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Shaw and Holy Cross looking to finish regular season strong

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  • Ron Brocato
  • Posted:
  • November 06, 2013 - 9:59pm

Photo by: Bill Arthurs/Home page photo by: Ron BrocatoHoly Cross wide receiver Michael Chigbu makes a sliding catch in last week's 28-0 shutout loss to Rummel.

What started out to be prosperous campaigns for Holy Cross and Archbishop Shaw’s football teams, quickly turned into disappointing endings. But one will close out District 9-5A play on a winning note when they face off in the final game of the Catholic League season on Saturday.           

Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. at Tad Gormley Stadium, having moved from a 2:30 start at nearby Pan American Field.            

For Holy Cross, the season started with seven consecutive victories before the Tigers of coach Barry Wilson lost to No. 1 St. Augustine and to Archbishop Rummel in back-to-back weeks. The 33-30 setback against St. Aug was heartbreaking enough, but last week’s 28-0 meltdown loss to Rummel dropped the Tigers into a No. 6 playoff seed and a sure date with No. 3 Byrd High (8-1) in the quarterfinal round of the Division I playoffs on Nov. 22.            

As for Coach Scott Bairnsfather’s Shaw squad, a four-victory rally after dropping their season-opener at Thibodaux, gave the Eagles’ faithful hopes that their team would be the big spoiler, especially because three of those four wins came as the visiting team. But when Catholic League play began, Shaw was on the losing end of the scoreboard in all four games.            

So it’s redemption time for one of the two.            

As it stands with one game remaining, the Division I power rankings would have Shaw, ranked at the bottom of the 10-team division, and the Eagles would travel to Covington to meet No. 7 St. Paul’s (6-3) on Nov. 11

Holy Cross will likely be one of six teams to draw first round byes, then visit No. 3 Scotlandville (7-1) on Nov. 22.

Today the remaining bracket shows No. 9 Brother Martin (4-5) and No. 8 Jesuit (5-4) would have a rematch of the Blue Jays’ 20-0 win over the Crusaders in a district game played on Nov. 1

Drawing first round byes will be St. Augustine, No. 4 Rummel and No. 5 Catholic of Baton Rouge, which meet on Nov. 22. This is also a rematch of a Sept. 28 game which the Raiders won, 32-7.
No. 2 Byrd has the other bye and would host the Jesuit-Martin winner in the quarterfinals.

Wilson said he likes his playoff position, but is hardly ecstatic about the manner in which his team played against Rummel last week.

“It seems our juniors and seniors went to the Voodoo Fest that day. There was some blood-letting at practice yesterday and there will be some more today,” the coach said. “We played our butts off the week before (against St. Aug) and lost, and we played terrible (against Rummel) and we lost. I don’t know which team will show up against Shaw.”

If it’s the Tigers players who suited up for the first seven victories, Shaw will see a well-balanced offensive blitz and what had been a stingy, hard-hitting defense.

Bairnsfather has a different take on Rummel’s demonstrative four-touchdown win over Wilson’s Tigers. “Rummel’s defense was just too physical for them,” he said. But Holy Cross definitely poses a problem for the Eagles.

“Holy Cross has a lot of guys who have been starting for a long time , especially on defense, and that’s one of their strengths.”

When it’s clicking, the Tigers have an offense capable of chewing up large chunks of yards quickly.

The emergence of sophomore running back Tre’ Turner (606 yards on 92 carries, 6 touchdowns) has been a plus since he took over the main ball-carrying chores for the injured, and now recovred, Todd Spriggins. Now the Tigers have a one-two punch on the ground.

Senior quarterback James Tabary is the No. 3 passer in the district. Tabary has accounted for 1,671 yards and 12 touchdowns, throwing mainly to his terminals Jerry Cook (54 for 692 yards, 4 TDs) and Michael Chigbu (39 for 669 yards, 5 TDs).

Shaw has a dynamite sophomore running back as well in Trey Ragas, who is the district’s No. 2 rusher (1,115 yards) behind St. Augustine’s Leonard Fournette. Both are 1,000-yard rushers.

Although Ragas has carried the workload in recent games, senior quarterback Quentin Gibson is looking for a breakout game, which he is capable of achieving if the Eagles offensive line executes their blocks. Gibson has an array of receivers, including talented junior Bryson Simmons, tight end/fullback Brennan Falcon and Ragas coming out of the backfield.

Under Wilson, who became the Tigers’ head coach in 2003, Holy Cross has improved each season. For the past two years, they won their district championship over powerful St. Augustine, East Jefferson and Warren Easton. And as they settle back into the Catholic League in the sunset of Wilson’s years as a head coach, the Tigers look to a bright football future.

Bairnsfather has a special connection with Holy Cross, having cut his coaching teeth as the Tigers’ head man from his rookie year of 1998 to 2002 when he returned to his alma mater to rejuvenate Shaw’s football program. In his five years at the Tigers’ helm, Bairnsfather had four winning seasons and left with a record of 35-22.

After a few lean years back in Marrero, a time his school had to drop to Class 4A because of shrinking enrollment, Bairnsfather got the program rolling again. His 2006, 2007 and 2008 teams played for the 4A championships. They brought home three runners-up trophies and a three-year total of 37 wins and just six losses.

Now back in the Catholic League, Shaw is trying to recover from another student drought. A win on Saturday wouldn’t hurt.

Ron Brocato | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

A native New Orleanian, Ron Brocato is an experience and storied sports reported and photographer. Brocato has been inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame as a Distinguished Service Recipient in addition to founding the New Orleans Prep Sports Hall of Fame.