There is one reason Ouachita Christian football coach Steven Fitzhugh knows his team is currently on a 29-game winning streak — someone in the media asked him about it.
“We don’t talk about it, but a lot of people have brought it up this week,” Fitzhugh said, as his team prepared for its Class 1A state championship game against Haynesville today in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. “Just hearing it from people at the newspaper. But we hadn’t talked about it at all. The only time we hear the word streak is if we are talking to a reporter, or ESPN shows some guy running across a field somewhere.”
Haynesville coach David Franklin didn’t need an outsider to alert him to Ouachita Christian’s streak. He knows what his Golden Tornado is up against.
While Ouachita Christian is the No. 1 seed and Haynesville is No. 2, this championship matchup has a heavy favorite.
“They are well coached, and they don’t make a lot of mistakes,” Franklin said. “They’ve got everything you need to play for a championship. And it doesn’t hurt that they’ve won 29 in a row.”
Ouachita Christian’s last loss was a 32-20 defeat to White Castle at the Dome in the 2010 1A state title game. Since, the Eagles (14-0) finished their 2011 season without a blemish, beating West St. John 23-7 in last year’s 1A final and have won all their games this season by outscoring their opponents 613-102.
“That’s all in the past and over with,” Fitzhugh said. “We have to get ready for the next one. Our guys have done a great job this year of focusing on the task at hand.”
Haynesville (11-2) has had many more close games. The Golden Tornado’s two losses came in Week 2, 40-36 to 4A Peabody, and Week 5, 21-14 against 5A Natchitoches Central.
Haynesville’s 34-17 quarterfinal win against Westminster and 36-35 semifinal win against West St. John were both comeback victories.
“They are a very disciplined team,” Fitzhugh said. “I know Haynesville, and they are always tough-minded kids who know how to work hard. They know how to compete. That’s what they do there. They are sound in what they do and execute their scheme very well.”
The Eagles haven’t been tested lately — Ouachita Christian’s closest playoff game was a 28-point win in the bi-district round and six of its final eight regular season games were shutouts — they did play two close games at the beginning of the season.
“We were behind to Rayville 25-0 and 32-7 at halftime in our second game of the season,” said Fitzhugh, whose team fought back to win 35-32 a week after pulling out a 28-22 win against Franklin Parish. “They have been down this year, but we’ve been fortunate to get off to great starts the rest of the season.”
Last season, West St. John played a physical game against Vermillion Catholic in the semifinals but won 54-41 to advance to the championship game against the Eagles, who had won 54-0 in the semis against Mangham.
This season, Haynesville sweated out a 36-35 win against West St. John in the semifinals, while Ouachita Christian cruised 35-0 against Kentwood.
“OCS had kind of the same thing last year, where they haven’t really had to play,” Franklin said. “So they should be fresh and well rested.”
For Haynesville to topple the Eagles, the Golden Tornado defense will have to slow dual-threat quarterback Braden Bristo, who leads a powerful offense that can score on any down and distance.
Bristo had a touchdown pass of 35 in last year’s 1A championship. He also completed a 41-yard pass to set up his own 5-yard touchdown on the ground.
“They just have a great team,” Franklin said. “They are strong. They are fast. They are smart. I could go on. Bristo jumps out when you are watching film. There are a lot of player who stand out for them. He’s one of their leaders, but they are all sound.”
Ouachita Christian’s defense, led by linebackers Cade Harper and Jordan Washam, might be in for a fight as well. Haynesville’s offense is full of playmakers, led by running back Cavontae Critton.
“We just faced a very good defense Friday night, but Ouachita’s defense is tougher,” Franklin said. “I don’t know if it’s quite as fast as West St. John, but it’s better. They are sound in everything they do, and they are very fast. They do a lot of things to cause you trouble.”
Get ready for an offensive explosion, and no matter the score, don’t turn away.
“Haynesville’s team is full of competitors,” Fitzhugh said. “It doesn’t matter if they are up on the scoreboard or down, they are going to play hard. That’s what good football teams do.”
Connect with Brent Shirley on Twitter at @bshirley08.