In the Louisiana High School Athletic Association football playoffs, Thanksgiving weekend is the time the state's football playoffs shift gears. With each of the five classes down to eight teams, the quarterfinals usually give football fans plenty of intriguing matchups for fans after Black Friday shopping is done.
This year, fans will miss some top prospects. Jeryl Brazil's Loranger team was upset by Jennings last week while Darian Claiborne's Port Allen team was knocked off by Brusly, spoiling a would-be Brazil-Claiborne showdown in Class 3A.
But most of the state's best players are still alive, some in potentially tight matchups Friday. Here are the best ones.
No. 1 Metairie/Archbishop Rummel (11-0) at No. 9 Monroe/Ouachita Parish (10-2): Even after losing its star offensive lineman, ESPN Watch List member Cameron Robinson, as a transfer to West Monroe during the off-season, Ouachita still has reached the quarterfinals behind 2014 Watch List WR Cameron Sims, four-star 2013 WR prospect Taijuan Thomas and linebacker Caleb Tucker, a Washington commit. The Lions are the underdogs against the Raiders, led by dual threat QB Damian Williams, who has an offer from Kansas State.
No. 6 Bossier City/Airline (10-2) at No. 3 West Monroe (10-2): Robinson's new team, traditional 5A power West Monroe, has a tough test against a surprising Airline team.
No. 2 Lake Charles/Barbe (11-1) at No. 7 Bossier City/Parkway (11-1): Antonio McGhee, Parkway's three-star defensive tackle, will be busy chasing Barbe's dual-threat QB, Kennon Fontenot, in Barbe's high-powered spread offense. Fontenot, the state's leading passer, has two high-end receivers to throw to, including the state's leading receiver in 2014 Watch List member Trey Quinn and LSU commit Desean Smith.
No. 8 Houman/Vandebilt Catholic (11-1) at No. 1 Monroe/Neville (11-0): LSU commit John Diarse, an ESPN 300 member, and 2014 Watch List member Laurence "Hootie" Jones lead Neville, the defending state champion, as it takes on the last remaining team from the Bayou region of the state.
No. 4 Lafayette/Teurlings Catholic (11-1) at No. 21 New Orleans/McDonogh 35 (7-5): McDonogh 35 is 4A's Cinderella, but the Roneagles don't lack for talent. Three-star offensive lineman Kenneth Santa Marina and three-star athlete Carlos Henderson, a Utah commit, lead McDonogh 35. Teurlings rides the arm of Conner Cronin, a 6-foot-5, gun-slinging senior who has been under-the-radar after having to sit out his junior season per LHSAA transfer rules after he moved from Baton Rouge.
No. 10 New Orleans/St. Augustine (9-3) at No. 2 New Orleans/Karr (11-0): A showdown of two of the state's most talented teams. St. Augustine features 2014 superstar RB Leonard Fournette, one of the top players in the nation in his class. Karr is loaded with two ESPN 150 seniors (Texas A&M commit Noel Ellis at CB and Miami commit Standish Dobard at TE, and two ESPN Watch List members (DE Gerald Willis and WR Speedy Noil, who plays QB for the Cougars). This is probably the most highly-anticipated showdown in the Crescent City this year.
No. 1 Baton Rouge/Parkview Baptist (10-0) at No. 9 Stonewall/North Desoto (9-3): Parkview has become one of 3A's dominant programs despite rarely producing blue-chip players aside from current LSU punter Brad Wing (whose younger brother punts for the Eagles). The Eagles must travel clear across the state to visit upset-minded North Desoto, led by three-star defensive line prospect Hakim Gray, a Louisiana Tech commit.
No. 22 Clinton/East Feliciana (7-3) at No. 14 Farmerville (10-2): The state's top prospect, Kendell Beckwith of EFHS, remains alive in a matchup of surprise teams. Farmerville is coming off an upset of unbeaten Eunice while East Feliciana knocked off No. 6 Rayne.
No. 3 Baton Rouge/University (11-1) at No. 13 Shreveport/Calvary Baptist (9-3): University is loaded with prospects, starting ESPN 150 defensive end Tim Williams and also including 2014 Watch List member Garrett Brumfield (OL) and 2015 RB Nick Brossette. Even an eighth-grader, Dylan Moses, already sports an LSU offer, though Moses does not play on the high school team. All that talent will go up against a Calvary team that beat 5A power West Monroe behind QB Daniel Fitzwater, who has had a solid senior season after moving to Shreveport from Liberty, Texas.
No. 2 Shreveport/Evangel (10-2) at No. 23 New Orleans/Carver (8-3): Led by three-star Houston commit Josh Thomas (OT), Oregon State commit X'Zvier Preston (LB) and three-star Louisiana Tech commit Trent Taylor (WR), Evangel is, as usual, loaded. But Carver, a former 5A school from the Upper Ninth Ward area of New Orleans that's still recovering from Hurricane Katrina, has some top prospects as well in four-star Alabama WR commit Raheem Falkins and four-star Ole Miss RB commit Eugene Brazley.
No. 25 Reserve/Riverside (6-5) at No. 1 River Ridge/John Curtis (11-0): It's a district rivalry, just not a very competitive one. Curtis won the regular-season match 59-0 and the Patriots, ranked No. 3 in the ESPN 25 Power Rankings, have won their two playoff games by a combined 114-6 score with running clock in the second half of their games. Curtis has too many prospects to mention them all, starting with 2014 Watch List members Malachi Dupre (WR) and Kenny Young (LB).