friday in Baton Rouge.
“We are familiar with them but in a scrimmage, it is kind of controlled. It’s a little bit different. This is for real,” St. Charles coach Frank Monica said.
U-High defeated St. Charles in a preseason scrimmage and hasn’t lost since. It didn’t hurt any that the Cubs remained healthy along the way.
“Their offense and defense is very much intact from where they were at the beginning of the year. They haven’t had the significant injuries we had,” Monica said.
Although St. Charles now has Lloyd Nash back, the Comets had lost their quarterback most of the season. Now playing with a knee brace, Narquez Jones also has returned for St. Charles. Top defender Dellary Oubre has been out all season.
Despite the injuries, St. Charles has managed to post a 9-2 record in earning the No. 3 seed. University High is 11-0 and the No. 2 seed.
“They like to throw it. They like to run the stretch play. Their scheme is really good. They are a fast-paced, no-huddle team. They run the RPO stuff. The biggest thing with them is their personnel. Whoever touches the ball has a chance to be electric,” Monica said of the U-High offense.
Major threats for the Cubs are running backs Michael Hollins and Makiya Tongue are the running backs.
“They are hard to get on the ground. They are big and physical. Tongue will turn around and play some defense,” Monica said.
Christian Harris, at 230 pounds, lines up at running back and receiver, along with playing on defense.
“He’s a phenomenal athlete. He’s a junior now but he’s been playing since he was a freshman,” Monica pointed out.
Running the offense is quarterback John McKernan,
“He’s a very accurate guy. He’s not a runner but he will run. It’s not like they run zone read with him but when he has to scramble, he likes to extend plays to keep the drive alive. His biggest thing is throwing the ball to all those skilled guys. They throw the bubbles and verticals and they hit you with big plays,” said Monica.
The Cubs play at a quick place, which poses a challenge to opposing defenses, Monica said.
“You have to get ready for that tempo. When you are a tempo team, you can get away with things because they are so fast and you can’t make any adjustments and you can’t make any personnel changes,” said Monica.
University High’s offense has been beyond prolific in 2017. The Cubs have scored 477 points through 11 games, an average of 43.3 per outing. Except for a 26-7 win over fellow power Zachary, the Cubs have not scored less than 34 points in any other game.
U-High’s defense may be even more formidable. The Cubs have allowed 91 points all season, yielding an average of 8.2 per contest. Factoring out a 63-35 shootout win over West Feliciana, University High has allowed 5.6 points per game. The Cubs have recorded four shutouts. In the last five games, U-High has tossed three shutouts and held opponents to a total of 15 points. Their closest game was the 26-7 triumph over Zachary.
“We have not seen anyone move the ball on them consistently. The best thing we’ve seen is on scramble throws. The only points they have given up is by the second unit,” Monica said.
The standout on defense is Bryton Constantin, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound linebacker.
“He might be the best linebacker we’ve seen this year. He’s really outstanding. He makes most of the plays. He’s fast. He will strike you. He’s relentless. They free him up a little bit to run to the ball. He’s a deadly tackler. He’s like a missle,” Monica said of Constantin.
Sophomore defensive tackle Jaquelin Roy, at 6-foot-5, 310 pounds, plugs up the middle.
Jordan Clark is one of the team’s corners, opposite Harris.
“Even in the NFL they don’t play with a 230-pound corner,” said Monica, referring to Harris.
The Comets’ season-long game plan of playing keep away likely will be needed on Friday night more than ever against U-High’s prolific offense.
“I think the bottom line is our offense has to move the ball, even though we don’t get touchdowns or points out of it,” Monica said. “We need to move the ball and make them play a long field.
“Hopefully, we can think of some way to get the ball in the end zone. We have to find a way to score a couple of points. By doing that, we have make sure we keep the ball away from them. Keep away is the best defense in the world. That’s important because they are so explosive.”