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Mustangs to face similar foe in playoffs


Assumption's Charles Jefferson (5) finds running room in last week's Class 4A bi-district playoff game against St. Martinville in Napoleonville. (Photo by Abby Tabor/Staff)


When Don Torres popped in the film of the Alexandria Trojans, he saw a familiar team.

With the Trojans' offense filled with talented skill players and an aggressive defense, Torres said it's similar to the team he sees every time the Mustangs take the field.

"It is like looking in a mirror," the Mustangs head coach said. "They spread the field and have a good passing attack. They don't run the ball as often as we do, but their defense closes on the ball well. They also can make great defensive stands, so really it is like looking at a mirror."

The No. 5 seed Mustangs and the No. 21 seed Trojans kickoff their Class 4A regional playoff game at 7 p.m. on Friday at Trojans Stadium. The winner will play the Breaux Bridge-Salmen winner in next week's quarterfinals. If Assumption wins, the quarterfinal game will be played at Mustangs Stadium.

Assumption (10-1 overall) defeated St. Martinville, 37-20, in last week's bi-district playoff game by passing the ball in the first half then turning to its running game in the second half.

Torres said Alexandria (7-4) attacks opposing defenses in the same fashion, but not so much with a running game.

"Their quarterback is tall and has a quick release. It is hard to get to him. They also have some tall receivers that can go over the top of defensive backs and make plays," Torres said, "They got a little (running) back who is good, but they (run) just to change it up and keep you honest. We can actually sustain drives with our running game. They don't try doing that."

Alexandria's quarterback C.J. Gatlin has passed for 2,064 yards by completing 138-of-214 attempts and nine interceptions to go with 16 touchdowns. The Trojans top running back is Jean-Marc Brown who has 317 yards on 65 carries.

Gatlin was 12-of-22 for 144 yards in the Trojans' 27-7 win over East Jefferson last week.

The Trojans took advantage of turnovers and got three touchdowns from Carlos Carroll against East Jefferson to extend their winning streak to six games. Carroll scored on a 14-yard reception, a 2-yard run and a 35-yard fumble return.

Alexandria coach Chris Gatlin said maintaining focus was the key in his team's win.

"Whenever you go on the road, that far the biggest thing was our focus and how hard the kids play," Chris Gatlin said. "We talk to our kids every day not to live in the past or the future, worry about ourselves at this moment. Obviously, Assumption is a good team. Every team left in the Top 16 can play. We just have to focus on ourselves. We started out 1-4, but it was the kids that did a great job of staying together."

Assumption's balanced offense is led by quarterback Hunter Gauthreaux (111-of-191, 1,874 yards, 24 touchdowns and five interceptions) and running back Chris Johnson 1,154 yards, 10 touchdowns). The Mustangs have five receivers — led by Dejuawn Oliver (29 receptions, 715 yards and nine touchdowns) — with at least 200 yards, and Gauthreaux has thrown touchdown passes to seven different receivers.

Gatlin said he sees a potential offensive shootout with both teams' ability to throw the football.

"Their athletic ability with their big guys (is what impresses me). Their defensive line is quick and they are very big on the offensive line. They can line up man-to-man, and we will have to be on the top of our game," Gatlin said. "It will be a fun game to watch if you like offense. They score a lot of points, and we score a lot of points. The ball will be in the air. We've seen them put pressure or back off and cover, but we do know they will come in here with athletes."

Torres said playoffs games are decided by which team commits the fewest mistakes and that is his team's focus this week — limiting mistakes.

"(Alexandria) didn't make mistakes, and East Jeff had three turnovers and gave up a fumble return for a touchdown. That was the difference in the game — turnovers," Torres said. "We got to stop their big plays in the passing game and control the line of scrimmage with our offensive line. We have to limit our mistakes and play better on special teams."

NOTES

The game will be streamed online at www.q93fm.com... Alexandria's playoff win over East Jeff was Gatlin's first as Trojans coach, and the last time Alexandria won a playoff game was in 2004... Assumption's win over St. Martinville was its first playoff win since 2000... Assumption had 516 total yards against St. Martinville.