CROWLEY – It’s not a make or break game by any means, at least not for Crowley High, but the Gents’ District 4-AAA showdown tonight against the Westlake Rams is most definitely a pivotal one.
With just three weeks remaining in the 2009 prep football season, much is at stake for both teams when the two meet in Westlake at 7 o’clock. For Crowley (6-1 overall, 2-0 in league play), it’s an opportunity to run its winning streak to seven games as well as set up a key matchup at home next week against Eunice for what could possibly decide the league championship. A victory could also propel the Gents (ranked 11 in the recent polls) into the LSWA Top 10 for the first time since 2006.
For Westlake (3-4, 1-1), it’s an opportunity to jump back into a league championship race they’ve dominated the last two years.
“This game is the biggest game of the season and it’s the only game we need to focus on right now,” CHS coach Tommy Tate said Thursday. “We have an opportunity to go 3-0 in district and that’s our main objective. We won’t win the district championship (tonight), nor will we lose it.
“But it’s a big ballgame and with a win, it puts us in position to play for a district title.”
In order to extend their winning streak, the Gents will have to stop a Westlake ground attack that has produced nearly 2,000 yards and 17 touchdowns thus far.
That will not be an easy task, although the Gents’ defense has gotten better each week since a season-opening loss to Jennings.
Last week, the Gents limited then 5-1 Church Point to just 31 rushing yards and 40 passing yards in a stunning 42-0 victory.
Tonight, that unit will have to stop a Rams attack that is led by Donald James and Tevin Lavergne. James leads the Rams with 127 carries for 916 yards and 10 touchdowns while Lavergne has 84 carries for 563 yards and four touchdowns.
“Offensively, Westlake is a power-running team,” said Tate. “Both James and Lavergne are power backs. They are not real tall, but they are thick and fast and hard to bring down. We are going to have to get a lot of good team defense and gang tackling to really bottle them up.”
Westlake quarterback Grant Nordberg is also a concern, having scored three times rushing as well as having shown the ability to strike through the air, connecting on 35 of his 74 pass attempts for 512 yards and six touchdowns.
Donavon Borel is Nordberg’s main target, hauling in 16 passes for 205 yards and three touchdowns while Randy Hesse has six receptions for 153 yards and four scores.
“They are really balanced offensively,” said Tate. “Grant is a good athlete and he manages the offense well. He does a good job with ball handling and a good job with the play action pass. But if you can’t stop the run, it’s going to be a long night. They keep pounding it until you stop them.”
Defensively, Westlake has been stingy against the run, limiting opponents to just over 100 yards per outing while giving up nearly 150 through the air.
“They are going to try and stop the running game and force us to throw the football,” said Tate. “We have to do a good job of play calling to avoid the negative plays because that’s what they have been doing well, creating negative plays.
“We have to find a way to be able to throw the football with the understanding that for us to be successful, we have to be balanced.”
Fortunately, the CHS offense, particularly the passing game, has steadily improved since Week 1 and appears to be coming into its own.
The Gents showed signs of that last week when quarterback D’Myrus Daniels threw for a career-best 216 yards and two touchdowns against Church Point.
“D’Myrus took advantage of some things last week and really had a good night,” said Tate. I thought the play calling was excellent. The coaches on offense really had a good game plan and we did a good job of executing. We have to build on that and continue to improve.”
Both of Daniels’ touchdowns passes last week were big plays – the first for 70 yards to Donavon Morris and the second for 60 to Kaleb Cormier.
For the season, he has completed 53 of 104 passes for 864 yards. Morris is the Gents’ leading receiver with 16 catches for 423 yards.
Running back Torni Boutte leads the ground attack with Daniels. Boutte has rushed for 371 yards and seven touchdowns on 93 carries. Daniels has 465 yards and 12 touchdowns on 107 carries.
Crowley’s defense has also improved markedly since Week 1.
“We have done a good job against the run this year and we have to continue to build on that,” said Tate. “We will have to continue to play good team defense and get a lot of hats to the football. And in the back, we’ll have to do a good job with our cover schemes off the play action passes because Westlake is capable of making big plays down the field throwing the football.”