Donaldsonville (8-3) at Sterlington (11-0), Friday, 7 p.m.
Sterlington has spent the week gearing up to defend a big-play pass attack in preparation for Friday's 7 p.m. second round Class 3A home playoff game against the Donaldsonville Tigers.
Donaldsonville, the No. 17 seed, won a 35-29 thriller over No. 16 Union Parish last week for its first postseason victory in three years.
Union, the Panthers' District 2-3A rival, is the only common foe on the Donaldsonville and Sterlington schedules. Trailing 15-13 at intermission, the Panthers outscored the Farmers 27-0 in the second half en route to a 40-15 Week 9 victory.
Donaldsonville (8-3) started the season 5-0 with wins over Assumption (36-27), White Castle (50-8), Port Allen (44-13), Morgan City (44-6) and Livonia (30-0) before finishing 2-3 in tough District 10-3A. Starting conference play 0-2, the Tigers bowed to St. James (26-22) and St. Charles (35-12), beat Lusher Charter (54-16) and Haynes Academy (44-0) and lost to De La Salle (38-14) in the regular season finale.
All three of Donaldsonville's losses came at the hands of quality opponents. De La Salle and St. Charles are the No. 1 and 3 seeds in Division III while St. James occupies the No. 4 spot in the Class 3A bracket.
Donaldsonville averages 331.6 yards per game (172.8 rushing, 158.8 passing). Despite the balanced numbers, Sterlington coach Lee Doty says the Tigers prefer to air it out.
"They have three receivers over 6-2 and they like to throw the football," Doty said. "Even though they have a big running back who is tough to tackle, they prefer to throw.
"The challenge for us is to come up with some different alignments and make them run the football to beat us. We have to figure out a way to get more pressure on the quarterback and make him uncomfortable back there."
Quarterback Jaylin Williams has completed 83-of-148 passes for 1,582 yards with 14 touchdowns and only three interceptions. Williams is also the Tigers' third-leading rusher with 62 carries for 317 yards and three scores.
Jemon Pleasant (124-770-11) and Raeland Johnson (76-577-5) form a solid backfield tandem.
Ladarius Johnson (35 receptions, 758 yards, 9 TDs), who averages 21.7 yards per catch, is Jaylin Williams' primary target. James Gipson (14-369-5) averages an incredible 36.5 ypc.
Two members of the Tigers' starting defensive line have verbally committed to Division I schools in 6-3, 256-pound end Tahj Brown and 6-2, 282 tackle Davon Wright. Brown has pledged to Houston while Wright is a Tulane commit.
Wright (61 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 3 sacks) leads the team in tackles. Brown has logged 50 tackles, 4 TFL and 4 sacks while splitting time between end and linebacker.
End Kaddarion Jones has also been a disruptive force up front with 51 tackles, 20 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and a team-high 6 sacks.
Among the Tigers' remaining key defenders are cornerbacks Brandon Williams (32 tackles, 10 TFL) and Savon Landry (37 tackles, 3 INTs), strong safety Travis Joseph (50 tackles) and free safety Christian Bell (19 tackles, 2 INTs).
Sterlington (11-0), the No. 1 seed, is coming off of a 63-30 first-round victory over Baker. Despite winning by a comfortable margin, the Panthers got off to their customary slow start. Sterlington was fortunate to hold a 28-22 halftime lead as Baker fumbled out of the back of the end zone in the waning seconds of the first half.
Doty is looking for a 48-minute effort this week.
"I would like for our kids to come out excited about playing in the second round and playing at home, and have a fast start," Doty said. "We still haven't played our best football game. We haven't peaked, and you don't want to be sitting at home without peaking. This is the time of the year where you have to start firing on all cylinders if you are going to go any further.
"I don't think we have played as well as we can, probably since the Calvary game. This is the week to get it going."
Strong tackle Trey Rugg, strong guard Whit Buffington, center Landon Jinks, quick guard Brock Risinger and quick tackles Chandler Jones and Jack Anderson power an offense which averages 317.4 yards rushing (7.3 yards per carry) and 75.5 yards passing per game.
Tailback Austin Dupree (162 carries, 1,414 yards, 17 TDs) and quarterback Carson Clowers (60-619-8) pace the Panthers offensively.
Linebacker Dawson Snell (106 tackles, 11 TFL, 3 sacks, 2 INTs, 5 forced fumbles) and tackle Chandler Moncrief (60 tackles, 6 TFL, 3 sacks) are Sterlington's defensive enforcers.
Rounding out the starting unit are ends Tanner Coley (49 tackles, 4 TFL, 3.5 sacks) and Justin Fuller (25 tackles, 2 sacks), nose tackle Colby Rivera (34 tackles, 2.5 sacks), linebackers Chase Carter (40 tackles) and Bailyn McKoin (31 tackles), cornerbacks Dorian Eddins (34 tackles, 2 INTs) and Trey Eddins (39 tackles, 2 INTs) and safeties Trevor Jones (55 tackles) and Chris Parker (34 tackles).
NEXT: Friday's winner will be matched against the No. 9 Loranger-No. 8 Richwood winner in the quarterfinal round.
Other second round pairings include No. 12 Iota at No. 5 Kaplan, No. 20 Madison Prep at No. 4 St. James, No. 14 Northwest at No. 30 Westlake, No. 11 Berwick at No. 6 West Feliciana, No. 10 Jennings at No. 7 Church Point and No. 2 Iowa at No. 18 Crowley.
WEEKLY WINNERS: Sterlington's Week 11 Players of the Week were Jordan Townsend (offense), Dawson Snell (defense), Anthony Smith (special teams), Luke Taylor (scout team offense) and Zach Crain (scout team defense).