Eagles travel east, Bulldogs north in opening round of grid playoffs

Tryve Brackin
The St. John Eagles, the runners-up in District 7-2A, toppled St. Helena Central in the first round of playoff action. The Eagles tentatively host Farmerville in Round 2.

St. John High’s Eagles will be traveling east, while White Castle High’s Bulldogs will go north tonight (Friday) when the first round of the state prep football playoffs kick off the postseason.

SJHS and WCHS were the only two Iberville Parish clubs to qualify this year for the playoffs. They were the only two winning teams from the parish with the Eagles finishing 6-3 and the Bulldogs 5-3. North Iberville High closed with only one victory, while Plaquemine High and East Iberville were winless. Ironically, the only two girl volleyball teams from the parish to notch state playoff berths were from St. John and White Castle.

St. John, the runner-up in the 7-2A district, heads east to tangle with another 6-3 overall football team, the hosting Hawks of St. Helena Central High. The Hawks were the runner-up team in the 9-2A to number eight- seeded St. Thomas Aquinas. The Eagles have never played St. Helena Central, but scrimmaged St. Thomas Aquinas two springs in a row (2006-7) and won both meetings. However, STA has greatly improved. St. Helena Central played and lost against West St. John in the Double A 2004 state championship game. St. Helena Central was seeded number 12 in 2-A, while SJHS received a number 21 seed.

SHCHS will be led by 235-lb. senior fullback-linebacker  Darin Self and quarterback Addarius Sopsher. The Hawks are very big up front with players ranging from 315-lbs to 225-lbs. and have ten senior veterans anchoring their lineup.

White Castle travels to Mangham High for their Class A first-round game tomorrow night. The Bulldogs enter the game with a 5-3 record, runner-up honors in the District 9-A, and a number 27 seed. Hosting Mangham closed with a 8-2 record, runner-up honors in their district behind number two-seeded Ouachita Christian, and a number six seed in Class A.

Mangham, which is located north of Ferriday and Vidalia, was led to an outstanding season by talented QB Josh Wilson, who passed for over 1,500 yards. The defense is led by senior Soloman Ward, while Jessie and Jonathan Harris are passing targets for Wilson.

Top-seeded teams in St. John’s immediate bracket are fifth-seeded Farmerville and fourth-seeded Calvary Baptist. Defending state champ John Curtis and St. Thomas Aquinas are the other top clubs in SJHS’ 2-A bracket. White Castle has third-seed Delta Charter as well as South Cameron and Gueydan in their immediate bracket. Other top teams in their bracket are second-seeded Ouachita Christian, seventh-seeded Christian Life, and district champ West St. John.

Neighboring Brusly High (5-4 and 23rd-seeded) travels to tenth-seeded Cecilia High, while Port Allen High (5-3 and 24th-seeded) goes to ninth-seeded Richwood High. Second and third seeded Westlake and Amite are the top two clubs in Brusly’s bracket, while Port Allen has number one seed Notre Dame of Crowley and number four seed and district champ St. Charles in their bracket.

Donaldsonville High beat St. John last week for the District 7-2A championship and the Tigers finished with a perfect 8-0 record. The Tigers notched a number six seed and begins the playoffs by hosting number 27 seed Westminster Christian. Second seed and third seed Evangel Christian and St. James are the top two seeds in DHS’ bracket.

PREDICTIONS: Both SJHS and WCHS face uphill, but not impossible, battles on the road, which is the norm for most district runner-up teams. White Castle could have the tougher assignment, but not by much. St. Helena Central is a senior ball club and St. John must have an outstanding, mistake-free effort to come out a winner on the road. WCHS must stop the vaulted passing attack of Mangham and to do that senior RB Jyruss Edwards and the Bulldog offensive line must dominate time of possession. Both teams do have typical Class A football depth. SJHS goes in a 6-point underdog, while WCHS is a 10-pointer. Brusly and Port Allen are also underdogs and must rise to the occasion to advance.

FORMER PLAQUEMINE HIGH football standout Ja’Kouri Williams, now in his senior year at University of Tennessee, has turned in a trio out outstanding efforts for the Volunteers’ specialty team units in recent Southeastern Conference games.

Williams, who was legendary in the local prep gridiron competition for his outstanding speed and ability to make big offensive plays, turned in ten outstanding specialty team plays against the University of Georgia. Against Mississippi State he recorded a trio of tackles and had one forced fumble. And, against the University of Alabama, the senior was in on five big specialty team plays.

Williams always performed very well in games against LSU during his college career and had a handful of outstanding plays for the Vol kickoff and punt units. He was a standout tailback and quarterback for Coach Don Jones at PHS.     As a junior Ja”Kouri rushed for 1,464 yards and 28 touchdowns and earned all-state, and all-metro. He was a multiple all-parish and all-district pick for the Green Devils.