Many hasn’t had its postseason spot in limbo since missing the postseason in 2009, but the Tigers do have other reasons to play up to their potential in the regular-season finale Friday against Lakeview.
Many has already locked up a first-round playoff bye in the Louisiana High School Athletics Association’s new 28-team playoff bracket for non-select schools, and the Tigers want to look sharp before taking a week off.
The Tigers (8-0, 4-0) do own a share of the District 3-2A title by way of its first four wins, and Many can make sure its ninth straight district crown will be theirs alone by beating a Lakeview squad that is winless in district play.
“Having the playoff bye, we want to be sure we go into that bye looking sharp,” said Many coach Jess Curtis. “It will be good for us to heal up.”
A win would also secure the top seed in Division III Non-Select for Many, who has been a top-two seed in each of the past four seasons, which has included three straight trips to the Class 2A championship game.
Lakeview (4-5, 0-4 District 3-2A), on the other hand, is playing for its postseason life. The Gators enter Week 10 at No. 31 as they angle for one of 28 spots in the Division IV Non-Select bracket. They have made the playoffs twice in the last three seasons.
A healthy Gators bunch rattled off four straight wins in convincing fashion before injuries, particularly to quarterback C.J. Jones, were a factor in the district derailment that’s witnessed four losses by an average of 31 points.
Lakeview will lean on the play-making ability of receiver Dillon Pikes, who’s pitched in as a runner and even a thrower as the Gators have tried to reignite an offense that has averaged more than 30 points in Lakeview’s wins this season. Pikes scored on a “Houdini-like” 37-yard run to give Lakeview a first-half lead against Jonesboro-Hodge, but the Tigers scored twice late in the half en to take control of a 28-7 Lakeview loss.
“Coach (Brandon) Helms has done a good job this season, and he’s trying to build that program,” Curtis said of a Gators bunch that has more wins (four) this season the previous two seasons combined (three). “Pikes is a good athlete and a good kid. He’s definitely their guy, and we must be sure to take him away.”
Many’s defense has choked its opponents into submission all season, but particularly in the last two weeks.
The Tigers shutout Jonesboro-Hodge and Red River by allowing a combined eight total yards in the two wins. J-Hodge was in the negative at minus-8 yards thanks to quarterback sacks and run stuffing. Red River gained a total of 16 yards with many of the same ailments.
Many will attempt three straight shutouts for the fist time since 2018 when the Tigers poleaxed Carroll, Bunkie and Holy Savior Menard consecutively.
“We always try to play our best,” Curtis said. “We shoot for a shutout every week defensively. We just want to play fast with our hair on fire. As a team, we strive to play to our standard no matter what. In order for us to get better, we must approach the game that way.”
While Lakeview’s offense has shown flashes when healthy, the district-version of the Gators offense has been lacking.
Lakeview has scored 13 combined points in its last three games, losses to Red River, Mansfield and Jonesboro-Hodge.
That same defense that held its first four opponents under 20 points has given up an average of nearly 40 points in its last four contests.
Many’s offense has had no such problems this season, and it was running back Jamarlyn Garner’s turn this past week as he rushed for four touchdowns to help in 42-0 win against Red River.
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