When Lamar meets Magnolia Heights for the MAIS Division 2, AAA championship game, they'll be facing a familiar foe, and Raider Head Coach Mac Barnes is not surprised.
"I really felt if we got there, it would be Mag' Heights," said Barnes. "And they didn't disappoint anybody. They're one of the top five private school teams in the state, no matter what size."
Barnes said the Chiefs have always been a running team, and he expects them to carry the ball 85 percent of the time Saturday, just as they did when they defeated the Raiders in the 2006 state final. He said the Raiders will implement traps and try to penetrate the Chiefs' backfield as much as possible.
"If we sit back, they're just going to take the ball down the field."
Barnes was quick to point out his Raiders weren't at their best in Lamar's first playoff game, letting go of a 14-0 lead to Heritage Academy before Danny Weisner's fourth quarter field goal secured a 24-21 victory.
"And offensively, we've got to be a lot more efficient," said Barnes. "We've not taken advantage of getting the ball in the red zone and getting points, and the last two weeks, we've not played well. Hopefully that's out of our system."
Barnes did say he was pleased with his offensive line's performance as the Raiders rushed for 270 yards against the Patriots. Freshman quarterback Davis Harrison carried the ball 23 times and two scores.
Assistant coach William Mcneil said the team would meet Thursday night in the school's fieldhouse to hear from players on Lamar's '03 and '07 championship teams.
The Raiders last went the championship game in 2009. They lost to Brookhaven Academy, 28-63.
"Last time we were there, our guys, our seniors were 8th graders, so they've really never been in that environment," said Barnes.
"I don't think they'll be shocked by how good Magnolia Heights is. They respect them. But you know... our guys are looking forward to it."