High school football: Airline, Haughton eye semifinal berths

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The Airline Vikings and Haughton Buccaneers will be looking to advance to the semifinals of the Class 5A playoffs Friday night.

In quarterfinal games, Airline (10-2), the No. 8 seed, faces No. 1 Acadiana (12-0) at M.D. Ray Field at Airline Stadium, and Haughton (10-2), the No. 11 seed, plays No. 19 Mandeville (9-3) at Harold E. Harlan Stadium.

Both games kick off at 7.

Airline reached the quarterfinals with victories over No. 25 Southside 55-21 and No. 24 East St. John 45-29.

Acadiana has already knocked one Bossier Parish team out of the playoffs, defeating No. 32 Benton 78-28 in the first round. The Wreckin’ Rams defeated No. 16 Walker 49-0 in the second.

Acadiana has been one of the state’s most successful programs this century. Since 2006, the Wreckin’ Rams have won four state titles with the last one coming in 2014. In 2013, they defeated Parkway 77-41 in the championship game.

Last year, Acadiana lost to eventual champion Zachary 26-14 in the quarterfinals.

Acadiana is known for its veer option offense. Against Walker, the Wreckin’ Rams amassed 507 yards on the ground. Dillon Monette gained 254 and has set the school career rushing record with more than 5,000 yards.

Acadiana, the District 3-5A champion, is averaging 51.8 points per game and allowing 16.6. In their last nine games, the Wreckin’ Rams are averaging almost 60 points.

Playing the role of underdog is nothing new for Airline. The Vikings were underdogs in two key district games and came out on top.

Airline is in the quarterfinals for the second time in three years. In 2017, the Vikings went toe to toe with eventual state champion Zachary before falling 34-24.

One of the reasons for Airline’s success this season has been the play of the defense. It will obviously face its biggest test Friday.

Offensively, the Vikings have been effective most of the season. Their two highest scoring games have been the first two in the playoffs.

Last week, Alex Garcia completed 22 of 35 passes for 205 yards.

Rovelle Young rushed for 101 yards and scored four touchdowns. Kevin Pouncy caught eight passes for 85 yards. Daniel Smith had four for 82.

All the players mentioned above along with tight end Devin Bilbo, receiver Thomas Williams and running back Jamal Johnson have contributed to the Vikings’ success. So has a talented offensive line.

Haughton reached the semifinals with victories over No. 22 Ouachita Parish 28-7 and No. 27 Comeaux 23-21. Mandeville has pulled off two upsets, defeating No. 14 Barbe 38-14 and No. 3 Alexandria 13-12.

The Skippers rallied from a 12-0 deficit against Alexandria and then had to sweat out a 24-yard field goal attempt by the Trojans with 1 second left in the game. It was wide left.

Mandeville went 5-2 in District 6-5A, losing to Fontainebleau 28-16 and Covington 21-14 in the season finale. The Skippers’ lone non-district loss was to Hahnville 34-13 in Week 2.

Mandeville is back in the playoffs after a one-year absence. The Skippers have rebounded from a 3-7 season in 2018.

Devon Tott, a dual-threat quarterback, was the New Orleans metro area’s leading passer in the regular season with more than 2,300 yards and 30 TDs. Will Sheppard was the top receiver with 62 catches for 1,300 yards and 24 TDs.

Tott was injured in the first half last week and running back Jack Henderson replaced him. Henderson, who scored the go-ahead TD with 4:39 left, rushed for 131 yards on 24 carries. He also had 177 on 33 against Barbe as the Skippers have kept the ball on the ground for much of their two playoff games.

Haughton is in the quarterfinals for the first time as a member of Class 5A. The last time the Bucs made the quarterfinals was 2010, the year before they moved up from 4A to 5A. Dak Prescott was the quarterback.

Haughton’s two losses to Airline and Captain Shreve were by a combined 10 points.

Peyton Stovall, who basically missed the final three games of the regular season after suffering an injury early in the Week 7 game against Captain Shreve, returned for the first playoff game. Receiver and backup quarterback CJ McWilliams, who was injured in the second half against Shreve, also returned.

Senior running back Keyshawn Davis has turned in two stellar performances in the playoffs, rushing for 148 yards in the rain against Comeaux and 149 against Ouachita Parish.

Matthew Whitten caught five passes for 77 yards against Ouachita Parish. Receiver Tristan Sweeney had a strong regular season. 

Like Airline’s, Haughton’s success has also been aided by a solid offensive line.

And like Airline, the Bucs’ defense has been outstanding all season.

Middle linebacker Jake St. Andre led the team during the regular season with 92 tackles. Lineman Khaylon Chapple had a school-record 14 sacks and 13 tackles for losses. Logan Wilkerson led the team with four interceptions.

Dylan Turner, Brian Feaster, Sean Hardison, Jacob Stephens, Jonathan Stephens, Thad Clawson, Cade Ebarb, Dylan Frazier and Kishaun Dunbar have all contributed to the defense’s success.