In the history of the Bayou District, teams from Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes have shared the league with teams from the New Orleans metro area, teams from the River Parishes and teams from other regions of the state.
But this season, for the first time, two teams from out west are in the Bayou District.
New Iberia and Westgate will join Central Lafourche, H.L. Bourgeois, South Lafourche, Terrebonne, Thibodaux and South Lafourche to form district 7-5A this season.
For the coaches in the bayou area, Westgate, which has been to the Class 5A semifinals three of the past four seasons, and New Iberia, which went 9-3 last year and made the second round of the playoffs, have been the talk of the preseason.
“The district is as good as it has been in a while,” Terrebonne coach Gary Hill said. “The last few seasons, there have been a lot of competitive ballgames, but Westgate made the semifinals three of the last four years. And throw in New Iberia, who has been to the playoffs three of the last four years and won a playoff game last year, and you are adding two quality football teams to a very competitive district.”
Westgate was 8-5 last year and fell to West Monroe in the Class 5A semifinals. The Tigers return 12 starters with highly recruited senior D’Nerius Antoine (6-foot-1, 200 pounds) taking over at quarterback.
Antoine played running back and safety last year and will be back in the Tigers defensive backfield again this season.
“It’s going to be different for us. We haven’t played down there, and I’m not real familiar with it,” Westgate coach Brian Fine said. “It will be interesting, and I am curious to see what it’s like. We are excited to get started.”
Westgate senior Duvall Jackson, a 6-2, 225-pound defensive end is also highly recruiting and will be one of the anchors of the Tigers defense.
New Iberia returns six starters off a 9-3 team and has four highly recruited seniors in kicker Colby Delahoussaye and receivers LaMarcus Allen and Kemory Deal and receiver/ quarterback Javonte Johnson.
Terrebonne, the district champion last year at 10-2 and 6-0 in league play, has seven players back after losing some key seniors off a team that made the second round of the playoffs.
South Lafourche went 4-6 last season and missed the postseason along with in H.L. Bourgeois, Central Lafourche and Thibodaux, which all have new coaches.
Thibodaux does has a marquee player to watch in linebacker Trey Granier, an LSU commitment.
Granier is considered to be among the nation’s top linebacker prospects.
“You add in some coaching changes at H.L. Bourgeois (Ben Powell), Central Lafourche (Travis Douglas) and Thibodaux (Chris Dugas), and those teams are going to be full of high energy and high expectations,” Hill said. “With some young guys going in there to try and make a difference, I think it’s going to be an interesting season for a lot of teams.”
While District 7-5A will provide teams with some unfamiliar opponents, the teams in District 8-4A should be pretty familiar with one another.
Assumption and South Terrebonne drop down to the 4A ranks from 5A last season and join Morgan City, Ellender and Vandebilt Catholic in 8-4A. The teams have shared the district in past seasons.
Assumption (16 returners) and South Terrebonne (14 returners) have the most starters back after both teams won seven games in Class 5A last season.
Senior Hunter Gauthreaux returns as the Mustangs quarterback, and he has two running backs and two receivers back on offense, while the Assumption defense returns nine starters.
At South Terrebonne, senior quarterback Trevon Smith leads the offense and every member of the offensive line is back, along with two of the team’s top three linebackers from last year.
Vandebilt, coming off an 8-3 season and a playoff win over McKinley, returns a 1,300-yard rusher, junior Elijah McGuire, and a two-time all-state linebacker in senior Seth Ward.
Former LSU backup fullback Brandon Nowlin, a member of the 2003 BCS national title team and a 2000 graduate of Catholic High of Baton Rouge, enters his second year at Morgan City after taking over the program on the day of the 2010 season-opening jamboree.
The Tigers haven’t been to the playoffs since 1998, something Nowlin said he hopes to soon change. He has eight returning players back off a 2-8 team.
Another coach in the district with Baton Rouge ties is 1981 Tara High graduate Terry Washington, who is in his first year as Ellender’s coach.
The former Southern football and track standout has had head coaching stints at Sarah Reed, Jeanerette and Scotlandville.
Ellender is coming off back-to-back 0-10 seasons.