Road games next test for Tigers, ’Dogs
Both Breaux Bridge and Cecilia found their home fields to be an advantage in the first round of the state high school football playoffs last week, notching wins over Sam Houston and Brusly, respectively.
But the road gets tougher this week as both parish teams must travel to meet their regional opponents.
Coach Mike Mowad’s 8-2 Tigers, who easily handled Sam Houston of Moss Bluff, 31-13, head north to play the #7-seeded Tigers of Neville (8-3) in Monroe.
Cecilia (8-2) struggled a bit early in their game with Brusly, but struck for three second half touchdowns in a 35-20 win over the Panthers. The Bulldogs travel to Independence in Tangipahoa Parish Friday to take on the 8-2 Tigers in the Class 3A division regionals.
Things really seem to be coming together now for the Tigers, whose mostly junior offensive backfield accounted for 233 rushing yards and another 188 through the air against Sam Houston last Friday. Breaux Bridge scored on its first four possessions to pretty much put the game out of reach early.
“It was a good feeling to see our offense move the ball so well,” Mowad commented Monday. “All of our running backs are finally healthy and (quarterback) Hunter (Landry) is getting more confidence. Our offensive line is starting to take control up front and we’ve been able to spread the ball around more.”
The Tiger defense, which has allowed only 67 points over 10 games, more than lived up to its reputation and coaches were able to let reserves finish up the contest and gain valuable experience.
The Neville Tigers are not an unfamiliar foe for the BB coaching staff. The two teams last met in the semifinal round of the 2005 playoffs when The Bridge handed the Monroe team a 16-0 shutout.
Neville has lost three games this season, but all to quality foes including Ruston, Bastrop and Byrd. They employ a high-powered spread offense that has been averaging almost 33 points per game. “They’ve got a phenomenal tailback who’s quick as a cat,” says Mowad. “Their quarterback is very athletic and they’ve got a huge offensive line.”
Mowad added that while the Neville defense is not especially big, “they’re very quick.”
“We’re stressing to our kids this week that we’ve got to take the playoffs one game at a time,” adds Mowad. “It will take extra effort and concentration, especially having to make that long trip to Monroe. As you advance in the playoffs, the teams get better and better.”
If the Tigers beat Neville they would move to the quarterfinals at home against the winner of the Benton-Shaw game
Going into last week’s game, Bulldog coach Terry Martin had a lot of respect for Brusly, and the Panthers showed they were worthy opponents through the first three quarters of play, knotting the score early in the third quarter before two big touchdowns by Marcus Wiltz broke the game open in the final stanza.
The talented senior finished with 182 yards and two touchdowns rushing and also caught a 31-yard TD pass.
“Brusly did a real good job of mixing their plays and our defense had a little trouble adjusting,” admitted Martin. “Our kids just didn’t seem very focused in practice last week. I hope Brusly helped open their eyes to the fact that you really have to be on top of things in the playoffs.”
Cornerback Lamar Williams missed last week’s game but Martin expects him to be mended from bruises he suffered in an auto accident earlier this month and ready to go Friday.
Independence presents another big challenge for the Bulldogs as the Tiger team from Tangipahoa Parish has only losT to 5A power John Ehret and District 10-3A champion Amite. Over the past five weeks the Tiger offense has averaged almost 38 points per game.
“We’ll be facing probably the best receiver we’ve seen all year,” says Martin. “And the quarterback is a good sized kid who’s really hard to bring down. Their running backs also look good and they’re just very talented overall. Defensively, they’ve got good size, especially in their down linemen.”
Should the Bulldogs defeat Independence, they will next face the winner of the Westlake-Patterson regional game. Either way, Cecilia is assured of the home field in the quarterfinals.