(Class 5A picks through four rounds: 20-10; Overall, 116-36)
NO. 4 WEST MONROE (14-0) VS. NO. 27 ACADIANA (9-5) -- Make no mistake about it; West Monroe may not be the top seed in Class 5A, but the Rebels have been the undisputed favorite to win the state title all year long.
Why, you ask?
Well, no one has been able to defeat West Monroe since the Rebels lost to Destrehan in the 2008 finals, and a win tonight will make it 30 straight in the victory column for head coach Don Shows and his staff.
Acadiana, meanwhile, is certainly no stranger to the state title game, having made multiple appearances this decade, including a 28-7 loss to West Monroe in the 2005 finals (which were held in Shreveport in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina).
Brush aside the fact that Acadiana's record stands at 9-5, because the Rams are 13-1 on the field, with four of their losses coming via forfeit (due to the use of an ineligible backup player).
During the regular season, Acadiana dropped a game to crosstown foe St. Thomas More, but the Rams dominated a rematch against the Cougars last week, handling then-undefeated STM by a 31-0 margin.
Along the way, Acadiana eliminated St. Paul's in the quarterfinals, 41-20, and four-star defensive tackle Mickey Johnson of St. Paul's spoke with Scout.com about tonight's game.
"Acadiana is on a roll and will be hard to stop," said Johnson, whose squad entered the quarterfinal matchup versus the Rams with a 12-0 record. "They're pretty strong. I know a couple of guys from their team: Cade Dawes and Micah Eugene.
"With West Monroe, all you really have to worry about on their offense is (quarterback) Paul Turner. It's going to come down to Acadiana's defense being able to stop him."
Turner, a three-star LSU commit, is projected to play either wide receiver or defensive back in college, but he's a terrific high school signal-caller.
A natural leader on and off the field, Turner has thrown for more than 1,100 yards with 13 TDs and no interceptions. He's best known, though, for his breathtaking runs (892 yards rushing, 8.5 ypc, 14 TDs), including a long, backbreaking scoring jaunt vs. Archbishop Rummel in last year's title game (won by WM, 30-0).
Senior running back Tyler Cain (1,500 yards, 9.49 ypc, 23 TDs) is a shifty, elusive runner with offers from a handful of colleges. Like Turner, Cain will likely move to another position (WR) on the next level. He suffered a concussion in last week's game vs. Westgate, but should be fine tonight.
On defense, West Monroe features a large, aggressive, intimidating front seven that includes three-star defensive tackle Chuck Hunter and 240-pound inside linebacker Jonathan Tyson. Defensive linemen James McFarland and Terrell Lathan are two of the top juniors in the state. Lathan is a four-star prospect.
The pressure will be on West Monroe's front seven to combat Acadiana's split-back veer machine, which is led by QB Ryan Bergeron. Senior RB Micah Eugene probably hits the hole faster than any other back in Louisiana, and the Rams have the best offensive line in the state.
Offensive guard Cade Dawes and offensive tackle Nick Smith (committed to local program UL) pave the way for an impressive rushing attack that rotates several pairs of fresh legs into the game at RB.
Each team has a future collegiate player in the secondary in West Monroe's Michael Hunter and Acadiana's Bakari Hollier. Eugene, who rarely comes off the field, also shines in the Rams' defensive backfield.
"Acadiana is a really good team with a high-powered offense," said St. Paul's WR Jermaine Sams, who is committed to SMU. "Their veer is hard to stop, but West Monroe has a good offense too and they also have Chuck Hunter on defense."
BOTTOM LINE: West Monroe and Acadiana should both score some points. Their respective offenses are potent enough to where a defensive stalemate is unlikely to occur.
If pressed, I'd put Acadiana's magic number at 23. If the Rams hold the defending state champs to 23-or-fewer points, then I like their chances for an upset.
It's going to be "mano-a-mano" along the line of scrimmage tonight. West Monroe has the stoutest defensive front seven in the state, while Acadiana has the strongest offensive line within the Louisiana borders.
Who wins the war up front?