1. Acadiana will be better in the regular season but will fall shy of winning a third straight title.
The Wreckin’ Rams stumbled out of the gate last year while fighting some maddening inconsistency on offense that led to too many turnovers, but they rallied to their second consecutive state championship. Ted Davidson’s bunch will be very good again and should contend for a district title in the still-loaded 3-5A, but it’s hard to envision a three-peat after Acadiana lost nine starters from last season’s offense alone. Then again, it might be silly to bet against Acadiana, considering it has won four titles in the past decade.
2. Reclassification will change the power structure.
A few notable teams slid into lower classifications, including Notre Dame (making the move from 3A to 2A) and Carencro (going from 5A to 4A). The Pios lost some staunch defenders from last season’s team, but coach Lewis Cook still has a lot of firepower at his disposal and should have his team making a run at a title in a district that includes last year’s Division III select state runner-up, Catholic-New Iberia. Carencro is making the transition from one murderer’s row to another, but even with stud running back Tyriek Campbell figuring to be primed for a bigger role, the Bears will have difficulty topping St. Thomas More and Teurlings Catholic.
3. Raymond Calais will flirt with a 2,500-yard season — and lead Cecilia on a playoff run.
The Bulldogs didn’t have a great season in 2014, checking in at 4-7, but that wasn’t any fault of Calais’. The Cecilia running back ran for 2,228 yards last season, and he nearly single-handedly carried the Bulldogs to a playoff win against Landry-Walker with 300 yards and three touchdowns. Going into his senior season, Calais is a must-watch talent, and with more experienced weapons on offense alongside him, he could be at the forefront of a much-improved Bulldogs team that will play in a district without area powerhouses Teurlings Catholic and St. Thomas More.
4. Running backs will rule the area landscape …
There are some ridiculously talented and prolific running backs in the area, including Campbell, Calais, Crowley’s Ty’Von Griffin and Ascension Episcopal’s Ja’Ceiry Linzer. All those backs — and probably a few more — will easily top 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns.
5. … but a quarterback will have the best year.
As good as all those players are, it’ll be Teurlings Catholic’s Cole Kelley who takes the spotlight in 2015. The 6-foot-7 senior, who has committed to Arkansas, put up insane numbers in his first full year as a starter last season, throwing for 31 touchdowns and nearly 3,000 yards. He’ll miss his top receiving option in Sage LeBlanc, but his skills should still translate into huge numbers for the Rebels.
6. St. Thomas More will score at will.
After outscoring opponents by an average of 28 points in the 2014 regular season, the Cougars bring back a wealth of potent weapons, including all-purpose back Trevor Begue and quarterback Will Bellamy. Bellamy fired 29 touchdown passes last season, a handful of which went to Begue out of the backfield. Expect coach Jim Hightower’s bunch to light up scoreboards — especially while a young defense finds its groove.
7. Ascension Episcopal will continue its ascent and unseat Vermilion Catholic as 7-1A champ.
I know, I know — Vermilion Catholic hasn’t lost a game (not one game!) in district play since the 2010 season. The Eagles currently own a 23-game win streak against district opponents. But Ascension Episcopal coach Michael Desormeaux has the Blue Gators on the rise, guiding the team to its first playoff appearance last year, and he has the weapons to keep going in the right direction with Linzer and quarterback Jake Arceneaux.
8. Lafayette High will break through.
Over the past two years in district play, the Lions have a 1-13 record and, taken at face value, that’s pretty ugly. But look a little closer and you’ll see signs of light at the end of the tunnel. Lafayette High started 3-0 last season and was competitive despite its record in league play, losing by a grand total of 14 points to the league’s top three teams: Barbe, Carencro and Acadiana. The Lions will keep improving, possibly enough to make the playoffs.
9. Breaux Bridge will have the area’s most fearsome defense.
The Tigers return a large portion of a defense that swarmed opposing offenses last year, led by recent Louisiana-Lafayette commit linebacker Korey Louis. Breaux Bridge was the only team to hold STM below 40 points in the regular season (25), and it also pitched back-to-back shutouts. Losing shutdown corner Joseph Williams hurt, but the Tigers are still the class of area defenses.
10. There will be football.
Not a prediction here, since the LHSAA reached a four-year agreement with the LHSOA this summer that put to rest the threat of a referee strike. Thankfully, for the kids’ sake, they didn’t have to worry about whether a prediction would come true, and they can go ahead and prepare for the season knowing the games will be played.