BY MATT VINES, Journal Sports
Playoff time has finally arrived in Many.
For a Tigers program that has played in the last three Class 2A state championship games, it’s part of the season that Many coach Jess Curtis and players have circled.
“It’s playoff time, which means you better play your best or you go home,” Curtis said. “That’s all the motivation we need. We are excited about getting started.”
But this playoff journey will have some new faces on the opposite sideline as the LHSAA condensed its nine-bracket playoff structure into eight brackets in which teams are equally distributed based on school enrollment.
Case in point – No. 1 Many (9-0) will face No. 17 Richwood, a Class 3A member, in the second round of the Division III Non-Select bracket.
Many was one of four teams to earn a first-round bye, while Richwood (7-4) slogged through the mud and rain this past Friday to knock off No. 16 Caldwell Parish in 12-8 fashion.
But the Rams offense has proven they can light up the scoreboard by topping 34 points six times in the regular season.
And it’s not a stretch to say that Richwood is not a typical second-round opponent Many faces at this stage – three of the four Rams’ losses have come by a combined five points, including a one-point loss to Class 5A West Ouachita, a one-point loss to 3A power Union Parish (No. 3 seed in this bracket) and a three-point loss to rival Carroll, the No. 5 seed in the Division II Non-Select bracket.
Richwood’s one double-digit loss? A 14-point defeat at the hands of reigning Class 3A champion Sterlington, who also checks in at this bracket as the No. 14 seed and will face a championship rematch with Union Parish in the second round Friday.
“Richwood is a very good football team,” Curtis said. “They are well coached by (Marcus Yanez), and they have been in some tough games and are going to come in with some confidence.”
But it’s not like Many hasn’t beaten good football teams this season.
The Tigers whipped Class 5A members Sam Houston and Haughton, the latter of which won their first-round playoff game against No. 6 seed Airline in the Division I Non-Select bracket. Many kept both teams out of the end zone.
Many shut down No. 1 national quarterback Arch Manning in a 25-17 win against Isidore Newman, the No. 1 team on the Division III Select side.
Add to that the domination of District 3-2A en route to their ninth straight district title, including a 42-14 victory against No. 6 Winnfield, and the Tigers will be prepared.
Many has won its second-round playoff game in each of the last six seasons, all but one by at least 19 points.
One bonus of the new playoff structure? Many doesn’t have to worry about a second-round road trip if the No. 17 seed wins,
which Richwood did.
Another bonus – Many’s second bye week this season allowed the Tigers to get healthy. And the team has been laser-focused on a fast start, unlike coming off its first bye against Mansfield when the Wolverines scored a couple times early in what ended up being a 61-18 rout.
“The bye week was good for us, and we got completely healthy and rested,” Curtis said. “We have stayed sharp in our focus and are getting better every week. We hope to pick up where we left off.”
Where Many left off was three straight shutouts of Jonesboro-Hodge, Red River and Lakeview, winning by a combined 156-0, all with running clocks in the first half.
CREDIT: Kevin Shannahan/Journal Sports
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