Rayne set for rematch with Church Point
CROWLEY – Rivalry games are what make high school football what it is today.
Each year, fans eagerly look forward to those games, circling them on their schedules and engaging in playful trash talk with fans of their opponents.
In most cases, when the game is over, the rivalry is over for a year and the winner owns 52 weeks of bragging rights.
But not in all cases.
Take the rivalry between the Church Point Bears and Rayne Wolves, for instance.
The Bears defeated the Wolves 26-14 in Rayne on Oct. 18 to earn those bragging rights for the second straight season.
But guess what?
Three weeks later, in a replay of the 2011 season, the Bears found out that they would square off once again against the Wolves, this time, like last, in the opening round of the 2012 state playoffs.
Talk about déjà vu!
“Honestly, I would like for someone to figure out what the odds were of that happening again,” said Church Point coach John Craig Arceneaux, whose team defeated Rayne in their 2011 regular-season matchup and then lost to the Wolves in the first-round of the Class 3A playoffs.
“We knew there was a small outside chance it could happen (this year), but it would require a lot of things to happen. And they all happened.
“I’d love to know what the odds are for it to happen a second year in a row. It’s just mind-boggling.”
That it was, and not just to Arceneaux.
Rayne coach Curt Ware was also shocked when he saw the official brackets released Sunday.
“That’s unbelievable,” said Ware, whose team moved up three spots in the power rankings following their Week 10 victory over Northwest. “I never even thought about that being a possibility.
“I didn’t think we’d move up and I definitely didn’t think Church Point would drop 11 spots after losing to a 10-0 team.”
Similar to 2011, the Bears entered the playoffs as the No. 7 seed and were upset by the No. 26 Wolves, 22-14, in Church Point.
This year, the Wolves are the host team after earning the No. 6 seed. The Bears enter as the underdog at No. 27.
“The seedings have flip-flopped from last year, but we’re still going into the game with us having won the regular season game,” said Arceneaux. “Our approach to the game is going to be no different than it was last year, just, hopefully with a different outcome.”
Once again, it will be a battle of what each team does best.
For Rayne, that’s moving the ball and scoring points while Church Point’s strong suit is its defense.
In the two teams’ first meeting this year, the Wolves took a 14-7 advantage in the first half, but the Bears’ took over in the final two frames and outscored Rayne 19-0.
“Our strength has been and will continue to be our defense,” said Arceneaux. “Coach (Eric) Cooley and our defensive staff made some nice adjustments at halftime (the first time we played) to kind of slow down some things that hurt us in the first half and we were able to shut them out.
“The effort of our kids was great and we were able to make some plays and stop some drives.”
In their first meeting with Rayne, Church Point limited the Wolves to 249 total yards of offense, most of which came in the first half.
“I would say, without a doubt, Church Point is the best defensive team that we have played,” said Ware. “They had a lot to do with it (stopping the Wolves) but I felt that we didn’t do a great job either. We can make some adjustments on how we block and a few things that could have helped.
“They did a good job of taking away our inside running game. If we can get the inside running game going, it will help us on the outside.”
Arceneaux’s defense will once again be pushed to the limits by a Rayne offense that is averaging just under 30 points per game.
That offense is led by a trio of running backs, including Acadia Parish leading rusher Jalen Williams, who has racked up 1,265 yards and 14 touchdowns on 172 carries through nine games. He missed last week’s game due to a concussion but he is expected back for Friday’s contest.
Trent Duhon and Javon Cormier filled the void left by Williams and combined for 299 yards and five touchdowns in a 45-14 victory over Northwest.
“Rayne gives you a bunch of formations and they scheme you up pretty good,” said Arceneaux. “And Jalen is as good a back as you’re going to face year in and year out; he runs the ball hard, he’s a big, physical kid and he breaks tackles.
“They just do a great job with the kids that they have.”
Rayne’s defensive unit will also be challenged.
The Bears’ Wing T offense is averaging just over 21 points per game and has gotten progressively better as they year has gone by.
Running back James Bellard leads the charge 886 yards and nine touchdowns on 121 carries.
Also doing damage in the backfield for the Bears are Devin Landry (75-466, 4 TD) and Deion Monroe (21-239, 3 TD).
“In the first five or six games, they were in the pistol,” said Ware. “Once they decided to go back to what they do (Wing-T), they have gotten progressively better.
“They don’t run a whole lot of stuff on offense, but they execute real, real well. I think they are heads and tails better on offense than they were even a month ago.
“We just have to be sound and be in the right place.”
Since it is such a big rivalry, the key for each team will be to get through the next few days and avoid the many distractions that come with a game and matchup of such magnitude.
“This game is going to be hyped up a lot, especially with the way things went last year and here we are again,” said Ware. “To be honest, I’ve been trying to keep that on the back burner. It doesn’t matter who you play, it’s a playoff game; you win or you go home.
“We have to not worry so much about the fact that it is Church Point. It doesn’t matter who it is. We need to get ready to play and play well and not get caught up in the emotion that it is Church Point.”