In arguably the most anticipated showdown of the 2009 season, top-ranked Lutcher hosts No. 5 Neville in a Class 4A semifinal. The Bulldogs (13-0) are looking for their second consecutive trip to the Superdome while Neville was last there in 1995 whent he Tigers defeated Hahnville for the Class 5A title.
Neville (11-1) is a mere four points from being perfect this season, the only setback being a 30-27 loss to No. 2-ranked West Monroe in Week 2.
"At first blush I thought this would be the toughest team we would face since Hahnville," Lutcher coach Tim Detillier said. "After further review, I think this is the best team we'll face all season."
Detillier has cause to be impressed. Quarterback Taylor Burch, who is committed to Louisiana Tech, is having a solid year thanks in large part to standout Jeremy Runner -- the leading receiver and second leading rusher. And running back Rico Pollard, with more than 860 yards rushing has been virtually impossible to stop.
"They have the big quarterback, they have the good running back and when he goes down or out for a rest, this No. 7 (Tyler Buford), this waterbug and 25, Runner," Detillier added. "I mean, those guys are good. Good receivers. They have a big, strong offensive line. They can run it or throw it."
Lutcher counters with the leading Mr. Football candidate in quarterback Gavin Webster. Last week he completed 15 of 24 passes for 230 yards and four touchdowns and rushed 12 times for 91 yards and two more touchdowns in a 48-20 win over Huntington. Webster has 26 rushing touchdowns and 38 passing touchdowns with just five interceptions. In 13 games he has 1,238 yards rushing, passed for 2,954 yards and accounted for 64 touchdowns.
His top recevier, junior Jarvis Landry, has caught 79 passes for 1,398 yards and 15 touchdowns. He is also a talented kick returner and a hard-hitting linebacker. Sophomore running back Daniel Taylor has rushed for 1,318 yards and 17 touchdowns.
And the offensive line has been tremendous throughout the season, despite the fact that the Bulldogs have lost three starters for the season.
"I don't know if we have a harder working group in the offensive line," Detillier said. "They are here first on Saturday morning and they are here last on Monday and Tuesday night. And it is showing in their performance. They are going to fight you. From whistle to whistle everybody is going to know those little guys from Lutcher get after you."
"And I think that they think that their defense is the strongest part of the team," Detillier said. "They are so strong up front. It's definitely a mismatch because we are so little. That's what I was concerned with going into Hahnville. Once again we don't match up well with their size and that's nothing new. We're small every week. But when you are that size and you can move, they are a little agile, that concerns me. I don't care what you run offensively or defensively, if somebody is controlling that line of scrimmage, that's a problem. That has my attention on both sides of the ball."
Lutcher's defense is overshadowed by the gaudy offense, but it has been solid. Defensive lineman Derick Matherne leads the team in tackles and has a team-high sacks. Other key contributors on the line have been Justin Arbuthnot, junior Tyler Laiche, and sophomore Blake Scott.
The secondary is outstanding, led by Tulsa commit Todd Washington, Rico Albert, Austin Roussel, David Washington, junior Anthony Milazzo, and sophomore Jordan Batiste.
"It's going to come down to who makes the biggest or most mistakes, whether they are mental or physical," Detillier said. "It's always amplified at this time of the year. Even a simple offsides or illegal procedure, if it happens at the wrong time, in a game of this magnitude."
The Tigers are as complete a team as they come. They are talented on offense with the ability to run the ball and pass it effectively. Place kicker Matthew Squyres has been solid and Reagan Wise is averaging more than 37 yards per punt. The defense has also up to the challenge each week. It will need to be against the most dynamic offense it has seen so far. The Tigers will be motivated by the chance to reach the Dome after a number of letdowns in the recent past.
KEY TO THE GAME: Lutcher
Lutcher's offense has made headlines all season long and for good reason. The defense, however, will hold the fate of the Bulldogs' season. Neville's offense has the ability to score in so mant ways so Lutcher will need to hold the Tigers in check. With Jarvis landry playing linebacker and the secondary the team's most talented corps, the Bulldogs have the makings of being up for the challenge. And they are also at home and will not be playing in the wintery North Louisiana night.
PelicanPreps Game of the Week Prediction.
Lutcher has won 22 straight games and is 47-6 over the past four seasons, including 15-1 in the playoffs. Neville is 10-4 in the playoffs over the past five seasons. So both programs know how to win big games. This contest will come down to defense and which one can impose its will on the other's offense. Both defenses will take their lumps in this one, but in the end the Bulldogs will be too much. ... Lutcher 35, Neville 28
Breaking down the other Class 4A game
KEY TO THE GAME: Salmen
The Spartans have played one of the most difficult schedules in the state and have lost just two games -- both in OT. And one to this week's opponent and district rival Franklinton. The defense is arguably the strongest part of the team, but the offense is strong as well with Matt Lipham under center and a long list of skilled position contributors.
KEY TO THE GAME: Franklinton
You get the sense that there really is no telling how many points the Demons could score on any given night. With QB Terrance Magee running the show and running back Josh Robinson running behind a massive OL and past would-be tacklers, Franklinton is the state's highest scoring offense. In the playoffs, the defense, led by Joshua Marks, has been impressive. That streak needs to continue.
PelicanPreps Game of the Week Prediction.
The Demons pulled off the win (20-14) on the road, granted, needing OT to do it, in the first meeting between the two. Chalk that up to a valuable experience for Franklinton to draw from tonight. Salmen will be tremendously motivated for this game considering they lost in last year's semifinals on a controversial ending. It will once again be an ending to remember, but the Demons will have fonder memories to lean on. ... Franklinton 28, Salmen 27