Bastrop (9-2) at Edna Karr (12-0), Friday, 7 p.m., Behrman Stadium (Algiers)
To be the man, you gotta beat the man. Woooooo! — Former professional wrestling champion Ric Flair
Bastrop has its own turnover belt. To claim the ultimate prize — the Class 4A state championship trophy — the Rams must first unseat the reigning champion. Bastrop (9-2), the No. 9 seed, will get its shot at Edna Karr (12-0) in Friday's 7 p.m. quarterfinal matchup at Behrman Stadium in Algiers.
THE CHAMPION: Winners of 25 straight, the two-time defending state champion Cougars are the undisputed kingpin of 4A football.
"At the end of the day, this is the game," Bastrop coach Adrian Burnette said. "It's more than the district championship, it's more than Neville — not to minimize that — but the season is wrapped around this game. Whether it's this round, the next round or the 'Dome — this is the team you have to play.
"To be the best, you have to beat the best. For the past two-plus years, Edna Karr has been the epitome of the best."
Originally a junior high, Edna Karr has quickly established itself as a state power since adding grades 9-12 in the early 1990s. Making 10 appearances in the Superdome Classic, the Cougars have won four state championships (1993, 2012, 2016, 2017). Karr's success hasn't been limited to athletics as the school has twice received National Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence recognition.
"They have established a great culture there," said Burnette, who became familiar with Edna Karr during his time as offensive coordinator at St. Augustine. "I really applaud their administration and coaches. They have built the type of program that we see at Neville and West Monroe. When you look at their program, you can understand why it's so easy for them to say, 'Next man up.'"
Bastrop once stood in Karr's shoes, winning three straight state titles from 2005-07, followed by a state semifinal appearance in 2008. Burnette is using Karr as a model in his efforts to bring the Rams back to the top.
"I am hoping we can do the same thing Edna Karr has done at Bastrop, not only with our football, but without our academics, our basketball and our culture," Burnette said. "That's my goal. We had that at one time, and we need to get it back. Our teachers, coaches and administration is just as good as theirs. We just have to understand what we want out of our culture."
THE QBs: Ironically, Burnette has had a hand in the development of both quarterbacks.
Karr quarterback Leonard Kelly was an eighth-grader when Burnette was at St. Aug.
"Leonard was a great athlete even then," Burnette said. "You could tell he was going to be a stud one day. I haven't seen him in four years. I'm anxious to see him."
Upon returning to Bastrop, Burnette began grooming Quaterius Hawkins, a former wide receiver, as the quarterback of the future.
"One of the reasons this matchup is so good is that our quarterback has been playing lights out," Burnette said. "Karr has the No. 1 defense in the state. We have the No. 3 defense in the state. This is the matchup everybody wants to see. Their defense is good and fast. Our defense is good and fast. It's the same way on offense. They have kids who can take it to the house on any play and we have kids who can take it to the house at any time."
Burnette expects the quarterbacks and the guys up front to determine the outcome.
"I think it's going to come down to offensive line play and quarterback play," Burnette said. "What's going to make the difference is probably the quarterback. Whichever one comes out and plays lights out is probably going to win the game."
THE CHALLENGER: Both teams are loaded at the skill positions. Running back Ronnie 'Action' Jackson and wide receivers Khalfant Simmons, Larry Junior, Destyn Pazon, Dony'e Brooks, Dalyn Hill and Michael Corner complement Kelly for the Cougars. Hawkins is surrounded by the likes of running back Kyrese Lawrence, wide receivers Christian Smith, Calvert "Big Body" Johnson, A.J. Fenceroy and Jordan Mansfield.
Bastrop played with its entire starting offensive line intact for the first time in two-plus months in last week's 40-14 second round victory over Westgate. Left guard Quandarious Rhodes returned from a two-week absence. Right guard James Carter was originally ruled out for the season due to a shoulder injury, but was recently cleared to play. Rounding out the Rams' starting interior are left tackle Carterius Johnson, center Carter Ellison and right tackle Terrion Morgan.
Bastrop's defense was spectacular against Westgate, which scored both of its touchdowns off of miscues by the Rams' punting team. Defensive tackle Jordan Doaty's scoop and score brought the Rams within 7-6 late in the first quarter, and the unit later came through with a pair of goal line stands.
End T.J. Blanch and strong safety C.J. Mullins, a pair of four-year starters, lead the Rams defensively along with third-year starting cornerback Phillip Jackson.
Traveling is nothing new for the Rams who have are making their fourth trip to the Crescent City in two years. Bastrop visited Carver twice last season and played Brother Martin in Week 6.
LAST TIME: Bastrop is making its first semifinal appearance since 2015 when it wasted a 22-0 first half lead in a 48-36 loss to Karr at Ram Stadium.
Aldon Clark, currently a redshirt freshman at Grambling State University, threw for 325 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for a touchdown to lead the Cougars.
Jerry Powell was spectacular in his final game for the Rams, passing for 312 yards and three touchdowns and running for a pair of scores.
PRACTICE: After practicing at Wossman on Monday due to rain, the Rams returned to their own field Tuesday afternoon. The team will depart for New Orleans late Thursday afternoon.
NEXT: The Bastrop-Karr winner will be be matched against the No. 5 Lakeshore-No. 4 Neville victor in the semifinals.
In the lower half of the bracket, No. 6 Leesville visits No. 3 St. Martinville and No. 2 Warren Easton is at No. 7 Shreveport Northwood.