It’s the Acadiana area’s best rags to riches story this season.
After suffering through consecutive losing seasons, including a 1-9 mark a year ago, St. Martinville (6-3) finds itself playing for the District 5-4A championship on Friday when the Tigers host Cecilia (8-1) in a battle of 3-0 league teams.
“We’re happy with the position we’re in,” first-year St. Martinville coach Vincent Derouen said. “The kids have worked hard and so have the coaches in trying to put them in the best position we can.”
St. Martinville reached the Class 4A state playoffs in consecutive years in 2012-13 before tailing off, winning a combined four games over the next two seasons.
That prompted a coaching change with Derouen, who was Northside’s winningest coach and led the Vikings to the 2004 state title game, taking over in January. He quickly changed the fortunes of a program that won Class 3A state titles in 1981 and ’84 under legendary coach Carroll Delahoussaye.
“This is an area rich in tradition,” Derouen said. “These kids are from some of the same good football families. There’s good support.”
The all-St. Martin Parish clash is the area’s only encounter with winner-take-all stakes.
At least a share in the area’s seven other districts have been determined with Acadiana (6-2, 5-0) looking to wrap up District 3-5A to itself with a Thursday home game against New Iberia (4-5, 3-2).
Another team hosting on Thursday, Teurlings Catholic (6-3, 3-1), is involved in a three-way tie for the District 4-4A lead and finishes against Opelousas (0-9, 0-4). St. Thomas More (7-2, 3-1) travels to Northside (3-6, 2-2), while Carencro (6-3, 3-1) visits Beau Chene (5-4, 1-3).
No. 2 Crowley (9-0, 4-0) can close out the District 3-4A title at Rayne (2-7, 1-3) and No. 5 Eunice (8-1, 4-0) visits Pine Prairie (3-6, 0-4) with the outright District 5-3A title waiting.
No. 7 Patterson (7-2, 5-0) treks to Franklin (1-8, 0-5) for the outright crown in District 8-3A, while No. 2 Ascension Episcopal (9-0, 6-0) can accomplish the same thing at No. 7 Central Catholic-Morgan City (8-1, 5-1) in District 7-1A and No. 10 Basile (8-1, 4-0) at St. Edmund (4-5, 3-1) in District 5-1A.
In what was supposed to be a Week 10 showdown for the District 5-2A title lost some its luster when Catholic-New Iberia had to forfeit four victories, three of which were in district, for the use of an ineligible player.
Instead of a battle of district unbeaten teams the Panthers (3-6, 3-3) will close out their season with a trip to face the top-ranked Pioneers (9-0, 6-0) at Gardiner Memorial Stadium.
“The fact that it doesn’t have a district championship implication doesn’t matter to our guys,” Notre Dame coach Lewis Cook said. “They know they have a team that’s going to come in here and it’s their last game. They can let everything hang out, and we’re going to have to do the same thing.”
Catholic-NI responded to the LHSAA’s ruling with a 69-14 victory over Sacred Heart, while Notre Dame remained on course for its eighth perfect regular season during Cook’s 18 years at the school with a 49-6 win over Jeanerette.
Cook said he looks forward to the challenge Catholic-NI will present, a team formidable enough to push his squad, which has outscored their district competition 292-13 and hasn’t had a starter play after the third quarter.
“Anytime you play a team that beat you the year before a little bit of the redemption factor plays in,” Cook said, whose team, which had several starters suspended, lost 56-28 to Catholic-New Iberia last year. “There were a lot of things setting for this game for a long time. I know the kids are excited about the opportunity to play a team that’s good.”