When Louisiana sports fans think about Isidore Newman High School, famous names come to mind.
All three of Archie Manning’s sons, receiver Cooper and quarterbacks Peyton and Eli, played for the Greenies out of New Orleans.
When No. 27 Newman rolls into Shreveport to play at No. 6 Calvary in the first round of the Class 2A playoffs tonight, it brings another prolific passer — Jabiari Tyler.
“I talked to my defensive coordinator, Ronnie Alexander, and he has (Tyler) starred, circled and everything else,” Calvary coach John Bachman Sr. said. “He’s Newman’s heartbeat. He has great feet, he’s an accurate thrower, and everything they do on offense is going to go through him.”
Calvary has its own star quarterback in Daniel Fitzwater. Combined, the two signal callers have put up 5,022 yards this season with 63 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions.
Tonight’s first-round clash, featuring two of the best high school passers in Louisiana, could turn into a classic offensive show.
“I’m really excited,” said Fitzwater, who finished No. 3 in the state with 2,701 passing yards this year. “I like playing against teams with good quarterbacks. I always have a lot of fun with it. I get to compete against someone on the other side. I’ve got a good offense around me and good coaches. We’ve had a good season so far, and hopefully it continues. I know we are going to try to score a lot of points. Hopefully our defense can stop them a few times.”
Tyler is six spots behind Fitzwater on the state yardage leaderboard, with 24 touchdowns on top of his 2,321 yards. He also had the fourth highest single-game total with 457 yards on 32-of-41 passing with an interception and six touchdowns against Carver on Sept. 28.
“He can also hurt you with his feet. He’s that athlete quarterback everyone is looking for,” Bachman Sr. said. “Daniel is more of a pocket passer. He is going to hurt you by throwing the football, and he can escape and run just enough to pick up a first down or a touchdown.”
Calvary’s offense stumbled in a 20-7 Week 9 loss to Mansfield but bounced back last Friday with a 42-14 win against North Caddo.
“We had to sit down and re-evaluate things after that loss,” Bachman Sr. said. “All of it was on our coaches. We made some changes at practice, and the kids have done what we’ve asked them to do. We changed some personnel things and were more physical in practice.”
Huntington: Fitzwater vs. Tyler isn’t the only showdown of state leaders. Two top-three running backs will face off when Huntington’s Damien Jiggetts leads the No. 25 Raiders on the road to face No. 8 Vandebilt Catholic and Elijah McGuire in the first round of the 4A playoffs tonight.
“This one is going to come down to us playing hard, and whoever stops the other team’s playmaker will determine who wins,” Huntington coach Rod Foppe said. “Damien is going to touch the ball 25 to 30 times, and (McGuire) is going to touch the ball every down on offense.”
Jiggetts finished No. 3 in the state with 1,874 yards. He wasn’t far behind McGuire, who put up 2,094 yards and 26 scores to lead all rushers.
“(McGuire) is just a phenomenal athlete,” Foppe said. “He has the size, and he’s a lot of fun to watch. He’s so fast and strong. He presents major problems for us.”
Jiggetts saw some familiar moves when he watched Vandebilt game tapes to prepare for tonight.
“He’s big and pretty good,” said Jiggetts, who had 24 rushing touchdowns. “He has a little more size than me, and I watched him break two tackles on the way to a touchdown. He has some good moves.”
Foppe said he expects McGuire and Jiggetts, who tracked each other’s progress all season, to put up more large numbers tonight.
“It’s the playoffs, so you win or it’s over. That’s motivation enough,” Foppe said. “But with Damien, he’s a competitor just like (McGuire). They are both going to want the ball and want to make plays.”
McGuire lines up as Vandebilt’s quarterback, taking the snap and running a read-option attack that frequently ends with a long keeper.
“He’s a threat on every down, because he touches the ball every snap,” Foppe said. “Their coach told me there’s only one player we have to beat. I said: ‘You’re making it too easy.’ But he said, ‘Coach, when you see the film, you’ll understand.’ That’s exactly what it is. But it’s easier said than done.”
Jiggetts said he doesn’t care if he tops 2,000 yards. All he wants is for Huntington to advance to the next round.
“My coaches have kept me updated on my stats this season, but all I really care about is winning games,” Jiggetts said. “We’ve picked up our intensity in practice, and we all want it badly. If we win, I’ll be happy no matter what.”
Connect with Brent Shirley on Twitter at @bshirley08.