NEW ORLEANS — For the vast majority of the season, the Teurlings Catholic Rebels have been considered one of the top five teams in Class 4A and a viable contender for the state championship.
Through 12 weeks, the Rebels haven’t done anything that would suggest otherwise and even with their lone loss against rival St. Thomas More, Teurlings appears to be a team on a mission to reach the dome for the first time in school history.
The Rebels hope to take another step toward accomplishing the feat when they travel to face McDonogh 35 (7-5) at 7 p.m. today in the Class 4A quarterfinals, but head coach Sonny Charpentier knows getting a win won’t be easy.
“We’re going to have our hands full from an athletic standpoint,” Charpentier said. “McDonogh 35 is playing some good football right now and they are very physical. They’ll hit you in the mouth. They aren’t real fancy on offense; in fact they have an old school approach. They just line up and play football, so I know they’ll be prepared.”
Among the talented players that McDonogh 35 has are senior running back Carlos Henderson, who has committed to Utah and offensive tackle Kenneth Santa Marina, who has reportedly narrowed his choices down to LSU and Alabama.
“Having kids that are being offered by schools like those tells you that they have good players,” Charpentier said. “It tells you that they have size, speed and potential. It doesn’t mean they are great players right now, but in this case they are. The running back can take it to the house every time he touches the football.”
As a result of Henderson’s game-breaking ability, Charpentier finds it vital that his Rebels defense continue to swarm to the ball in bunches.
“On defense we have to get as many hats to the football as possible,” Charpentier said. “We’re going to have to make sure we stay home on defense because the moment we get out of position, (Henderson) will expose us really quick. We have to play good team defense.”
Regardless of how well the Rebels’ (11-1) defense plays, Charpentier is fully aware his offense led by quarterback Conner Cronin, running backs Zack LaFleur and Ty Labrie and receiver Jimmie McBride must consistently move the football and put points on the board if they are going to be successful.
“We have to go out and see what they are going to give us and we’ll take it,” Charpentier said. “If they are giving us the run, then we’ll run the football. If they are giving us the pass, then we’ll take that. We have to have the threat of running. We know that we can’t line up and throw it every play.”
Charpentier is confident in his offense’s ability to play at a high level and cites the fact they didn’t play well against Bastrop and still scored 30 plus points.
“We played poorly last week on offense and we still scored 35 points,” Charpentier said. “Zack has done a great job for us this season, but he’ll be the first to tell you that he didn’t play well last week. He had way too many drops in the passing game, but he has a baseball mentality. He may strikeout three times, but the fourth time he comes to bat he’s going to get a hit.”
Charpentier isn’t expecting a low-scoring game, but he expects his Rebels will get off the bus ready to play.
“The pressure is normally in the first round, because you don’t want to lose,” Charpentier said. “The further you advance into the playoffs the pressure becomes less and less. I don’t think it’ll be a 7-0 game, but if it is I hope we have the seven. This group wants to keep playing and I can see it in practice. I see it in their work ethic that everybody is excited about the opportunity to play.”
Follow assistant sports editor Eric Narcisse on Twitter @tdanarcisse.