Months of hard work, and successfully navigating a demanding schedule, has earned the St. Mary’s football team one of its primary goals, a home game in the state playoffs tonight at 7 in Turpin Stadium.
It gets better. The Tigers (8-2) get to line up against the team that ended their 2020 season, Metairie Park Country Day, in the first round of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s 16-team Division IV playoffs.
The memories of that 24-10 loss a year ago have fueled St. Mary’s coaches, players and fans all week.
“I remember hearing some of our guys coming off the field saying they wanted another shot at Country Day. Well, we’re getting it, and it’s an exciting opportunity,” said St. Mary’s coach Aaron York.
York bulked up his team’s non-district schedule this season, and it paid off. St. Mary’s played higher classification teams each of the first five weeks, losing only to the No. 2 seed in the Class 3A playoffs, Abbeville. That 4-1 start, combined with a 4-1 district record, earned the Tigers a No. 7 seed and a home game tonight.
York and his team have distinct memories of the Cajuns from last year’s matchup, and intense preparation this week.
“You don’t just see outstanding athletes watching them on film, but they are always in the right place at the right time offensively and defensively. They are not going to beat themselves,” said York. “We have to play error-free football, handle our assignments, because if we don’t, they will be in position to make the plays.
“They will be aggressive blitzing with their linebackers, from all different directions, so we’ve got to be ready up front, and our quarterback’s got to have his eyes up on his hot reads. They play sound defense. They’re in the gaps they’re supposed to fill, and when the ball is thrown they’re in the right place.
“They’ve got a good running back, a good quarterback and 2-3 capable receivers, and they’ve been lighting up the scoreboard lately,” said York. “They’re much better in the kicking game than we’ve seen all year long. We’re going to have to play sound football.”
The Cajuns (5-2) have won their last five and have averaged 49 points in that streak.
The Tigers have lit up the scoreboard consistently all year long, scoring no less than 21 points in each game. They’ve done it despite a rash of injuries that have sidelined, at times, their starting quarterback (Adam Parker), a top receiver (Ethan Busby) and a play-making safety (Mixon Bankston), along with other regulars.
“This is the first week we’ve had everybody back healthy, on the field, and that will be great,” York said.
“This was our seniors’ goal. They wanted to host a playoff game, and win it. We’re halfway there. We’ve been in the playoffs, but we haven’t taken advantage of the opportunity. I think we will seize the opportunity and move on to the second round.”
Tickets, $10 each, will be sold at the gate at Turpin Stadium.
The winner of tonight’s contest will be paired against the survivor of No. 2 Southern Lab and 15th seeded Hanson Memorial.