Tonight features a heavyweight fight between two Baton Rouge rivals in the Episcopal Knights and the Dunham Tigers. Both teams are coming in red hot as the Knights and Tigers are both ranked in the top five for the Division III select power ratings. Both teams have the opportunity to be in the driver seat of a potential district championship, but in their way, is each other.
Episcopal Knights (6-0)
The Episcopal Knights are marching in with an undefeated 6-0 record and not only is Travis Bourgeois’ squad undefeated this season, but the team is coming off back to back undefeated district championships. In fact, the Knights are looking for their 30th straight regular season win. Despite having a different team year in and year out, the program at Episcopal is as consistent as it gets and for a veteran coaching staff, it is all about the next man up that has made this regular season winning streak so incredible.
“It’s an evolution of kids that have seen great team captains, great senior leadership. They’ve seen the camaraderie it takes to be successful to be in the weight room, to be the scout team. We’ve been fortunate to have great senior leadership over the years and this is a senior class that wants to be better than the previous class. That is when you know that you got a program. The kids expect to win. They know how to win just because they have seen it through others and I always think that it is having coaches that have a lot of continuity. That’s irreplaceable when you have that many guys with experience that work together. I don’t think that you can replace that with anything. It trickles down to the way our guys prepare week in and week out and it shows on Friday nights.”Episcopal Head Coach Travis Bourgeois
The Knights offense has really showed off through the team’s first six games of the season averaging 40 points per game and not scoring less than 33 points in every game this season. Although it is a sophomore heavy team, the Knights have a veteran signal caller in Lewis Ward running the offense as he has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns. The Knights also have a two headed monster in Reid Chauvin and Braeden George as both players having combined for 1,069 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns on the ground. With the ability to run the football in the Wing T and also being able to throw the football from the spread, the Knights offensive attack is as balanced as it gets.
“Offensively, it all starts with Lewis Ward. He’s been really consistent. We have a 1,000 yard passer after Week 6. That hasn’t happened in a long time. We keep it balanced on the ground as Braeden has close to 600 yards on the ground and Reid has over 400. Just being able to be more diverse on offense, that has been really key on the offensive side of the football.”Episcopal Head Coach Travis Bourgeois
After replacing a dynamic offensive backfield in 2021 led by Thomas D’Armond and Ethan Carmouche, it has been the Braeden George and Reid Chauvin show this season, but according to Bourgeois, that has not been the only surprise on that side of the football.
“We talked about surprises from the skill guys, but if you ask Coach Jones, he would say that the offensive line has been a pleasant surprise. It’s like you said. It’s the next man up. We had four seniors last year. These guys are working and seeing their work ethic, this is their turn. It is next man up mentality and they are taking full advantage of it. They have been consistent week in and week out.”Episcopal Head Coach Travis Bourgeois
Defensively, this group is growing as the season moves on under defensive coordinator Charlie O’Brien as there are a lot of sophomores on that side of the football. Led by junior defensive end Ethan Ott, who has been a menace in opposing offensive backfields all season long, the defense is starting to settle in halfway through the season.
“I think Ethan Ott is off to an outstanding year. He is game in and game out. He is the energizer guy up front. He’s undersized, but he gives 100% effort on every play. I think the rest of the defensive line feeds off of him. JB Sessums , Kareem Badawi, who has stepped up for us in the last couple of games as well, Cale Buhler and Cam Butler being able to anchor the middle. It starts right there with the energy Ethan Ott plays with. It’s contagious and the guy right behind him Chase Cresson has been a great gain for leading our defense after playing his freshman year last year tackling and calling plays with his buddy CJ Stewart. Our two outside guys Chase Finley and Will Ribes are going above and beyond just being consistent week in and week out. Those guys have been really consistent. Our corners Nathan Sanchez, Brody Bailey, and Trigg Newton at safety have been consistent and stable. The quick screen game got us against Capitol and earlier against St. Thomas Aquinas, but every game, those guys are getting valuable experience as well. The biggest thing about those guys is that if they give up the big play, they will learn to flush it and it is hard for a young person to do. They have been a consistent group for us back there. Against Ascension Catholic, we give up 300 yards passing and it was one of those learning experiences. The one thing about is that they will keep coming back and will create a negative play. That’s what I like most about this group. There is always a fight in them that a turnover is going to happen or we will stop them on fourth down. It’s a group that doesn’t quit and I love their effort.”Episcopal Head Coach Travis Bourgeois
This young football team has approached this big game in the same way it has every other week and because of that, Bourgeois feels that his team is ready to take on its toughest challenge of the season.
“This year is a little unique because we are so young. A lot of these guys were on the sidelines these past couple of years. It was a pretty loose week. It is not like we have 15 seniors, 10 juniors, and it’s not like that this will be the last time these guys play in this football game because there are only a handful of seniors. It was actually a pretty normal week, and if you didn’t know that you were playing Dunham this week, you wouldn’t know it. Everything has been the same routine and that’s what this week is about. Week in and week out, it is all about who is next on the schedule and let’s go play them.”Episcopal Head Coach Travis Bourgeois
However, Coach Bourgeois knows that his team needs to be composed and not let the emotions get the best of you when playing against a veteran Dunham Tigers football team.
“This year, for them, they have more seniors. They have more experience. They have been in this rivalry and lost the last two. There’s no doubt that this game has been circled in the back of their minds for the past year. Definitely, we have to weather the storm because we know the emotions of this rivalry. We can’t make it bigger than what it is. Being a young team, just go out there and play loose and relaxed.”Episcopal Head Coach Travis Bourgeois
Check out some of Episcopal’s highlights this season with Jace LeJeune on the call for VSN:
Dunham Tigers (5-1):
The Dunham Tigers definitely have this game circled on the calendar especially after losing in a 44-40 thriller last season to Episcopal, but if there is any team that can snap the Knights’ regular season winning streak and put a stop to the Knights’ quest for three straight undefeated district championships, it is definitely Neil Weiner’s squad.
The Tigers come in with a lot of confidence. Ever since the Tigers lost to Parkview Baptist 13-10 to start the season, the team has won five straight games including a 20-19 win over Ascension Catholic and a convincing 28-14 win over Southern Lab. According to Coach Weiner, this veteran football team has done a good job of focusing on the task ahead of them.
“It just shows the maturity of the team. We are not going to let one bad series on offense and defense that led to the Parkview loss moving forward. We are going to take it one day at a time, one game at a time. The next week, we won against 5A Live Oak and kept them out of the end zone all game. We moved the football well and we have been playing well since. It’s a true veteran group for sure.”Dunham Head Coach Neil Weiner
Like Episcopal, the Tigers have a veteran senior quarterback that can beat defenses with his legs and his arm in Jackson House. House is the son of LSU defensive coordinator Matt House and is committed to play for Eastern Kentucky.
“He’s just a winner. He’s going to do whatever it takes to spark his team and make a play whether it is with his feet, his arm, or just being physical. He is not a ra ra type of guy, but he plays the game like a Tim Tebow. He’s got a physicality about him and a determination that inspires others around him. He’s a smart kid that is a great student and is a great leader.”Dunham Head Coach Neil Weiner
House has great players around him too that makes things easier for him offensively.
“Our offensive line is a really good unit. We’ve been able to run the ball really well this year. We don’t have many sacks and a lot of that is because Jackson can escape, but upfront, Braden Augustus and James Baldwin do a great job at center and right guard. There are both seniors and two year starters for us. They both have come on strong and the Southern Lab was probably their best game and to do that against a high quality team shows that they are peaking at the right time. We lean on those two up front.”
“We rotate running backs in Colin Boldt, who has been our leader, and Mason Wild comes in for him and plays a lot. They have been fantastic for us. Wide receiver wise, Jac Comeaux is a big play threat. Jake Dupree has a couple of touchdown catches and is a great route runner. We are pretty balanced as far as feeding the ball to guys in the passing game. We are starting to click on offense and this will be a good indicator to see where we really are.”Dunham Head Coach Neil Weiner
The defense is very physical and is led by one of the best defensive fronts in the area commanded by 6’4, 240 pound defensive end Jake Rizzo. With also great football players like Boldt in the back end, this is a tough defense to move the football against.
“Our defensive line and linebackers are just a top notch crew across the board. Colin Boldt plays safety, but we will move him down in certain schemes and if you put him as the eighth man in the box, that is a tough front eight to move the football on. They have been great for us.”
“Our defensive backs have really played well. We rotated a couple of freshmen, sophomores, and they have done a great job in making plays for us. Drew Bourgeois is a kid that played baseball the last two years and is an undersized kid, but just makes plays all over the field. He is starting at corner at one side. Brock Boneval is starting on the other side. I think both have three interceptions on the year.”
Coach Weiner knows that his guys want this football game, but for him, the key is for his team to not make it tougher on themselves to win.
“We’ve had two games in this rivalry where one team dominated. Our 2018 team was really good. We went undefeated and I believe we beat them 40-0. Two years ago, they had their team that was so talented and undefeated and they beat us 43-0. It is not going to be one of those games. Every other game, it has come down to just one team losing the game with self inflected penalties, turnovers, etc. In close games like this, it is not which team wins the game. It is what team loses the game. In 2019, they were the better team, but they had a couple of mistakes and we were able to take advantage of that. Last year, it was the same exact story, but just the other way around. I felt like we were the better team and had a big lead, but we have a turnover, a penalty, a bad snap, and they score and they win on the trick play at the end.”
“Anytime that you have two teams that are going to play really hard and where the talent level isn’t skewed one way or the other, the team that makes the mistakes is going to end up losing so we just have to play clean football and execute on both sides of the football.”Dunham Head Coach Neil Weiner
Check out Dunham’s highlights in a 20-19 win over Ascension Catholic earlier this year.
As mentioned earlier, the winner of this game will be in the driver’s seat for a district championship. After winning on a double pass last year against Dunham, the Episcopal Knights want to continue their winning streak against their arch rivals. Meanwhile, the Dunham Tigers would love nothing more than to put all that to an end in front of their home fans.
It should be a great atmosphere tonight. Make sure to follow Gridiron Football on all of our social media channels as Jace LeJeune will give you updates through tonight’s big contest including a postgame writeup after the game.