WESTLAKE — 48 minutes will make or break the Westlake Rams season day.
The most recent unofficial LHSAA Class 3A power rankings put the Rams at No. 34 and .09 points behind Mansfield, who currently holds the last playoff spot.
A win today would give the Rams (3-5, 3-1) a share of the District 4-3A championship and an automatic playoff birth. It could end up being a three-way tie if St. Louis (6-2, 3-1) and Lake Charles College Prep (6-3, 3-1) also win.
“Hopefully the kids are ready to play and know how important this is,” Westlake head coach John Richardson said. “We are trying to treat it like any other week.
“We are not trying to put too much hype on it, but we have let the kids know that there needs to be a little extra intensity. You are really fighting for your football lives come Friday night. We win, and we are co-champions of the district and we are in. If we lose, we are done.”
Westlake will have to go on the road to take on the Jennings Bulldogs (4-5, 2-2) at Jerry Simmons Stadium.
“Jennings is a talented team,” Richardson said. “They have a lot of speed. We have to go out there and play some really good football and earn our way into the playoffs.”
Westlake ended a six-game losing streak to the Bulldogs with a 21-14 win at home.
Jennings is loaded with speedsters this year in sophomore running back Trevor Etienne, the younger brother of Clemson star Travis Etienne, junior running back Jalen Lewis and junior receiver Jacorien Palfrey. Etienne has run for 1,020 yards and 14 touchdowns, plus seven receiving touchdowns. Lewis has run for 768 yards and nine scores. Palfrey is averaging almost 28 yards a catch
“They are all really good players,” Richardson said. “Any time any of them touch the ball, they can take it the distance.
“We have to do a great job of trying to keep them in front of us and a great job of tackling. We can’t give up the big plays. They throw little hitches out there to the receiver and he is unbelievable. He is really good out in space making people miss and breaking tackles.”
Westlake has relied heavily on hits run game this season, but there could be a different face in the backfield this week. J.J. Ross, who has run for 1,112 yards and 17 touchdowns, has been hobbled by an injury lately and is day-to-day. If Ross is unable to play, Jasia Janice (179 car., 1,036 yards, 9 TDs) will get more carries as will Dylan Perkins.
“Last week, we ended up throwing the ball a little more than usual and Jasia Simien carried the ball a lot more,” Richardson said. “We do have Dylan Perkins who has played some the last couple of weeks and has done a good job for us.
“There is no room for excuses. If he (Ross) plays, great. If he doesn’t, we have to move forward. Between the group back there, someone has to account for his production. It is football. That is the way it goes.”