Both Carencro and West Monroe are known for good football, but the nationally-ranked Bears aren't known for making the deep playoff push that is a West Monroe trademark.
19 years ago, these two programs parried in the state championship with West Monroe getting the win. Since then, Carencro hasn't returned to the finals, while West Monroe has captured seven crowns.
Last year, Carencro was ousted in the first round by Brother Martin; West Monroe lost to Acadiana in the title game. This fall, Carencro's only loss was to Acadiana, while West Monroe dropped early games to Byrd and Madison Central (MS).
In the semifinals, Carencro cooled off Byrd, which entered the contest with a perfect 13-0 mark and a ranking in the Scout Top 50. The Bears, playing at home, did their darndest to keep the football away from Byrd's potent option offense.
The Bears pieced together a second-half drive that will be vividly recalled for generations, chewing up more than a quarter off the clock with a mind-numbing march that spanned nearly 30 plays and kept Byrd's offense on the sidelines, on ice, and off-balance. QB Jalen Nixon, who has an offer from the UL Ragin' Cajuns as a linebacker, ran for four touchdowns. At 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, Nixon is an usual battering-ram type, a signal-caller who would rather run over a defender than attempt to outrace them.
RB Alex Johnson was the state's leading rusher for almost the entire regular season (Walker's Carlton Perkins supplanted Johnson for a couple of weeks). The senior has stepped off more than 200 yards in each of the past two weeks, including a 220-plus yard effort vs. a Jesuit defense headed up by LSU commit Deion Jones (arguably the best in-state defender in '11). Johnson has racked up more than 2,800 yards on the ground over the course of the season. Carencro doesn't throw a ton of passes, but when they do, the pigskin is usually aimed at Johnson or senior WR Shawn Thomas.
Johnson actually completed an 80-yard halfback pass to Thomas in Carencro's second-round comeback win over Ouachita. The Bears are stout along the offensive line with stalwarts such as Jordan Walker (6-4, 300, Sr.) and Greg Peltier (6-2, 300, Jr.). Junior WB Jaylan Rose has done tremendous work both carrying the football and blocking for Johnson.
After a 1-2 start, West Monroe settled down and did what the Rebels do: Win football games. Many people feel that the Rebels employ the best defense in the state, and ends James McFarland and Terrell Lathan want to live up to that billing by shutting down Johnson, the state's most productive back.
Head coach Don Shows has utilized dual quarterbacks with senior Conner Osborne and junior Michael Mims, although Osborne came into his own as the year progressed. Sophomore tailback Steven Jones toted the mail frequently, joining senior fullback Bubba Reeves (6-1, 203) and Jacob Tyson (6-2, 230, Sr.). Listed as a defensive end, Tyson is a super athlete who is hard to bring down, especially once he gathers a full head of steam.
Returning to defense, Lathan (pictured below) and McFarland are accompanied by standouts Deano Casola (6-1, 231, Sr.) and Dylan Burdeaux (6-1, 213, Jr.) at linebacker and Xavier Woods (6-0, 176, Jr.) and Cade Stone in the secondary.
BOTTOM LINE: This is the proverbial "three yards and a cloud of dust" matchup. West Monroe has made its living over the years as an I-Option team on offense, and Carencro mostly grinds it out from the Wing-T or Double Wing.
Carencro head coach Brent Indest will likely "dance with who brought him;" i.e., feed the football to Johnson with Nixon keeping here-and-there.
The Bears were our preseason No. 1 (West Monroe was No. 3); thus, we'll go with...