BY MATT VINES, Journal Sports
MANY – Superdome or bust.
Aside from the 2020 Louisiana state football championships (which were held in Natchitoches), advancing to New Orleans has been the program standard for Many football.
The Tigers are just one win away from making their fourth straight title game appearance as No. 1 seed Many (11-0) hosts No. 4 seed St. James (10-2) on Friday in a semifinal matchup.
It’s the seventh straight season in which Many has advanced to the semifinals, posting a 3-3 mark in those semifinals contest and winning the last three.
A victory Friday means that this relatively small class of 12 seniors would have played for a state title in all four of their seasons.
“We want this senior group to play in four state title games and go out on top,” said Many coach Jess Curtis. “We have gone to seven straight semis and three straight championship games, and it’d be special to win the last game of the season.”
The most recent team to list that accomplishment is Lafayette Christian, which won four straight titles from 2017-2020 and appeared in a fifth consecutive championship game in 2021.
Many is navigating playoff waters that are slightly different than in years past with 12 Class 3A teams in the bracket under the LHSAA’s new playoff structure, which condensed nine playoff brackets into eight.
St. James is a Class 3A brand name that won a state title in 2019 and made a quarterfinals appearance in 2020.
The No. 4 seed Wildcats will be the second Class 3A team Many has faced in these playoffs after the Tigers outslugged Richwood 21-0 in the second round.
“St. James is a very good program, and they play good football down there – always have,” Curtis said. “We’ve played them before, so we are familiar with their program. We are in (Non-Select) Division III, and we feel like we are as good as any team in that division.”
Many is of course no stranger to playing opponents in higher classifications, clobbering Class 5A members Haughton and Sam Houston while handling Class 4A’s DeRidder.
But St. James can say the same – scoring victories over Class 5A Woodlawn (Baton Rouge) and Thibodaux after nearly knocking off 5A member East St. John to start the season.
The Wildcats strung eight regular-season wins together after losing the opener to East St. John and the finale to E.D. White.
St. James offense has proven to be explosive, topping the 40-point mark seven times this season, including in playoff wins against No. 13 Loreauville and No. 5 Avoyelles, the latter a 48-24 walloping on the road.
St. James will need more of that road magic if they want to break through a Many defense that has allowed just one touchdown since Oct. 14.
The Tigers trailed No. 9 Rosepine 7-0 into the fourth quarter before Many’s offense got on track with two touchdowns in a 14-7 win.
Curtis said the offense must be sharper.
“We have to play up to our standard,” Curtis said. “We have been sloppy, and we know at this time of the year, you must play your ‘A’ game to win.”
Something Many has done the last seven years to reach the semifinals and the last three to set foot on the championship stage.
Just like Many’s side of the bracket, the other side of the Division III Non-Select pod offers a similar matchup.
Tried and true Class 2A member Amite – who beat Many this past season in the title game – is facing Class 3A stalwart Union Parish.
PHOTO CREDIT: Kevin Shannahan/Journal Sports
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