For District 6-4A, the 2011 football season is a little like moving day.
Two teams have moved out of the local Class 4A landscape and two more are moving in. But does this mean a chance for renewed success across the board?
No one knows for sure, including Lutcher High coach Tim Detillier, whose team is one of the 6-4A newcomers.
“To be honest with you, I’m not sure what to expect,” Detillier said. “We’re excited about being in this district because Baton Rouge is where we thought we’ve always belonged.
“But we don’t know anything about the teams. We always play a tough predistrict schedule with the idea that it will make us ready for district and the playoffs. There are things we need to learn about this district and the teams.”
Lutcher is a traditional power that moves over from another 4A league. Plaquemine moves up from Class 3A and is the other addition. Woodlawn and McKinley both moved up to Class 5A. Woodlawn won the 7-4A title for two straight years.
The other coaches expect Detillier’s Bulldogs to have no problem transitioning to a new league. Lutcher is their preseason favorite and St. Michael is picked second, followed by Plaquemine. Jason Wilkins, of Belaire, and Istrouma’s Johnny Felders are the first-year coaches in 6-4A.
“The thing Lutcher gives this district is credibility,” Plaquemine coach Bob Howell said. “They’re a top program that has played for state titles and won them.
“St. Michael is a team that’s been successful. I see some good things with our program, both on the field and off. We need to continue to improve in every phase of what we do.”
Garnering wins and respectability is a key challenge for seven-team district that also includes Broadmoor and Tara.
Wilkins, previously a Belaire assistant, takes over a program that was 0-10 last season, while Felders, a former Istrouma assistant, has a team that was 1-9 a year ago. Tara was 3-7. Only Broadmoor, 5-5 in 2010, came close to a winning record.
Any questions about team performance may be overshadowed by the return of several marquee performers.
The list starts with Lutcher running back Daniel Taylor, who will be a fifth-year starter for the Bulldogs. Already Lutcher’s all-time leading rusher, Taylor set a single-season school record by rushing for more than 1,400 yards last season and is attract the attention of some BCS colleges.
Another Lutcher player, defensive back Jordan Batiste, has already committed to Ole Miss.
St. Michael quarterback Dash Duncan is another notable returnee. A first-year starter last season as a junior, Duncan passed for 3,234 yards and 4 touchdowns, completing 240 of 436 passes.
“Lutcher has such a tradition,” St. Michael coach Eric Held said. “And they have some talented players like Daniel Taylor. But every year, regardless of how many guys they graduate, they reload and win.
“A lot of that has to do with confidence and believing you’re supposed to win. Getting to that step ? believing we can compete with teams on that level ? is something we’ve been working very hard on.”
Detillier’s Lutcher squad, which finished 10-2 in 2010, also returns two quarterbacks who split time in 2010 - senior Ruston Matherne and junior Jared Poche. Two more seniors, linemen Darez Joseph and Blake Scott, are also defensive leaders along with Batiste.
Offense has been the forté for Held’s St. Michael squad that finished 7-4 in 2010. Improvement on defense has been a point of emphasis in the off season as the Warriors look to pick up the first playoff win in school history.
“We’ve given up a lot of points in our last two playoff games,” Held said. “It takes certain kind of toughness and mindset and I see some changes in our demeanor.”
Linemen Stephen Scardina, linebackers Josh Stewart and Christopher Peck, along with defensive back Collin Hughes, are key player’s for Held’s defense.
On offense, the Warriors must replace the top two receivers in school history, last year’s district MVP Austin Frey and Hayden Smith. Sonny Adams returns to lead the receiving corps.
Plaquemine was 5-6 in 2010 and returns 14 starters, including eight on defense. Running back Hakeem Deggs and lineman Dylan Lowe help lead an option offense led by quarterback Ric Aro, a first-year starter.
Lineman Davon Godchaux and defensive back LaRen Phillips are among the leaders for the Green Devil defense.
For the remaining league teams - Belaire, Broadmoor, Istrouma and Tara - reaching the playoffs is a major goal. None of the four teams has made it to the post season since 2008.
Broadmoor coach Rusty Price welcomes back 11 starters. Quarterback Joshua Rogers and running back Devontae Thomas are again set to lead the Bucs’ veer attack. Linebacker Brian Cook helps anchor the defense.
Tara coach Ron LeJeune has 13 returning starters, led by junior quarterback John Washington and two running backs, Tyrone Nelson and Josh Blanks. Linebacker Clemmente Harrel and defensive back Jared Bryant are among seven returning regulars on defense for the Trojans.
Like Broadmoor and Tara, Belaire’s Wilkins will rely on a group of two-way performers.
Jarvis York moves to quarterback this season after playing wide receiver and running back for the Bengals. York also was Belaire’s interceptions leader as a defensive back in 2010. Gerome Springer, a receiver-defensive back and lineman Nicholas Lathon are pivotal two-way starters.
Felders’ Istrouma squad will look to senior running back Ron Clark for leadership on offense. The other backfield starters, including quarterback Darius Jones, will be first-year starters.
End Thomas Singletonm linebacker Treyon Holmes and defensive back Javaris Washington are expected to have leadership roles on defense for the Indians.