Welcome to the second round of the playoffs, where the big boys start to become bullies and the pretenders fall off. This week's Football Forecast predicts serious storm clouds.

Before we get started, put your hands together for all the teams still fighting in the postseason. The Acadiana area is still well represented in the playoffs, and there's a good chance a couple teams could dance their way all the way to the Dome. Each team's path to prominence is different, but the end goal is the same. State titles are elusive but beautiful beasts, and everyone wants to bring one back to their home town.

Things are getting tough and tight already in the LHSAA playoffs. There's no elevator to the top in high school football, but who has the footwork to climb all the stairs?

Our first matchup of the week is a grudge match between two teams with the grit and determination to go the distance, the second game features the defending state champs and some rebellious contenders, and the final game highlights one of the most talented teams in the state trying to prove their seed wrong.

It's only right we look at the roots of the bracket before climbing the playoff tree. Who got their team to the second round, and how did they do it?

(photo by Ryan Baniewicz)
(photo by Ryan Baniewicz)

Players Of The Week: Elijah Mitchell, Bralen Trahan, Samarick Paul, Zach Ronquillo

Primetime players provide a lot of punch in the first round of the playoffs. All four of the Players of the Week from the first postseason bout helped their teams deliver a first round knockout.

Let's start with the winner of our Twitter poll, the undisputed people's champ, Erath's Elijah Mitchell.

Mitchell is the man. He led the state in rushing in the regular season, and he lit up Eunice's defense for 331 yards and six touchdowns in a first round blowout. Recruiting websites would argue he's not the best back in the state, but the numbers speak for themselves.

Elijah's performance put him over 2,500 yards rushing in 2016, and he's over the 30 TD mark too. He's a one-man army with the weaponry to blow a defense up, and he even has the chance of eclipsing the 3,000 yard mark with a big performance against West Feliciana in the next round. Rejoice, Ragin' Cajuns fans. He's the real deal, and he's staying in the Acadiana area to play his college ball.

Our next three players wear several different hats for their teams. Call them Swiss Army knives, do-it-all men or whatever title you like. The reality is, they are all a coach's dream.

Let's start with Bralen Trahan. He plays in all three phases of the game, offense, defense and special teams, and kills it every single play.

In Acadiana's 52-0 destruction of Alexandria in the first round, Trahan led the defense from his safety position to six interceptions, and one of them was his. Trahan converted his interception into a pick-six, and he also scored a touchdown on offense for the Wreckin' Rams.

I'll admit, this is also a credit to Trahan's body of work thoughout the season too. He plays defense, offense, returns punts (and kicks them) and provides a serious spark as a kickoff returner too. Simply stated: Bralen Trahan is a football player's football player. He does everything asked of him and more.

Speaking of do-it-all players, it's time to give Samarick Paul some love.

Paul is a four sport star for Central Catholic Morgan City. He plays baseball, basketball, football and he won the state title in 1A for the long jump. He's a superior athlete, and he uses all of his skills to help the Eagles every week, no matter what season it is. In CCMC's big win over Lafayette Christian Academy, he did everything short of refilling the water bottles.

When the Eagles' quarterback had to leave the game with an injury, Paul stepped in and shined. He scored on a 91-yard rushing TD, and when his QB came back in the game he hauled in a gorgeous receiving TD too. To sweeten the pot even more, he collected an interception on defense, one of six takeaways by Central Catholic. Paul, or as his teammates call him, "Marick," stepped up in a major way, providing the spark that turned into a fire that blazed their path into the next round of the playoffs.

The last player of the week certainly isn't the least either. If it weren't for Zach Ronquillo, the Ascension Episcopal Blue Gators probably wouldn't be undefeated.

It's hard to classify what position Ronquillo plays. He lines up at tight end, wide receiver, running back, kick returner...so the best description is athlete.

In Ascension Episcopal's first round blowout over Highland Baptist, Ronquillo scored three TD's in a matter of minutes. He housed a kickoff return, ran the ball in on the ground and hauled in another score in with his hands before everyone even realized what happened. He might play in 1A, but he has the body and build of an all-state competitor. Ronquillo's mix of muscle, burst and agility make him a dangerous concoction deserving of collegiate attention, and he showcased his talents on a big stage.

The stage only gets bigger and the spotlight grows brighter from here on out. Who will shine in the second round?

(photo by Benjamin Massey)
(photo by Benjamin Massey)

GAME ONE: Acadiana Wreckin' Rams vs Ponchatoula Green Wave

These two teams know each other very well. Acadiana and Ponchatoula met up five times over the last four years, so experience won't be an excuse this Friday.

Ponchatoula defeated Acadiana earlier in the regular season, by a slim margin. The Wreckin' Rams thought they had the game in hand, but the Green Wave stole the 24-23 win right out from under Acadiana. Head Coach Ted Davidson doesn't like to lose, let alone twice to the same opponent in the same year. The Rams will be out for blood, with their season on the line.

The Rams changed since they last played Ponchatoula in Week Two though. Jaylon Borel showed he could complete passes when called upon, which adds an interesting dimension to the Wreckin' Rams. Normally, they smash you in the mouth with the veer, but now you have to respect the play action game.

To add a little pepper into the already spicy pot, the Wreckin' Rams have a chip on their shoulder. Due to a bogus LHSAA ruling, Acadiana ended up with the #14 seed, instead of an outright District 3-5A title and a top ten berth in the playoffs. Coach Davidson's teams are always mean, but now they're angry too and looking to prove a point.

Don't overlook the final factor: special teams. Acadiana had their troubles this year defending kicks and producing the punt game. Ponchatoula is well equipped at kicker, so Rams fans should hope the game doesn't come down to that.

It's hard enough to beat Acadiana once in a season, let alone twice. Call me crazy, but I like the Rams chances of advancing, despite their seed.

For the next game, throw the seeds to the side too. Games are won on the field, not by numbers.

(photo by Benjamin Massey)
(photo by Benjamin Massey)

GAME TWO: Teurlings Catholic vs Parkview Baptist

Teurlings did themselves a favor by earning the #4 seed in Division II, but the LHSAA didn't help them at all with the rest of the bracket.

The Rebels are a solid team, don't get me wrong, but it's a rough result drawing Parkview Baptist in the second round. Parkview is the defending state champs, and they possess a gnarly defense capable of shutting down even the most potent offenses. Teurlings better bring some extra chin straps to the field.

Parkview plays a brutal brand of football. Their defense is suffocating, and they only allowed over 14 points to two teams all year. Yes, they suffered four losses, but they were to West Feliciana, Riverside, John Curtis and Catholic High-BR, all contenders for the state title in their respective brackets. Parkview is no joke, and Teurlings would be wise to prepare for a war.

The problem is, it's strength versus strength. The Rebels rely on their running game, with Hayden Cantrelle, Jansen Lormand and Tyler Bruno doing most of the heavy lifting. Parkview eats up blockers for breakfast, and they don't miss many tackles. Teurlings Head Coach Sonny Charpentier, and his son, Offensive Coordinator Roch Charpentier, are going to have to dig deep in their bag of tricks in this one...but there are plenty of rabbits in that hat.

Even though Teurlings is the favorite by seed, they're the underdog by instinct. They will have to feed off their home crowd for the win. The Rebels are 4-1 in their friendly confines, so a hot start could carry them to victory.

This is what the playoffs were made for. We could sit here and dissect this matchup all day, but the teams will determine the outcome on the field with sweat and effort. All I can say is, don't miss this game. You might regret missing something special.

Our last game of the week might be the best of all three, but somehow it's getting slept on.

(photo by Ryan Baniewicz)
(photo by Ryan Baniewicz)

GAME THREE: Carencro Bears vs Loranger Wolves

Remember when the entire Acadiana area talked about Carencro as a possible state champion? What changed since then? The answer is, not much.

All it took was two losses from the Bears for people to write them off. An injury to their quarterback Carl Randall held them back against STM, and Teurlings needed a two point conversion in the final seconds to beat them. Those two losses had nothing to do with talent, they had everything to do with circumstance. The reality is, Carencro is still a contender for the Class 4A state championship, whether people care to acknowledge their chances or not.

The main factor in Carencro's favor is a healthy Carl Randall. He models his game after Russell Wilson, and he plays like him too. Randall takes what the defense gives him, and he rarely makes mistakes. In terms of weapons to use, he has an entire army at his disposal.

On any given play, there are five to six players that can score from any point on the field. Kendarius and Mondarius Poullard, a.k.a Twinsanity, might be small, but they pack a punch. Trey Barnaba is a beast in the backfield, and Eric Tolivour is a monster on the outside. The weapons are there, not just on offense, but on defense too.

Carencro's defense hits hard. Rashaad Harding, a ULM Warhawks commit, and Jalen Angelle provide serious pop at the linebacker position, and Kordell Williams can decapitate receivers coming across the middle on post routes. The Bears have the talent to stifle any team in the state, but it's consistency they're searching for. In both of their losses, they allowed the opponent to score over 35 points. If they keep it under seven scores, Carencro should be in good shape.

Defensively, they're going against a Loranger team that held St. Martinville to only seven points in the first round. Carencro is a totally different beast, but they're going to be arm wrestling with somebody with equal muscle.

The Wolves' only losses this season were to St. Michael's and Ponchatoula, and they've been in several shootouts this year. If Carencro wants to win, they need to punch Loranger in the mouth early and keep the pressure on. Don't let the game get close, late.

Carencro and Loranger actually have a lot in common: tons of talent, two tough losses, solid coaching and a desire to take a bite out of Neville in the next round. I hesitate to call them mirror images, but they will be staring at a stern opponent from either side of the glass.

(photo by Ryan Baniewicz)
(photo by Ryan Baniewicz)

At this phase of the game, it's unfair to call anybody an underdog. Without the proper preparation, no team is guaranteed to walk into the next round of the playoffs.

It wouldn't be fair to act like Carencro, Acadiana and Teurlings are the only teams in the thick of things either. Rayne, Kaplan, Loreauville, Ascension Episcopal, Catholic High, Notre Dame, Central Catholic and many others are still fighting for their lives. The path is treacherous, but somebody will climb the mountain put their flag on top of the highest peak.

This is the time of the year where the Acadiana area comes together. When the numbers get thin in the postseason, people pull for the team nearest to their heart. If your team is out, cheer for your neighbor. Root for your district, root for your town, just scream loud and proud.