Northwest Louisiana will invade New Orleans’ Mercedes-Benz Superdome in a big way Friday afternoon when LHSAA Class 1A No. 1 Haynesville clashes with No. 2 Logansport on the turf where the Saints and a few sinners come home to roost.
The Golden Tors (13-0) departed Haynesville at 8:30 a.m. Thursday aboard chartered buses with their sights set on state title No. 18. The Tigers (13-0) set out for the birthplace of Jazz at 7 a.m. in chartered buses with a group of athletes who weren’t born when Logansport won its only state title in 1995.
It’s tradition and history versus the new kids on the block. It’s the winged-T versus the spread. It’s the reputation of two towns on the line with the hopes and dreams of hundreds wanting to forever call themselves state champions.
The Tors have been in the Superdome four consecutive years, winning a pair of state titles. Their modus operandi is to do things the way they did them last year, and the year before, and the year before and pretty much since the beginning of time, although they haven’t run the triple option since 1984.
“We won’t be changing much, however we will be staying in a different hotel this time,” coach David Franklin said. “Last year, we stayed in downtown New Orleans, which was a nightmare.”
There won’t be much time fun and frivolity for either team, and the Tors are keeping things all business. They’ll follow the protocols, play the game, then depart for Haynesville after the game.
“We’re not going down there for vacation. We’re going to play football,” Franklin said. “Of course, we want the kids to have fun at the same time.”
Things are a little different for Logansport, which will follow a set itinerary that was already off by 30 minutes by mid-Thursday morning. Coach Kevin Magee felt it was important to keep the structure in place, thus limiting “the unknowns” for his players.
“We believe that’s important for them mentally because this is all new for our team,” said Magee, who wasn’t required to drive a bus to an away game for the first time this season. “Haynesville’s been there for four years in a row, so they won’t have the shock of the Superdome.”
The Logansport team will be remaining in The Big Easy Friday night and will dine at Bobby Hebert’s Cajun Cannon Restaurant, courtesy of DeSoto Parish Sheriff Rodney Arbuckle, following the game.
The Tors are built around the talents of 6-foot-2 senior quarterback Trent Franklin, who hasn’t put up gaudy numbers due to a balanced attack that easily evolves to the opponent’s defense. At least 14 different players have carried the ball for Haynesville this season led by senior Treyon Hunter’s 117 carries for 1,051 yards and 12 touchdowns. The diminutive Jerious Bittle has another 767 yards, averages nearly 11 yards a carry and has scored 15 times.
“Haynesville runs the Wing-T very well. They are physical, fast and play hard on every down,” Magee said. “It’s obviously a very challenging game for us but I like our chances. Their style is similar to Bossier (Logansport won 43-39), where they run between the tackles the majority of the time.”
The Tigers counter with Dalton Shaw under center and the 5-10 junior has thrown for 2,367 yards and 32 touchdowns. His top targets are 6-4 ½ junior John Stephens Jr. (40-675), Joe Caraway (36-558) and Madrid Johnson (33-516) with the trio combining for 25 touchdowns. Logansport’s most consistent threat on the ground is senior tailback Debell Crawford, who has rushed for 1,684 yards and 28 touchdowns.
“Logansport is big, fast and very athletic,” Franklin said. “We haven’t played a spread team like that this season, so that will be a challenge. We won’t do anything differently on offense, but we will make some adjustments defensively. They know that.”
Even though being in the Superdome won’t be a new experience for the Tors, Franklin isn’t convinced that gives his team an edge.
“When we were there in 2013 after 2012, the kids were more relaxed, because it does take your breath away the first time,” Franklin said. “It’s definitely not like playing on your own field, but I don’t know if we have an advantage there.”
The Logansport traveling party has been able to enjoy their new-found celebrity along with some perks, thanks to the team’s success. Schoolmates, parents and townsfolk formed a line for the team to navigate Thursday morning when the 65-70 Tiger traveling party boarded two 58-passenger coaches for the trip south.
“We have a very good Touchdown Club and we had eight home games this year. Our fans were very good in supporting us,” Magee said. “We all gathered around and had a prayer for safety before we left.”