Sterlington (12-2) vs. Eunice (12-2), Friday, 7 p.m., Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans
Sterlington and Eunice both won in the rain and mud in last week's semifinal round. Playing conditions won't be a factor this week as the two teams move indoors to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for the Class 3A state championship game. Starting time is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday.
Eunice is the No. 2 seed while Sterlington is ranked No. 4. Both teams are 12-2.
HISTORY: Making its fourth overall appearance in the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Prep Classic, the Panthers are pursuing their second state title in three years. Sterlington stopped Madison Prep on a 2-point conversion in the waning seconds of the 2016 Class 2A state championship game to preserve a 28-27 victory.
Lee Doty is the third coach to lead the Panthers to the 'Dome. Dell Ashley guided the Panthers to state runner-up finishes in 2002 and 2003. Jason Thompson, who succeeded Ashley as the school's principal, directed Sterlington to its first state championship in program history in 2016. Doty, an assistant to Thompson in 2016, was promoted to head coach when Thompson entered the administration field.
Doty is taking his second team to the finals, having coached Division IV state runner-up Natchitoches St. Mary's in 2015.
While the Panthers have had some turnover in the head coaching position, Paul Trosclair has been a fixture on the Bobcats' sidelines.
Eunice won its last state title in 1992, followed by state runner-up finishes in 1997 and '98.
2-3A VS. 5-3A: Sterlington is facing its third District 5-3A foe in four weeks. After outlasting Church Point 57-56 in overtime, the Panthers edged District 2-3A rival Union Parish 13-12 in the quarterfinals and upended No. 1 seed Iota 21-12 on the road last week.
Eunice is facing its second 2-3A opponent of the postseason, having pulled out a 13-12 second round decision at Wossman in Round 2.
The Bobcats' road to the 'Dome also includes a 34-24 first round win over Brusly, a 41-12 quarterfinal conquest of Madison Prep and a 19-0 shutout over Kaplan last week.
ABOUT EUNICE: In what has become a familiar theme throughout the playoffs, stopping the run is at the top of the Panthers' keys to victory list.
Sophomore quarterback Simeon Ardoin can pass effectively — he was 5-of-5 vs. Kaplan — but the Bobcats usually choose to run.
Senior Avery Lee is "Mr. Everything" for the Bobcats. Besides leading the team in rushing, he is one of the team's best defenders as a linebacker and also handles the punting.
Running back Deon Ardoin, the quarterback's twin brother, complements Lee in the Wing-T attack.
Linemen Jordan Oglesby, Alex Hardy and Tyler Darbonne spearhead a defense which limited a powerful Kaplan offense to six first downs and 81 yards rushing.
SHS OFFENSE: Like Sterlington, stopping the running game is a priority for the Bobcats.
In perhaps the game's most intriguing matchup, Eunice's defensive front and Sterlington's offensive line square off in a battle of strength vs. strength.
Strong tackle Trey Rugg, strong guard Tyler Hitt, center Braden Bruscato, quick guard Brock Risinger, quick tackle Jack Anderson and tight end Hixson Street power an offense which averages 287.4 yards rushing and 7.1 yards per carry.
Handling the rock for the Panthers are tailback Dallas Reagor (226 carries, 2,086 yards, 22 TDs), fullbacks Jordan Townsend (116-812-11) and Malik Davis (58-350-3) and quarterback Hayes Crockett (85-349-7).
Crockett completed his only pass attempt last week for 13 yards. For the season, he has completed 48-of-99 passes for 875 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Wide receivers Layton Rainbolt (17 receptions, 317 yards, 6 touchdowns) and Clay Vaughn (7-224-1) and Street (9-131-2) are the primary pass catchers.
SHS DEFENSE: Free safety Dorian Eddins (70 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 4 interceptions) had a career-high 14 stops and forced a fumble to lead the Panthers against Iota.
Dorian is joined in the secondary by older brother Trey Eddins (86 tackles, 5 TFL, 5 INTs) and Reid Handy (30 tackles, 2 INTs) at the corners and Reece Brooks (60 tackles, 2 INTs) at strong safety.
The front four has Justin Fuller (82 tackles, 9 TFL, 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles) and Bryce Still (55 tackles, 6 TFL, 4.5 sacks, 2 FF) at the ends, Colby Rivera (60 tackles, 5 TFL, 1 sack) at nose tackle and Luke Carmichael (56 tackles, 7 TFL, 2.5 sacks) at tackle. Senior interior lineman Idris Enoch came off the bench to post four tackles and a sack against Iota.
Linebackers Cole Jones (127 tackles, 12 TFL, 6 sacks, 2 INTs, 2 FF) and Willie Holloway (109 tackles, 14 TFL, 1 sack, 2 INTs) rank 1-2 on the team in tackles. Rounding out the linebacker crops are Tyler Kaffenberger (47 tackles, 2 TFL, 2 FF), Seth Temple (47 tackles) and Townsend (29 tackles, 3 TFL, 3 sacks).
SHS SPECIALISTS: Freshman Jacob Green is 36-of-36 on extra points and 6-of-6 on field goals with a long of 36.
Vaughn is averaging 33.7 yards on 27 punts.
Rainbolt has returned 16 kickoffs for a 22.5-yard average and one touchdown while running back six punts at a 15.8 clip.
Senior C.J. Colvin is averaging 46.3 yards on three kickoff returns and 44-even on a trio of punt returns. He returned a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns in the Panthers' 49-0 first-round win over W.L. Cohen.
WEEKLY AWARDS: Week 14 Players of the Week were Jordan Townsend on offense, Cole Jones on defense and Clay Vaughn on special teams.
Eclipsing the 100-yard barrier for the fourth time this season, Townsend rushed for 132 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.
Jones recorded a dozen tackles, three stops for negative yardage and a sack.
Vaughn averaged 31.5 yards on four punts, with one downed inside the 20.