A Sweet Advantage

Written by John Dupont on .

Sugar Classic: Homefield playoff spot looms in Brusly-Port Allen rivalry showdown

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Banners and bragging rights are nice, but much greater rewards loom for the winner of the 2012 Sugar Classic.


The District 7-3A runner-up spot and home-field advantage go up for grabs when Brusly hosts Port Allen in the annual rivalry battle Friday.


Kickoff at Panther Stadium is 7 p.m.


The winner receives the West Baton Rouge Championship banner and a year’s worth of bragging rights, but much greater spoils loom in the 2012 matchup.


The two West Baton Rouge squads enter Friday’s game tied for second place. Brusly held on to its tie for second after a 54-8 win over Donaldsonville, while Port Allen prevailed 20-14 over E.D. White to keep its runner-up hopes intact.


St. Charles, meanwhile, keeps full possession of the penthouse suite. The Comets beat both Brusly and Port Allen in its successful defense of the 7-3A championship.


The Pelicans and Panthers will both head into Class 3A playoff fare, but Friday’s showdown will determine which team stays home and which one hits the road for the post-season fray. 


Both teams rank in the lower half of the unofficial power ratings listed on the website for the Louisiana High School Athletic Association. The top 16 teams get home field advantage the opening round, while the bottom half travels.


The winning team would ascend to the upper half of the rankings.


Power ratings and playoff berths aside, both teams know a tall order awaits them Friday night.


Brusly enters the contest 7-2 and 3-1 in 7-3A. Port Allen heads into action 6-2 and 3-1. 


The two senior quarterbacks who have commanded attention across south Louisiana this season also add luster to the matchup.


Texas A&M commitment quarterback/linebacker Darian Claiborne leads the pack for the Pelicans, while third-year QB Jay Christophe takes to the field for the Panthers.


Both quarterbacks have figured as workhorses this season and have led scoring for their respective teams. 


Claiborne and Christophe are friends off the field. They show immense respect for each other’s talent.


“Jay’s a playmaker,” Claiborne said. “Every snap he gets the ball, he makes things happen.”


Christophe feels likewise about Claiborne. 


“He’s a great athlete,” he said. “He’s the best person on the team – no question about it.”


Christophe said he talked with Claiborne recently about the upcoming game.


“It wasn’t any smack talk,” he said. “It was just two guys saying ‘May the best man win’.”


Friendship will take a backseat once the opening whistle sounds Friday night.


“We’re focused, and it’s something we really want,” Claiborne said. “I think if we stop that offense, it will create a very good situation for us.”


The magnitude of the 2012 game also sparks more motivation, Christophe said.


“So much rides on this one game,” he said. “It will be a hostile environment, but the main idea will be to stop Darian. He’s the top dog.”


The team that walks off the field victorious will most likely succeed off a simple approach, according to both coaches.


“We know we have our work cut out for us,” Port Allen coach Guy Blanchard said. “We know we’ll be an underdog Friday night, but we like our position and we like where we’re at. We control our own destiny.


“It’s going come down to the bottom line: Which team makes the fewest mistakes,” he said. “It all comes down to the execution.”


It’s a similar approach Brusly coach Erik Willis will utilize for the Panthers. 


“We need to stop the big play and offensively, just do what we’re capable of doing and take care of ourselves,” he said. “We need to continue what we’re doing on offense, stop them on the big plays and just be consistent.


“In my experience in two games so far, I can remember we weren’t as focused in the first half but came back in the second half,” Willis said. “We have to play four quarters, but we’re a lot more mature this year so I don’t think we’ll have that problem.”


Blanchard and Willis both said this year’s showdown could go down as one of the best in years.


“This should be one people look at for years to come with two good quarterbacks going against each other,” Willis said. “I’m expecting this one to be a classic.”


The success of both teams this season also adds to the intrigue, Blanchard said.


 “The records make it more special this year,” he said. “Both teams are having a great year. No matter what happens Friday, both teams will play again the following week


“We’re all here for a good time,” he said.



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