Trev Faulk understands what Arch Manning can do with the football in his hands.
An assistant coach on Lafayette Christian's staff last season, Faulk coached against Manning — the No. 1 player in the Class of 2023 — when the Knights beat Isidore Newman on its own turf 21-7 in the semifinals of last year's Division III playoffs.
LCA was the No. 5 seed then, the same ranking Newman holds now as the Greenies travel to Lafayette for a semifinals rematch on Friday night. But even with many of the same faces back for the sequel, Faulk isn't taking much away from last season's game.
"I don't really see a whole lot of carryover, I guess, from last year to this year's game," said Faulk, now the head coach. "A lot of kids are returning, but... they're probably a little bit ahead of where they were last year. A little bit better, bigger and stronger."
Manning, of course, is the headliner. The nephew of Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning and two-time Super Bowl champion Eli Manning is back from last year's loss to the Knights a better player. The junior has 1,869 passing yards and 26 touchdown passes in nine games this season, including Friday's 37-6 win in the quarterfinals over Episcopal.
It's another reason why Faulk isn't taking too much stock into what happened last season.
LHSAA PLAYOFF PAIRINGS: LHSAA football playoff pairings for non-select quarterfinals and select semifinals
"Just his maturity as a quarterback and doing a lot of next-level things," Faulk said. "A lot of what they run offensively is RPO's (run-pass options) and things you see in college and in the NFL."
Faulk's also noticed Newman using Manning more as a runner this season and commends the young quarterback for his ability to manipulate safeties with his eyes, therefore opening up his receivers downfield for explosive plays.
"You're seeing a lot of things you typically see from kids who have been playing college football for a few years, but you're seeing them from a high school junior," Faulk said.
But Manning isn't a one-man show.
Offensive tackle Bo Bordelon is a three-star recruit committed to LSU. Junior tight end Will Randle has offers from Texas and LSU. Wide Receivers Christopher Hunter and Kai Donaldson are dangerous vertical threats on the outside while running backs Will Zurik and Terrance Williams Jr. both had over 90 rushing yards last week — Zurik known for his bruising strength and Williams for his speed and explosiveness.
Faulk is also impressed with Newman's defense, a unit that tends to get overlooked.
"Their defensive staff does a really good job of being multiple, in terms of the fronts and (how) they're presented, picking and choosing their spots to bring pressure as well as mixing in different coverages to kind of keep offenses off-balance," Faulk said.
Newman coach Nelson Stewart holds a similar level of respect for the Knights' defense, an aggressive unit — led by three-star recruits and defensive backs Jordan Allen and Brylan Green — that stifled the Greenies' high-flying attack a year ago.
"The effort they play with, their semantics, ability to play man coverage, they mix their blitzes up," Stewart said. "I've been nothing but impressed with everything you see from (Faulk). Because again... there's just been no drop off from the program that they've been."
LCA's defense has allowed just 33 points in its last five games. Besides Green and Allen, Stewart also mentioned linebackers Masey Lewis, Brayden Ziegler and Devin LeDay as key contributors.
On offense, Stewart notes the dominance three-star recruit and LSU commit Fitzgerald West Jr. has displayed as an offensive guard and the improvement sophomore quarterback Ju'Juan Johnson has shown this season.
"He can scramble and still throw the football," Stewart said. "He's not just running around, he can make off-balance throws. They're able to throw these deep posts and digs and whatnot.
"He is balanced in every sense of the word."
Last season's matchup in New Orleans ended in a 14-point defensive showcase from the Knights, as they marched their way to the title game and won a fourth consecutive state championship. But even with a similar cast of characters, the sequel — Faulk insists — won't be a remake.
"Last year's game isn't going to guarantee us or help us when it comes to going out there and performing this week," Faulk said.
This article originally appeared on Lafayette Daily Advertiser: LHSAA football playoffs Arch Manning and Newman rematch with LCA in Division III semifinals