Denham Springs entered the playoffs with the #10 seed and faced off in the three round playoff at Creole Lanes in Houma Louisiana in an effort to secure a berth in the Final Four to be held at Premier Lanes in Gonzales next week.
vs. Archbishop Rummel (#23)
The Jacket boys started off the post-season against an opponent we saw earlier this season in Archbishop Rummel out of the Catholic league in New Orleans. Schools from this league always prove to be a landmine in the playoffs with lower seeds. They play a brutal schedule every season often toggling with multiple title contenders each year. Just two seasons ago, Rummel rode a 21 seed all the way to the championship game. Since our match earlier in the season Rummel has really turned it up including a season ending performance of 3720 (206 avg) against Patrick Taylor including a scintillating game of 1321 (220 avg). Every expectation was that this match was going to be much closer than the first meeting.
The Jackets jumped out the gate 6-2 on the Raiders with numerous subpar performances from both teams who were really trying to find their way in an unfamiliar environment. Cade Fletcher led Denham Springs with a 231 and a win out of the anchor spot and Mason Ballard flexed the power of two hands to lead the low lane with a 201. Denham held a slim 52 pin lead on Rummel after the first game. Jackets won total 1046-994
The energy from the fans was high during the match and the boys really fed into it. In game 2 the team shined offering up its best performance of the day and setting the Raiders back on their heels needing a miracle to come back. Once again the Jackets took 6 wins to their 2 heading into game 3 with a commanding 12-2 lead. Three Jackets doubled-up with Cade Fletcher dropping 226, Gabe Eunice etching a 223 on the score sheet and Mason Ballard continuing his two hand dominance with match leading 234. The Jackets shot 1205 in game two for a 200 average and overwhelming Rummel’s 994 effort.
Game 3 saw Rummel pitch in their best effort of the match with a 1075 but ran into another solid effort from the Jackets who posted an 1138 with two more games over 200 from Gabe Eunice (213) and Mason Ballard (209).
Cade Fletcher finished with a 628 and Mason Ballard finished with a 644 in the winning effort.
Between matches the teams were required to leave the bowling center to allow for proper COVID compliance and to give spectators of arriving teams the ability to watch their teams play. The team grabbed lunch and met at one of the families mobile home and tailgated for their own match in true south Louisiana style. After a little fuel up and short strategy talk it was back to the battle.
vs. Central (#7)
The second match of our run saw us face a familiar opponent, one who when the battle lines aren’t drawn are the best of friends. This was a match that we would have liked to have seen during the regular season like we have for many years prior. It wasn’t meant to be but fate had it that we would settle the “true district” score in the playoffs. Central returned everyone from a team that finished ranked #1 in the state last season and entered the match with a curiously low #7 seed. Central finished 11-1 with their one loss being a narrow one to the #1 power ranked team in the state.
The first game set the tone for the whole match with Central making a strong statement dropping not one, but TWO games over 250 by Andrew Coward (265) and Charles Rawls running 8 out the gate and finishing with a 277. Cade Fletcher joined the 250-fest from our squad to finish with a 251. The Jackets matched some of the intensity but solid spare shooting coupled with occasional blocks of strikes were no match for the big guns of 6+ strikes offered by Central. The Jackets found themselves down 2-6 and down by 165 pins early.
Game 2 unfortunately saw the most pedestrian performance of the playoff run with a 1026 (171 avg) for the team. Central kept up their solid work averaging nearly 200 with an 1185 and adding another 159 to their now commanding lead.
Still, there was a mathematical chance AND some fight left in these Jackets. I reminded the boys of who they were and noted that an exceptional effort combined with a subpar effort by our opponent would result in something they could tell their grandkids about. Those stories happen in sports when teams don’t give up the effort. With that, the Jackets ended with their best effort of this match of 1107 and a narrow win over Central in game 3 to grab a little bragging rights. Cade Fletcher tossed a 213 and Mason Ballard threw in a 226. Our team value the last two weeks focused on confidence. These boys really showed today that confidence is a big factor in bowling your best.
The Central match was marred by one of those things you cannot control in sports. A couple of spare balls were literally destroyed by the machines leaving two of our low lane bowlers having to shoot spares the old school way. Given their lack of experience without a spare ball we likely gave up 40-50 pins in the last stanza which would have made our improbable late run a little closer. As it was, Central moved on, the battle lines were lifted and our “true district” member would eventually end the day as Final Four participants.
I can’t express how amazing the playoff environment was with these two teams. Both groups of fans brought tremendous energy that fed both teams and really brought out some amazing fire. I want to give a big thanks, especially to OUR parents and friends who were able to make it and support this team. That “7th man” is a big big help.
While the loss in the second round is not how we wanted to end this season the team is still making progress towards our ultimate goal of winning a state title.
We finished the season 11-3 with the losses being against the #1 power ranked team in the state (Catholic x2) and a team (Central) that is very likely to end up in the championship game with a real shot at bringing a state title back to the group of public schools. The last public school to win a championship in bowling was Barbe in 2011. Since then Catholic, Archbishop Rummel, Vandebilt Catholic and Brother Martin have dominated the top podium in high school bowling.
In 2019 a 130 average was good enough to play in the low spot on this team at the start of the season. That team was led by two freshmen averaging 180. That team finished 8-4 and was knocked out in the second round by Central LaFourche, a public school which made a valiant run at a state title that season. Since then the team has recruited friends and gotten the word out about tryouts. We have improved our practice routines and are building around core values that represent our team culture. We have brought many students on and exposed them to our sport and taught them what we know and some of those kids have bought in, joined leagues, gotten private lessons and improved their performance. As the effort has increased the team has improved.
In 2021 a rising 175 average is what it took to play in the low spot on this team. Next season it should exceed the average of all the members of our 2019 8-4 playoff squad. It takes a low of 190 and a high at or near 220 to be a state title contender in Louisiana. With the improvement we are seeing in youth leagues those numbers are likely to keep rising. It typically requires depth and a versatile roster and that is what we are building. The template it there and we know the effort required to attain it is great.
Great season Jackets!
Jackets pow wow after the win against Archbishop Rummel