Acadiana Trio to McNeese State

It's widely accepted that Acadiana High School had the best offensive line in Louisiana last year and two members of that unit - along with DB Keith Ollison - will continue their football careers at McNeese State. Read further to get the details.

Acadiana went through an unusual, yet joyful, football season last year. The Rams were crowned Class 5A state champions at the end, but the road to the title was littered with obstacles, most notably four forfeit losses.

Cross-town rival St. Thomas More was the only team to beat Acadiana on the field, and it appeared -- as the playoffs neared -- that the Rams would garner a top five seed and an advantageous position in the 5A bracket.

However, shortly before the end of the regular-season, Acadiana self-reported an ineligible player and that infraction resulted in four forfeit losses. The Rams didn't benefit from the use of the ineligible player, who only saw action at the tail-end of blowout wins. In addition, Acadiana's coaching staff and administration had no way to know the player -- a transfer from out-of-state -- wasn't eligible. After all, the player's family presented Acadiana with an altered birth certificate which falsely showed that the player was of proper age.

Regardless, Acadiana -- due to the forfeits -- entered the playoffs with a 5-5 mark and, perhaps most importantly, a lowly No. 28 seed (out of 32 teams). That seeding put the Rams on the road in the first-round vs. a talented, one-loss, No. 5-seeded East St. John team.

All eyes in Louisiana were fixated on the Acadiana/East St. John playoff opener, a game that - under normal conditions - would have taken place in probably the semifinals. What happened that night in Reserve was nothing short of astounding, as Acadiana romped over East St. John, 56-6.

That one-sided win set the stage for a run to the state title, a run that included three subsequent, dominant performances. The Rams, a split-back veer team, lined up and punished opposing defenses, stuffing the ball down their throat with the old-fashioned triple option.

In the second-round, Acadiana destroyed Zachary, 49-7. In the quarterfinals, 12-0 St. Paul's was handed its first loss by the Rams. In the semis, Acadiana got revenge on St. Thomas More, blanking the Cougars to the tune of 31-0. And, in the finals, the Rams handed a star-studded West Monroe team its first loss since the 2008 season.

All this was possible because Acadiana boasted the strongest, most powerful offensive line in the state, led by right guard Cade Dawes and right tackle Nick Smith.

"Everybody faces adversity at some point and it motivated us," said Smith, a 6-foot-4, 280-pounder. "Without it (the forfeits) happening, I'm not sure that we would have won state. We really practiced hard and worked hard after learning about the situation."

Last summer, Smith committed to the UL Ragin Cajuns - he was the first pledge in the class - but the senior withdraw that verbal after the new coaching staff asked him to take a greyshirt. Instead of playing at UL, which is only a hop, skip, and jump east on Congress Street, Smith will take his talents to McNeese State, and he'll be joined by two teammates -- Dawes and LB/DB Keith Ollison -- who are walking-on with the Cowboys.

"Basically, I originally wanted to go to UL, but I didn't want to greyshirt," said Smith. "They had never mentioned a greyshirt (until a couple of weeks ago). I understand that it's a business, however, and I was one of Coach (Rickey) Bustle's old commits.

"After I decommitted, Northwestern State and McNeese were really interested and I visited both schools. McNeese has a new weight room, a new locker room, and they're always winning. One of their coaches, Tim Leger, showed me their stats and McNeese has won more games than LSU over the past several years. Also, Coach Leger is a former quarterback at Acadiana, and I felt a connection there.

"Our right guard, Cade Dawes, and Keith Ollison -- who is a defensive back/linebacker -- are walking-on at McNeese and that will be a lot of fun. Blair Broussard, who is a running back from Acadiana, is also already at McNeese."

Smith and Dawes were both named first-team all-state in 2010. Ollison received honorable-mention all-state honors.

"Whenever Nick and I first got down there to McNeese, we noticed the new construction at their stadium," said Dawes. "They have new offices, new meeting rooms, and an 8,000 square foot weight room. McNeese is going to be sponsored by Under Armour, so those are some cool things that's happening with them.

"Our facilities aren't too good at Acadiana - if you've ever been there - so we're excited about the new facilities at McNeese. Nick and I are going to room together and it's going to be interesting playing together, because I'm used to playing next to him (on the offensive line). I'm going to be in the 'iso' at fullback, so I'll be in the backfield. I can't wait to get out there and play football for McNeese."

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