Varnado hosting playoff opener Friday

Published 4:18 am Friday, November 11, 2016

The playoffs begin Friday night for the District 8-1A Champion Varnado Wildcats, as they host Ringgold in the opening round of the postseason.

The winner will play either No. 10 Elton or 23rd-seeded LaSalle.

“At this point in the game, it’s playoff time and you’ve got to show up,” Varnado coach Scott Shaffett said. “You lose, you go home. You’ve got to get out there and play your best because if you don’t, you go to the house.

“We’ve been preparing all season for this Friday. No matter what happens, you’ve got to get out there and play your best ball, so you can move onto the next round.”

The seventh-seeded Wildcats come into this week with a 6-3 record and they went 4-0 in district play for the title.

Last week, the Wildcats defeated Houma Christian, 26-0 to clinch the outright district championship.

Varnado has reached the second round of the playoffs each of the last two years. Last season, they lost to eventually state runner-up Haynesville, 61-20, and state semifinalist West St. John the year before, 51-0.

Varnado’s defense has been tough all season. The team has allowed 20 or more points just three times this year and nobody broken 20 points in the last three games against the Wildcats. The last team to hit the 20-point plateau against Varnado was Covenant Christian Academy on Oct. 14, in game that Varnado won, 52-20.

Last week, Darien Vargas had a forced fumble.

Ardarryl McGowan had an 87-yard fumble return for a touchdown.

The Wildcats were balanced offensively last week.

Desmond Harry had 64 rushing yards on 10 carries (6.4 yards per attempt), and a reception for 2 yards.

JaDarrell Magee ran for 51 yards on eight carries (6.3) and a touchdown, along with a catch for 5 yards.

James Williams had a touchdown on the ground and threw for 22 yards on 3-of-4 passing.

Travon Stokes ran for 15 yards on three attempts (5.0). He also had a catch for 15 yards. Jacorius Bickham posted 19 yards running on six carries (3.1) while Adrian Bickham put up 27 yards on three carries (9.0).

Armontee Kemp had a 9-yard touchdown run on his only carry last week.

The Wildcats have gone past the 30-point mark four times this year. Last week snapped a three-game streak of the Wildcats scoring at least 40 points.

Shaffett said he could not highlight any one offensive player right now, because his team is playing as a complete unit on offense, defense and special teams.

We’re playing all together,” Shaffett said. “It’s hard to highlight an individual because we’re playing our butts off right now. We’ve had a lot of backups that have had to play this year. It’s hard to highlight an individual when everybody’s playing their best ball.”

Varnado and Ringgold met in the first round of the 2014 playoffs and the Wildcats won that game, 44-8.

Ringgold comes into tonight’s game after a 3-7 regular season and is the 26th-seeded team.

“We’re playing another tough team, but when you’re a low seed, you expect that,” Ringgold coach Dedric Smith said. “Varnado is fast, athletic and explosive on offense. We have to play ball control to keep the ball out of the hands of their offense.”

Ringgold has struggled. The Redskins have lost six in a row, and during the stretch, they’ve allowed at least 25 points in every game and haven’t scored more than 14 points.

Despite the losses being by double-digits during the losing streak, Ringgold coach Dedric Smith said that the except for a couple of them, his team has been in the game at halftime in every contest during the streak.

Ringgold’s opponents during this streak have combined for a 36-24 record this season (those six opponents have combined to win 60 percent of their games). Every team is hosting a playoff game and three of them are top seven seeds in their playoff classification or division, including Haynesville, which is the top seed in Class 1A.

Last year, Ringgold lost in the first round of the playoffs to South Cameron, 41-12. South Cameron reached the second round.

Smith said his club likes to try to run the ball and stop the run.

“That’s our MO on offense and defense,” Smith said. “We have an athlete that plays any position on the field. He’s our speed guy and we have a couple of power backs, who get us those tough yards.”

The athlete is Dasjuan Reed, who missed the first half of the season with an injury. Smith said he lines up everywhere, including quarterback, running back and slot receiver. He also plays cornerback on defense.

Going into last week, Reed had thrown for 132 yards and a touchdown and run for 301 yards with two scores.

The power backs are Jordan Allums and Arlondo Iverson.

Allums entered the final week of the regular season with 497 yards and three touchdowns while Iverson had 178 yards and two scores.

The top defenders are Adam Loud and Isaiah Walter. Loud is close to 100 tackles and Walter has more than 80.