How Union Parish, Oak Grove, OCS plan to prepare for Prep Classic

Adam Hunsucker
Monroe News-Star

Tending to his burn pile, Steven Fitzhugh forgot all about football on Friday night. Ouachita Christian clinched a spot in the Prep Classic the previous week, which gave him an opportunity to catch up on some yard work.

As the OCS coach piddled, his colleagues fought for their seasons.  

“It was after 9 o’clock when I came in and somebody texted me and said our area teams took a hit,” Fitzhugh said. “I hated to hear that because it’s fun when all of us can head down there together.

“It just proves how hard it is to get this far and I definitely feel for all the players and coaches who played their last game.”

Union Parish and Oak Grove will join OCS as northeastern Louisiana’s representatives in Natchitoches. West Monroe, Neville, Mangham and General Trass weren’t as fortunate.

 “There were definitely some shockers,” Oak Grove coach Ryan Gregory said. “We all compete in the regular season but pull for each other in the playoffs. We’ve gotten this far and lost too and understand how disappointing that is.”

Top-seeded Oak Grove secured a third consecutive berth in the Class 1A finals in the first quarter, annihilating no. 5 Homer, 59-12. The reigning state champions can repeat for the first time in program history with a win over no. 3 Grand Lake at Turpin Field on Dec. 28 at 11 a.m.

In Class 3A, No. 2 Union Parish prevailed 43-42 over no. 3 Lake Charles College Prep thanks to a touchdown and two-point conversion with 20 seconds left. The Farmers play no. 9 Madison Prep on Dec. 30 at 1 p.m.

Union hasn’t played for a state championship since winning it all in 2013.

“This is the second time for our community to have this opportunity in my 15 years being here and it’s definitely special,” Union coach Joe Spatafora said.

“It’s a greet feeling but it’s an even better feeling when you can go win it. We’ve still got a job to do and I expect these young men to take care of business after getting this far.”

Scheduling around Christmas and a new venue are the latest logistical challenges in a season full of them. The Louisiana High School Athletic Association moved Prep Classic was moving from the climate-controlled Mercedes-Benz Superdome to Northwestern State’s Turpin Stadium due to COVID-19 attendance restrictions in New Orleans.

OCS practiced Monday-Thursday last week and installed its game plan for Calvary Baptist. The LHSAA's select schools play their semifinals games the week before the nonselect schools. 

The third-seeded Eagles and the No. 1 seed Cavaliers play in the Division IV finals at 1 p.m. on Dec. 29. In the 2019 quarterfinals, OCS upset Calvary 49-47 on the road.

The Eagles will practice Monday-Wednesday, take off Christmas Even and Christmas Day, then practice on Sunday.

Union Parish scored a touchdown and a go-ahead two-point conversion with 20 seconds left to edge Lake Charles College Prep 43-42 in Friday's Class 3A semifinals at Doc Elliott Stadium.

“We’re in a unique situation where if our last practice is Wednesday, it’s six days before we play,” Fitzhugh said. “What we’re looking to do something on that Sunday and treat it like we would any normal week leading into a game.”

Oak Grove and Union will follow its normal practice schedules leading into Christmas. The Tigers plan to leave Sunday and spend one night in Natchitoches.

“Everyone knows you can’t replace the Superdome experience, but I think Natchitoches has a lot to offer and Northwestern is going to have a nice venue for us to play,” Gregory said.

“No one was sure if we’d even have this opportunity a few months ago and I think it’s going to be great.”

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