One of the best things about any new high school football season is the fact that it represents a fresh start.
Perhaps the most intriguing thing about the 2011 season is the possibility for change.
The Louisiana High School Athletic Association has already done its part with a new two-year classification system that ushers in a series of new districts.
Once again, the Baton Rouge metro area will have two Class 5A districts. And for the first time since 2006, the three Ascension Parish high schools, Dutchtown, East Ascension and St. Amant, will be back in a Baton Rouge league.
The changes hardly stop there. Lutcher High, a River Parishes power that once played in an area Class 3A league, joins local District 6-4A. Meanwhile, Plaquemine moves up from Class 3A.
In Class 3A, Baton Rouge has a defending state champion in Parkview Baptist. While the Eagles provide stability, there are plenty of changes.
For example, East Feliciana moves up to Class 2A and joins 6-3A, replacing another traditional power, Redemptorist, which drops to District 7-2A.
Donaldsonville, Thibodaux-based E.D. White Catholic and LaPlace’s St. Charles Catholic move into 7-3A. E.D. White comes from another 3A league last season. Donaldsonville and St. Charles move up from 2A.
The changes in Class 1A are minimal. Catholic-Pointe Coupee, False River Academy and Pointe Coupee Central are part of a 6-1A league with five Acadiana-based teams. It is the first 1A season for PCC, which drops down from 2A.
Christian Life moves one 1A league to another, joining 7-1A which also includes Southern Lab. Defending champion White Castle leads the District 9-1A group that also features Ascension Catholic, Ascension Christian, East Iberville and St. John-Plaquemine.
There is more to the changes than shifts from one district or classification to another.
Every local district with the exception of two, Districts 6-3A and 9-1A, has at least one new head coach.
Paul Bourgeois, who coached Sulphur High to the 5A title game in 2006, is the new coach at East Ascension. Former Walker assistant Dwayne Severio is the new WHS coach.
Two former assistants, Belaire’s Jason Wilkins and Istrouma’s Johnny Felders, move up to lead roles for their respective 4A schools.
In 3A, Erik Willis returns for a second stint at Brusly High, while former Arkansas prep coach James Bell takes over at St. James.
Aaron Vice is a first-year head coach at Redemptorist. Former RHS coach Guy Mistretta is now coaching another 7-2A team, The Dunham School. Damieon Mills spent last season at 1A South Plaquemines and returns home to coach 2A Capitol. Keith Dooley is back for a second stint at 1A Christian Life.
Even with all these changes, some things should remain much the same. A list of teams to watch statewide offers one prime example.
Could you imagine talking about the race for the Class 5A state title without mentioning West Monroe, last year’s runner-up, or defending champion Acadiana?
In 3A, the list of usual suspects includes Parkview, Notre Dame-Crowley and last year’s runner-up, Patterson.
Of course, runner-up John Curtis-River Ridge and Shreveport’s Evangel Christian, the defending champion, are back in 2A again.
White Castle and last year’s runner-up in 1A, Ouachita Christian, are part of an changing group of schools. South Plaquemines moves up to 2A, but other well-known powers, such as Haynesville and Oak Grove remain.
Yes, the more things change, the more they have a tendency to stay the same.
But it’s the possibilities that always lure us back for another high school football season. And 2011 will be no different.