Defensive lineman Randy Woodle didn’t think his senior class would be the first Calvary group to lead the Cavaliers to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans to play for a state title.
That’s because he thought the 2012 team, which lost in the quarterfinals to University Lab, would reach the championship stage.
“If you woulda told me last year that my senior class would be the class to go to the Dome, I woulda told you that were crazy,” Woodle said. “Because last year I felt we had it all, had the team to do it.
“But it turns out that this senior class and this team altogether wants it so much more. We’re not the biggest or the strongest or the fastest, but we do have the heart and desire to win as bad as anybody out there.”
The 2013 Cavaliers (8-4), the Division III No. 2 seed, will play for their first state championship against another first timer in No. 4 Archbishop Hannan (11-2) on Thursday at 12:30 p.m.
Calvary has been knocking on the Dome door since becoming playoff eligible in 2006, reaching the semifinals four times before finally winning this season.
Meanwhile Hannan entered this season with just one playoff win in school history, coming in 1991. Hurricane Katrina destroyed Hannan’s St. Bernard Parish campus in 2005, and the school relocated near Covington and is establishing itself once again.
But Calvary quarterback Shea Patterson isn’t listening to any talk of the Cavaliers being heavy favorites, even after a nailbiting 34-33 win at No. 6 Catholic-New Iberia — Calvary’s second win or loss decided by less than 25 points.
“The (semifinals) win was a huge confidence builder, but we can’t be arrogant going into the state championship,” Patterson said. “We’re playing a team that is worthy, and they’ve beaten a lot of teams (like No. 1 Episcopal).
“We’ve really gotta come out and be ready to play because they are capable of beating us.”
While it’s the first trip for the players – some seniors experienced the 2011 semifinals as sophomores – the Calvary coaching staff is a much different story.
Head coach John Bachman won the 2009 title in his final season at Evangel, defensive coordinator Ronnie Alexander has a long Evangel tenure that included being head coach one season and sons John Bachman, Jr. (assistant head coach) and Jason Bachman (offensive coordinator) also coached at Evangel among others on Calvary’s staff that coached or played for the Eagles.
“The first time seems like the hardest time,” John Bachman, Sr., said about Calvary reaching the title game. “But the (coaching staff) isn’t walking into unknowns.
“I already know when we show up for pictures and practice, I know what to do and how to get our kids comfortable. I know things like the preparation of coming to the game and taking care of (hotel rooms) … and it’s an advantage that we’ve dealt with it many times.”
Patterson said a state title has been the team’s goal since Week 1, but ask a player about their thought process after a 1-4 start, and the championship might have seemed far away.
But Patterson solidified himself in the starting quarterback role while traversing a gauntlet that included Byrd, Parkway, West Monroe and St. Thomas More, and the offense clicked as players went through more reps.
Calvary beat Class 2A/Division III opponents by a combined 332-63 in seven wins.
“It’s amazing just seeing the change,” said Patterson, a sophomore who’s committed to Arizona. “We got to know each other better, get chemistry with receivers and practicing and preparing.
“I wouldn’t wanna go through it with anybody else. I love my teammates and my coaches.”
Hannan, led by dual-threat quarterback Korey Zeigler and tough running back Michael Froeba, is 4-0 in games decided by 11 points or less, not including losses to Division III No. 3 Northlake Christian and No. 9 St. Thomas Aquinas.
“They’re not flashy, but the reason they have me so nervous is number one, they’re in the state championship, and number two, they don’t look like they have anything that sticks out on film,” Bachman said. “But you look up and they’ve got 35 (points) and they’ve held you to 30.
“All they do is win, and that tells me that they’ve got a great group of young men and is a brotherhood just like our young men. It’s gonna be a great fight.”