With a tough postseason trip set for Friday, the Resurrection Catholic football team has been here before.
The Eagles return to Nanih Waiya in the second round of the Class 1A South State playoffs for the second time in the last three years. Resurrection traveled in 2014 to Nanih Waiya, which is located in Louisville, and returned home with a 24-0 loss.
Nanih Waiya appears to be as powerful as ever with a 12-1 record and the Class 1A Mr. Football, junior athlete Chris Smith.
The odds may seem stacked against RCS (10-2) for Friday's road trip, but head coach Scott Sisson has a good feeling about his team.
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“I heard about (the loss at Nanih Waiya) all weekend long, 'The last time we went to Nanih Waiya we got smashed),'” Sisson said. “I'm sure that's what the outside general public is going to see. This time, we're going up there healthy.”
Sisson rolled off a long list of key players who were injured on that trip two years ago. This week, the head coach feels comfortable with the bus full of players he'll take to Louisville.
Resurrection is in pursuit of its second consecutive Class 1A South State title and a win on Friday puts its in the South State title contest against the winner of Stringer-Lumberton.
Nanih Waiya and Resurrection have one shared opponent this season – Noxapater.
RCS topped Noxapater 17-6 last week in the first round of the playoffs, limiting the Tigers to only four first downs on offense. Nanih Waiya, which is riding a 12-game win streak, beat Noxapater 19-7 on Oct. 20.
Smith is a versatile player for the Warriors, pitching in at running back, receiver and defensive back. He has 82 carries for 859 yards and 20 touchdowns along with 18 receptions for 409 yards and eight scores. On defense, he has 29 tackles and two interceptions.
He has 33 touchdowns total, scoring in nearly every facet of the game.
It will be up to tough Resurrection defense to slow down Smith Friday night. The unit has shown improvement in recent weeks, holding opponents to a total of 12 points over the last two games. A big part of that defensive unit is junior defensive tackle Jackson Byrd, who has 66 tackles, 19 for lost yardage, and five sacks.
“Besides a few passes and us blowing some coverages. I think we've been playing pretty good,” Byrd said. “We've been holding down some all-state running backs. The defensive line and the linebackers are learning the game more and learning their assignments.”
Resurrection is more diverse on offense than it was a year ago with junior quarterback Blake Porter completing 56 percent of his passes for 1,152 yards, 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions. His top target is junior Patrick Roth, who has 27 catches for 426 yards and six touchdowns.
RCS is at its best when it keeps the ball on the ground with 2,847 total rushing yards.
Senior running back Patrick Watts has pounded his way into the end zone 24 times this season. He has rushed for over 100 yards eight times this season and has 268 rushes for 1,461 yards.
“He's dependable,” Sisson said of Watts. “He doesn't get big yards per carry, but he's always been there. He's a go-to guy. The one that's overlooked a lot is Justice Sharp. If they start keying on Pat, we give it to Justice.”
Sharp, a senior, has run 85 times for 567 yards and seven touchdowns. Junior Cearly Parker also has 55 carries for 418 yards and eight scores.
Resurrection likely faces its biggest challenge of the season Friday night, but that's just fine by Byrd.
“I like the way the playoffs have happened this year. We have to go the harder route,” Byrd said. “We're not No. 1. We're having to travel more, not just stay at home. We're really going to figure what kind of team we are.”
Who: Resurrection vs. Nanih Waiya
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Radio: 1580 AM