Not even a midseason crisis could stop Acadiana from its second Class 5A state championship in five seasons.
Now the Wrecking Rams have to see if they can handle substantial losses to graduation in order to maintain their status as one of the state’s elite programs.
Acadiana, which had to forfeit four games because of the use of an ineligible player, reeled off seven straight victories by an average of 34 points to capture the state crown over West Monroe, 21-14.
“You’ve got to guard against complacency,” Acadiana coach Ted Davidson said of the trappings that can follow a championship season. “There’s a tendency to get a little lax and slack off and forget what got you there. You’ve got to guard against that.”
Despite the loss of 18 starters, the coaches in District 3-5A believe Acadiana’s still the team to beat in the new-look, seven-team league, followed by Carencro and Barbe.
The move of Carencro and Comeaux into the league aligns all four of Lafayette’s 5A schools with Acadiana and Lafayette. Sam Houston, a long-time 4A program, moves up to 5A for the first time and joins Lake Charles-area brethren Barbe and Sulphur.
“I never thought it was too cool to have Lafayette split down the middle like it was,” Carencro coach Brent Indest said. “I’m glad it’s back with all of us together.”
Among the losses Acadiana suffered were three college signees, including 5A All-State selection Micah Eugene to LSU.
Seniors Terry Abraham (5-foot-11, 176 pounds) and Barrett Guidry (6-0, 240) are the lone returnees on offense where Abraham rushed for close to a 1,000 yards a year ago. Guidry, a starter at guard, moves to the all-important tight end position in the veer offense.
The Rams will rely on a potentially strong front seven where linebackers Darius Ridgeway (6-0, 210, Sr.) and Zach Burch (5-11, 205, Sr.) are back with help from tackles D’ondre Chanet (6-2, 305, Sr.) and Iziah Abraham (6-2, 255, Jr.).
“That’s a group that had a really good spring,” Davidson said. “They were dominant. To start off, they’re the strong point and hopefully the others will catch up.”
In similar rebuilding efforts at Abbeville, Crowley and Kaplan, Indest said he’s made the biggest gains in his second season.
The Bears went 6-5 in their first year under Indest and ended a three-year playoff drought with a 35-14 first-round loss to Brother Martin.
“It seems the second year’s always been probably where we’ve made the largest leaps, and we need to this year,” Indest said. “We’ve got some good players back.”
Carencro has seven of its 12 starters back on offense. Senior quarterback Jalen Nixon (6-2, 235, Sr.) and fullback Alex Johnson (5-11, 195, Sr.) are both keys to the Wing-T attack along with an experienced line that features four returning starters. College prospect Jacoby Briscoe (6-4, 290, Sr.) and Greg Peltier (6-1, 290, Jr.) give the Bears a pair of bookends at end, while linebackers Kye Poole (5-9, 225, Jr.) and Devontre Malveaux (5-8, 185, Sr.) also return.
After 29 seasons, Barbe’s going to have a new look with former assistant Mike Cutrera taking over for Jimmy Shaver, who retired with a 237-100 record. The Buccaneers, the reigning district champion, advanced to the second round of the playoffs, where they lost 34-29 at West Monroe.
Standout junior tight end DeSean Smith (6-5, 230) returns from an offense that averaged 35 points last season.
For the first time in 13 years, Jay Domengeaux will be a head coach again when he takes over Lafayette High’s program from Mark Barousse. Domengeaux, an assistant to Barousse for the last nine years, spent two years as Franklinton’s head coach in 1997-98.
Lafayette has nine starters back from a team that went 3-7 and lost six of its last seven games. Domengeaux’s hopeful the return of six starters on defense will help solve the deficiencies for a unit that allowed 29.2 points.
“We’re hoping for a better defense this year,” Domengeaux said. “Last year, the big thing we didn’t do well was tackling. I would expect the defense to be a little ahead of the offense.”
The heart of Lafayette’s defense appears in place with five starters back, led by end Stephen Morella (6-0, 230, Sr.), tackles Jarvis Mason (5-10, 230, Sr.) and Hunter Leger (6-0, 220, Sr.), Linebacker Joseph Prevost (6-0, 200, Sr.) and free safety Damian Morgan (6-1, 170, Jr.) also return.
After leading Comeaux to a second-round appearance in his first season, coach Kevin Magee encountered a difficult 1-9 campaign last season with a youthful roster.
The Spartans, who return 11 starters, look to rebound in a positive way and will count on an experienced offensive line with four starters back, led by all-district selection Christian Brower (6-0, 225, Sr.). Defensively, with the return of senior standout defensive back Kevin Fouquier (6-4, 205), they are also looking to make amends after surrendering 33 points per game.
“We were just so young last year,” Magee said. “The (2011) seniors played last year and all of the juniors played as sophomores. We got a lot of guys that got a little experience, and hopefully that will help.”