While bragging rights in St. John Parish are on the line between a pair of schools separated by just over five miles, a district championship and top three seed in the Division III playoffs are the clear goals when Riverside hosts St. Charles Catholic.
The huge District 9-2A showdown Friday night at 7 p.m. will be shown live at SportsNOLA.com.
Regardless of what the numbers state, when Frank Monica is coaching your football team, you figure to compete and have a good team.
The Comets , who won the Class 3A state championship in 2011, have been typically good, as they always are, despite losing 20 of 22 players from last year’s squad which reached the Division III semifinals. They are third in the most recent Division III power ratings.
St. Charles Catholic (6-1, 2-0) went to Lupin Field and scored an impressive 38-19 win over Newman last Friday night. Junior quarterback Lloyd Nash came up big, rushing 24 times for 330 yards and two touchdowns and completing 3-of-3 passes for 30 yards in earning metro prep player of the week honors from SportsNOLA.com and the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation Quarterback Club.
“I was pleased and a little surprised that we moved the ball like we did,” Monica said. “Lloyd helped us so much with the zone read and he made good reads. Our offensive line is making progress. We were able to keep their offense off the field and that was key. Defensively, we bent but did not break. We limited their snaps and big plays by keeping the ball.”
Nash has rushed 86 times for 656 yards and four touchdowns while completing 24-of-50 passes for 322 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.
While Nash is clearly the heart and soul of the St. Charles offense, he got help against Newman.
“Narquez Jones had 100 yards rushing for us last week and we need that productivity moving forward,” Monica said. “Our special teams have been sound. Our kicker, Andrew Rodrigue has 29 touchbacks and he kicked a 46-yard field goal against Newman and he has seven on the year.”
Rodrigue is 6-of-7 in field goal attempts and has made all 22 extra-point attempts to go along with his 29 touchbacks in 37 kickoffs.
Jones has rushed 82 times for 516 yards and seven touchdowns. The top receivers are Joe Chiarella and Jayce Tamplain, each of whom has five receptions. Defensively, Devin Dumas and Wesley Melancon each have a pair of interceptions for the Comets. Melcancon is second on the squad with 25 tackles. The leading tackler is Dellary Oubre, who has 33 stops. Rico Lumar and Gavin St. Pierre each have three sacks for St. Charles Catholic.
Monica knows the formula his team must follow if it wants to pull the upset.
“The format of our offense has to be that we get four yards and stay ahead of the chains to have a shot to beat Riverside,” Monica. “When you are behind the chains, they do a lot of stunts defensively. We must avoid negative yard plays. They are a big play team. Their receivers are huge, with a big size advantage. Their running back, Jeremy Gibson, scares you. He is a downhill guy who is fast.”
The Rebels, who lost in the Division III state championship game to Notre Dame in 2015 are second in the most recent Division III power ratings. Riverside is coming off of a 49-7 win over West St. John. Head coach Bill Stubbs liked what he saw of his team against the Rams.
“I feel better after the way we played at West St. John,” Stubbs said. “There are still some elements we have to improve on. I don’t think we’re anywhere close to being as good as we can be. It is a work in progress but I have seen progress. Now, it comes down to the nuances of the game, the pieces to place properly in the puzzle. We are constantly working hard to get better.”
Riverside has a host of weapons, led by junior quarterback Jordan Loving, who has completed 71-of-129 passes for 927 yards and seven touchdowns with four interceptions while he has rushed for two scores.
Junior Jared Butler stepped in for Loving to rally the Rebels to a come-from-behind win at Newman two weeks ago. He has completed 5-of-8 passes for 49 yards and rushed 10 times for 100 yards and a touchdown and has six receptions for 98 yards and a touchdown after missing the first three games of the season with an injury.
Junior Jeremy Gibson keys the running game with 124 carries for 681 yards and seven touchdowns while senior Hardell Mack has seven carries for 190 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore Kash Foley is the leading receiver with 23 catches for 270 yards and a touchdown, junior Jalen Banks has 16 receptions for 241 yards and two scores and senior Avonti Cannon has 15 catches for 177 yards and a touchdown.
“We have a lot of options on offense but that is a double-edge sword sometimes,” Stubbs said. “You want to make sure you have guys in the right spots and get the ball to your key players.
Defensively, senior linebacker Harrison Heckathorn is the leading tackler with 43 stops, including two sacks, while junior Jared Hymel has 35 tackles with two sacks. Senior defensive back Cardaz Joseph had three interceptions while junior Trey Catoire has a pair of interceptions in the deep for Riverside.
“They have so many weapons,” Monica said. “I don’t think you stop them. You have to slow them down. If it is a high scoring game, we cannot compete. We have to shorten and shrink the game and get it into the fourth quarter.”
Riverside swept St. Charles Catholic last year, winning 35-3 in the regular season and 35-14 in the Division III semifinals.
“It becomes a strategic, as well as a very physical battle,” Stubbs said. “The X’s and O’s come into play when you face them. The kids will be excited to play them but you cannot blow it out of proportion. It is a big rivalry. They are probably the best coached team we will face. Their execution is most impressive. They will give you a lot of different looks on both sides of the ball. They won’t blow assignments and they have a very good quarterback.”