By Matt Vines, DeSoto Parish Journal
STONEWALL – The last time North DeSoto stepped onto a playoff football field – it was the Caesars Superdome to play for the Division II Non-Select championship. The Griffins didn’t take home the hardware in the program’s first-ever championship appearance, falling to traditional power Lutcher in a game which North DeSoto led late in the third quarter.
North DeSoto (9-1) has its eye on a return trip to New Orleans for another shot, and the first playoff obstacle standing in the No. 1 seed Griffins’ way is No. 17 DeRidder (7-4) in a second-round matchup. The game kicks off Friday at 7 p.m. at North DeSoto, which earned a first-round bye.
A high-flying offense and a defense that’s improved throughout the course of the season has secured North DeSoto the No. 1 seed in the Division II bracket. Led by sophomore quarterback Luke Delafield, the Griffins have topped the 50-point mark in eight of their 10 games. Delafield finished the regular season as the state’s seventh-most prolific passer, throwing for 2,475 yards with 29 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
“(Luke) is taking care of the ball better, and he’s not forcing throws into coverage,” said North DeSoto coach Dennis Dunn, who has elevated the Griffins from a solid perennial playoff participant to a championship contender in his five seasons.
The Griffins are the only team in the state to boast two receivers in the top 10 in receiving yards.
Junior Cole Cory entered the season as the team’s most established target, but senior Landry Wyatt’s development has diversified North DeSoto’s passing attack. Cory is second in the state with 1,139 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns, while Wyatt checks in at No. 9 with 861 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns, according to state leaders published by geauxpreps.com.
North DeSoto has won at least one playoff game in each of the past three seasons, and the Griffins will attempt to add a fourth straight playoff campaign with a win.
DeRidder gained late-season steam with three straight wins, which includes a first-round road playoff win at No. 16 Lakeshore (28-21) this past week. The Dragons are a smash-mouth squad with three running backs that average at least 75 yards per game. Reed Williams leads the way with 96 yards per game and a team-high 19 touchdowns.
“They will run the ball right at you,” said Dunn, who led Evangel Christian to nine state championships in 13 seasons in the 1990s and early 2000s. “They are big and physical up front.”
While North DeSoto’s defense surrendered more than 50 points in its first two games against prolific offenses in Airline and Center (Texas), the Griffins have been much stingier in the last eight games. North DeSoto has allowed just 104 points over its last eight contests, which is fewer than the 105 surrendered in the first two games. Those include shutouts of Minden and Booker T. Washington and three points allowed to Loyola.
“Our defensive line was young and inexperienced,” Dunn said. “They’ve continued to progress and get better through the season.”
The winner of North DeSoto-DeRidder will face the victor of No. 8 Iowa and No. 9 Plaquemine.