Kaplan Pirates Trying To Sail Through Semis Past Amite
The Kaplan Pirates are sailing through the season on a magical adventure, and they're not ready to get off their ship yet.
It's December, and the Pirates are still playing football. They are one step away from the state championship game, and the city of Kaplan is wrapped up in their compelling story. Tank Lotief's team is so close to a title they can taste it, but they have to get past Amite first if they want a shot at bringing home a trophy.
The Warriors only have two losses all season and they came to Loranger and McDonough 35, both teams from higher classifications. They average over 30 points per game on offense, and their defense held opponents to under 14 points eight times this season. They just knocked off the #2 seed, Iowa, in a close game (28-21) in the quarterfinals, so they're familiar with the big stage when the score gets tight.
Amite made it all the way to the semifinals last year too, and they lost one of the weirdest games in playoff history by the score of 2-0. The Warriors are hungry to wash that bitter taste out of their mouths, but they're facing a ruthless Pirates team that shows no mercy to their opponents.
Tank Lotief is an old-school coach, and his team feeds off his mentality. Kaplan loves to run the ball, play suffocating defense and beat you with pure smashmouth football. They don't commit penalties, and when they execute their game plan, they suck the life out their opponents by dominating possession. Last round's game against Jennings is a perfect example of what they do so well.
The Pirates rushed for over 350 yards in the quarterfinals, and their defense held Jennings, and Travis Etienne Jr. (one of the top backs in the country), to -7 yards in the second half. The Bulldogs never even touched the ball in the 4th Quarter, thanks to Kaplan's punishing offensive line and running backs Mac Thibeaux and Julius Johnson. Coach Lotief likes to say they beat teams up, and their trench warfare was too much for Jennings to handle.
Here's the kicker: Kaplan hasn't turned the ball over since Week Two of the regular season. Wrap your head around that. The Pirates have no botched snaps, fluke fumbles, tipped passes for interceptions, or any other mistakes that are hard to prevent in high school football. It's been three months since Kaplan shot themselves in the foot, so if you want to beat the Pirates, you have to execute your gameplan to perfection.
It's a special season for Coach Lotief for several reasons. Clearly, a 13-0 record would make any coach proud. The Pirates won 12 of those 13 games by multiple scores, and they're outscoring opponents by an average of 34-12 this season. The players absorb Lotief's football philosophy like sponges, and it's working to perfection.
The final factor is familial. Lotief's son, Daniel, is the heartbeat of this team. He's the starting quarterback and he anchors their defense from the strong safety position. Lotief watched the rest of the roster grow up right alongside his son, and most of these seniors feel like his children too at this point. He loves this team, on and off the field, and he's not ready to stop coaching them until they're all in the Superdome together.
The last puzzle piece to this semifinal game is talent. Amite's receiver Devonta Smith (6'1"-160 lbs) is the #1 recruit in the state of Louisiana, and their quarterback Elijah Walker is a three-star commit to Louisiana Tech. The Pirates' defense will be tested by those two, but they're not lacking for talent either. Julius Johnson plays pretty much every snap, on offense and defense, and he might be an even better linebacker than he is a running back.
With a trip to the Superdome on the line, both teams will go for broke. Amite's top-tier talent will try to punch holes in an airtight Kaplan defense, and something's got to give. One win, and you get an invite to the most exclusive dance in the state. One more, and you write your name in history's everlasting pages...
If you can't make it out to Kaplan this Friday, you don't have to miss a single snap. You can hear the radio broadcast on KPEL News (96.5 FM), with pregame starting at 6:50 pm. Brandon Comeaux and Cody Junot will be on the call, and you can also follow along on Twitter.