It played out exactly as I thought it would at the beginning of the season: the Acadiana Wreckin’ Rams jumping in a jubilant celebration as state champions while the final seconds of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome clock ticked off.
That was an uninformed guess, by the way. And the only thing that happened the way I thought it would was the end result.
This wasn’t an Acadiana team that just steamrolled its way to a second straight state title. This was a team that had to battle through some awful lows to make it back to the top of the heap. It didn’t really happen the way it was supposed to happen, but maybe it’s better that way.
I was a blank slate when I was hired for this job in late July. I’d never covered prep sports before, putting me in a situation where I could honestly say I had zero prejudice toward my coverage — because I had absolutely zero knowledge of the area’s prep football teams.
So I picked the brains of those who might know. I asked around, bothering coaches and other prep football writers, attempting to establish a base of knowledge so I wasn’t completely unprepared.
“Who is the team to beat?” I asked.
The usual response was a second or two of silence, as if they were judging if I was serious, then they’d matter of factly say, “Acadiana.”
“Duh and/or hello,” they might as well have added.
The Rams were returning most of the team that left a path of destruction in its wake before annihilating Parkway 77-41 in last year’s 5A state title game. The non-verbal communication I received when snooping around told me they were an obvious, if not likely, candidate to repeat.
Then I talked to coach Ted Davidson, and he did his best to temper expectations. There’s no such thing as a repeat champion in high school football, he said. Each team is unique, even if it’s composed mostly of the same parts as another team.
His team was good, but it would have to find its own way. And through the first five weeks of the season, that way was looking pretty turbulent.
After destroying Northside 55-6 in their season opener, the Rams, for a moment, looked lost in that turbulence.
They allowed a season-high 39 points the following week in Shreveport against a team from Alabama. They were run out of Rummel High School the following week in a 34-9 rout.
The Rams were used to imposing their will on their opponents with their veer offense, but they had to start pulling tricks out of the book to save their season.
They needed an 85-yard score on a hook-and-lateral to pull off a come-from-behind win against Lafayette, a victory they were only able to savor for a moment. They were once again on the losing end the next week in a tough 17-14 loss to District 3-5A rival Barbe.
Five weeks in, with two wins to their credit, the Rams didn’t look like they’d have much of a chance at repeating. But, like Davidson said, this team was never looking to defend its championship. It’d have to figure out ways to win on its own.
Rather than fold after a disappointing start to the season, the Rams started finding ways to win. They never became the dominant team that they were the year before, but they didn’t have to.
They won 10 of their final 11 games, the last of those wins coming on the Superdome turf.
Just like I thought — and not like I thought at all.