BOBBY ARDOIN Editor/Consulting Writer
Six of seven St. Landry Parish football programs that qualified for the postseason are scheduled to engage in first-round contests Friday night.
Three of those teams – Opelousas High, Eunice High and St. Edmund – host their opponents, while No. 8 Opelousas Catholic, the highest seeded parish playoff team, has a first-round bye.
Port Barre and Northwest will travel long distances for their first-round road games. Westminster Christian Academy plays in Eunice for the second time in three weeks.
St. Landry football programs ended 2023 with an overall 47-43 regular season record and a 52 percent winning percentage.
Here’s a brief look at the playoff matchups Friday night.
No. 21 Rayne (6-4) at No. 12 Opelousas High (7-3)
Opelousas finished second in District 5-4A after playing eight road games. The Tigers are led offensively by running back D’Shaun Ford (1,675 rushing yards) and quarterback Zach Malveaux (2,200 total yards). Wide receiver Corey Fontenot has caught a school-record 12 touchdown passes this year.
Rayne finished as a runner up in District 3-4A, but the Wolves possess an offense that concerns head coach Jimmy Zachery, Jr.
“Rayne has some players and they also have some playmakers that give you problems. You can’t take anyone lightly at this point. If you don’t come out and bring your game, then you are going to be the one who loses.,” Zachery said.
No. 19 Breaux Bridge (5-5) at No. 14 Eunice High (7-3)
Breaux Bridge finished in third place in District 5-4A, while Eunice was the runner up in 3-4A.
Eunice, which features a strong running game, has had no problem scoring points the whole season. In four of five district games, the Bobcats scored more than 40 points.
Breaux Bridge was considered a top preseason challenger in 5-4A, but the Tigers languished around .500 before winning three of the last four.
No. 19 Westminster Christian (5-5) at No. 14 St. Edmund (7-3)
These two parish teams played one another in a Week 9 District 6-1A contest. St. Edmund won that contest 26-13 as running back KeVon Johnson rushed for over 200 yards.
Westminster, in a first season under head coach Byron Porter, is in the select playoffs for the first time in five years. The Crusaders lost their last two games of the regular season by a combined 81-19, but WCA scored a key district victory over Sacred Heart in Week 8.
St. Edmund had an outside opportunity to grab a share of first place in 6-1A last Friday night, but OCS defeated the Blue Jays 56-12 in Eunice. At one point this year, St. Edmund had won six straight.
No. 22 Northwest (7-3) at No. 11 Franklin Parish (7-3)
Northwest won a share of the 4-3A title this year and missed winning an eighth game by three points.
The Raiders’ title is the first at the school since 2016. Northwest enters the playoffs after winning five of the last six contests.
“We are really pleased at getting a share of the district championship. I’d rather have a piece of a championship than no piece at all. This team has done something that hasn’t been done in awhile,” said Northwest head football coach Chris Edwards.
Northwest running back has gained 1,330 yards and scored 21 touchdowns, while running back Craig Malveaux has carried for an average of 9.62 yards.
Edwards says return-man Samuel Leday has a 44-yard average and a pair of touchdowns.
Franklin Parish, located in Winnsboro, has a number of quality athletes that will cause the Raiders some issues, Edwards said.
“They have some good-looking athletes who play lean, long and fast. Their losses this season are to some excellent teams that are seeded high in the playoffs,” Edwards said.
No. 22 Port Barre at No. 11 South Plaquemines
Port Barre is back in the state football playoffs following a six-season absence.
First-year head coach Brent Angelle said the Red Devils’ Nation has embraced his team, which won three of the last four regular season games.
“The buzz about football is getting higher in the community. I think what we have done has turned a lot of heads. I feel that we are ahead of schedule in what we want to accomplish, but there is still a long way to go,” Angelle added.
South Plaquemines (8-2) , located in Buras, is a playoff-rich team that has played for past football championships.
“They have playoff history and from what we have seen, they can present your defense with some matchup problems with the ability to get good athletes into space,” Angelle added.
Port Barre received an infusion of offensive strength late in the season when running backs Keenan Hardy and Markell Mallet returned from injuries.
The Devils have also passed for over 1,000 yards this year, Angelle said.