The Laurence Manning Academy football team has had a tremendous season. The Swampcats enter the postseason with only one blemish, a loss to top-ranked Hammond, and have won their last two games by at least three scores.
Now the Swampcats face a …
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Now the Swampcats face a familiar foe as they open the SCISA 3A playoffs against Porter-Gaud. LMA beat the Cyclones 21-14 back on Sept. 20.
Laurence Manning comes into the playoffs with a lot of confidence as a No. 2 seed. That doesn't mean, however, the Swampcats will be sleeping on Porter-Gaud just because it's a No. 7 seed.
"They're a really good team, and we said when we beat them that we thought they were a good team," said LMA head coach Austin Floyd, who is 9-1 in his first season as head coach. "We were fortunate to beat them the first time. Yeah, they're a seventh seed, but they also beat First Baptist last week and all their games have been really close. There's just not a lot of difference between the second best team in 3A and the seventh."
While LMA won the first contest, Floyd expects a very different ball game after the 5-5 Cyclones' 28-14 win over No. 3 seed First Baptist.
"It's so different. I think we played them Week 4 and now it's the first round of the playoffs. Yes, it's a rematch, but the teams have changed over time. We're going to treat it like it's one week and one game," said the first-year LMA head coach. "They still rely on their quarterback a lot, but the coach has some offensive linemen that he wasn't playing on the defensive line earlier in the year, and now he is and now they're probably some of their better linemen.
"He's going to do what it takes to win, just like we're going to do. The issue is that the two teams they played the last two weeks are really pass-heavy with spread formations, so it doesn't give us a whole lot of outlook on how they'll look against us."
Porter-Gaud has gotten excellent production out of their quarterback, Matt Kelly, all season long. He's passed for 1,333 yards and nine touchdowns, but he also leads the team in rushing with 335 yards and seven scores. Keeping him contained inside the pocket is going to be LMA's No. 1 priority.
"Defensively on Friday night, we have to try to keep that quarterback in the pocket and contain him," said Floyd. "I think he had 270-something passing yards last week against First Baptist, and a lot of that was him extending the play. He's a phenomenal player, one of the better quarterbacks in our league. We have to limit those explosive plays and be where we're supposed to be defensively, and when we have a chance to make a tackle, we have to make it."
Turnovers will also be a big key. LMA let Porter-Gaud stay in the game during their first matchup by turning the ball over.
"We went back and focused on that game and looked at what we did wrong and turnovers was the biggest thing," said Floyd. "At that point in the year, we hadn't really turned it over, and we did and we let them stay in the game. We were lucky to win; I mean, they had the ball driving to tie it up in the fourth quarter because of turnovers.
"It's everything," continued Floyd. "It's clich to say we don't wanna turn it over, but we don't. We have to just hang onto that football and take care of it. Most of the time when you do that, you give yourself a chance to win a football game."
Laurence Manning is ready to prove its season hasn't been a fluke.
"Our kids are excited to play. This is what we've worked for. You work to play in November and win games in November," said Floyd. "I told them on Monday that 9-1 doesn't really matter anymore. Sure, it gives us confidence we can compete, but Friday night is its own game, and we have to treat it like its own season. None of that stuff is going to help us from before. Nobody is going to come in and expect that just because we're a 2 seed, and they're a 7 seed that we're just going to win the game. That's not how it works; we've gotta take care of business."
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