When St. James takes on Kaplan in the Class 3A quarterfinals Friday night in Vacherie, the Wildcats will have some experience facing the Pirates’ style of offense.
Kaplan runs the Wing-T, a defense the Wildcats have faced against the E.D. White Cardinals and Marksville Tigers. The two times St. James has faced the Wing-T, the Wildcats fared well. SJH handed E.D. White its only regular-season loss with a 27-21 overtime win while the Wildcats eliminated Marksville from the playoffs with a 39-0 triumph to open the postseason.
Yet, not all Wing-T attacks are created equal.
“They have a couple of what I call ‘spin-off’ plays. They run plays off of other plays,” St. James Robert Valdez said. “If you try to take one away, then they have a play to take advantage of that. Then they have a counter for that.
“They will run the buck sweep. They will fake the buck sweep and run the counter the other way. They will run the inside dive real hard and they will have a play-action pass off of it. They run an outside sweep.”
A difference between Marksville and Kaplan, Valdez said, is the Pirates are a lot more condensed.
“They (The Tigers) want to run the ball straight up inside. These guys (the Pirates) will get to the edge on you and they will do some things outside,” said Valdez.
Where Kaplan and Marksville are similar is through a tactic used by the offensive line.
“These guys fire off the ball. I call them ‘ankle eaters.’ They fire off the ball like hunting dogs. You have to hold them back. They cut everybody – the linemen, the linebackers, the safety,” Valdez said.
Kaplan’s main threat on offense is running back Mac Thibeaux.
Other runners for Kaplan include fullback Braylon Romero and Logan Roy. Trae Case is the quarterback and Mathew Roden is a threat at wingback.
The Pirates feature a big tight end in 6-foot-5, 264-pound Quintlan Cobb.
“They will throw it to him on the play-action from time-to-time if you start over-committing to the run. It’s almost like an unbalanced set. All he does is block down and block out. If he blocks out, they run dive. If he blocks down, they run the buck sweep. When you have a big guy that is that athletic, you have to be able to sustain him a little bit,” Valdez said.
Anchoring the offensive line are Aaron Hebert and Austin Stelly, a pair of all-district linemen in 2016.
Defensively, the Pirates will switch from an odd to an even front, according to Valdez.
“They give you a three-man front, like a 3-4 and then they will go to a 4-2-5. They play a lot of zone coverage,” said Valdez.
“They are a blue-collar team. They will play their best guys. I think the only guy that really doesn’t go both ways is Thibeaux because he runs the ball so much. They want to keep him fresh,” Valdez said.
One difference between St. James and Friday’s opponent comes in the area of size.
“This will be probably one of the few times, with the exception of Cobb; we may be the bigger team. There is a difference between game speed and quickness. We have a lot of speed but they play with a lot of game speed and quickness just because they are so comfortable with their schemes. They have been playing their schemes for so long,” Valdez said.
Kaplan, the No. 5 seed, enters Friday’s game at 9-3, the same mark of the fourth-seeded Wildcats. The Pirates’ losses have been Acadiana, Welsh and Notre Dame of Crowley. The Pirates losses came over the first five weeks of the season and they have not lost since.
In Kaplan’s loss to Acadiana, the Pirates managed to hold onto the football for the entire third quarter.
With the Pirates featuring that type of ability, it will be up to St. James to make the most of its possessions if the Wildcats are to advance to the semifinals, according to Valdez.
“You have to be able to make your possessions count. We know they will try to keep our offense on the sideline by just moving the chains offensively. We will have to make our plays count,” the St. James coach said.