In District 4-5A last year, five of the six teams qualified for the playoffs.
But the league was clearly divided into two groups: the two teams at the top (Zachary and Scotlandville) and everyone else.
Scotlandville lost to Zachary in a nail-biter, but won its other four district games by at least 27 points. Zachary won three district games by double figures en route to a 5-0 finish, part of a 14-1 season in which the Broncos won the Class 5A championship.
This year, the early returns suggest some teams in the "everyone else" category last year may be ready to challenge the two at the top.
A week after losing in the final seconds at district favorite Scotlandville, Zachary needed overtime to survive a 35-34 affair against Denham Springs, which had lost to Live Oak by double figures a week earlier.
Live Oak was expected to be in rebuilding mode after last year's breakthrough 7-5 campaign, but the Eagles (5-2 overall) are 2-0 in the league for the second straight season after hanging on for a 17-14 win Friday against Walker.
The lone 4-5A team to miss out on the postseason last year, Walker already has a district win over Central.
"I think the top two teams were better than the rest last year," Live Oak coach Brett Beard said. "I think everybody's pretty good this year. I think everybody's a lot alike. I still think Zachary and Scotlandville are the teams to beat. But I think top to bottom, this district is really good."
Denham (3-3, 0-2) nearly made the first big splash of the district season Friday as the Yellow Jackets put Zachary (5-2, 1-1) in a 14-0 hole and continued to lead for most of the second half.
The Yellow Jackets missed their PAT following Cameron Feucht's 10-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Hoover on the first possession of overtime. Martell Fontenot of Zachary connected for the win after freshman quarterback Keilon Brown scored on a 9-yard run to make it 34-34 on the Broncos' overtime possession.
In the end, the game was decided by extra points.
It could just be that Denham Springs, which lost by two against the eventual state champs last year, has a thing for playing Zachary tough.
Or it could be that the district this season has more parity.
More information should come this week when when Live Oak and Walker make road trips to face those two teams everyone else is still chasing.
The Eagles play Zachary, which beat them 29-0 last year. The Wildcats are at Scotlandville (7-0, 2-0) after losing 56-15 last year.
Denham is at home against Central (4-2, 0-2).
Albany keeps rolling
The Albany football team took some steps Friday in validating its dominant run through pre-district play by powering to a 27-14 win at Jewel Sumner in a District 7-3A opener.
The win snapped a 13-game district losing streak dating to the 2013 season.
Albany went 6-1 in pre-district action last year with a string of blowouts to its credit, only to go 0-4 in 7-3A and miss the playoffs.
This year, the Hornets were even better in pre-district, rolling to a 7-0 mark.
They were equally impressive against Jewel Sumner even after falling behind in a game for the first time this season.
Jewel Sumner returned an Albany fumble 88 yards for a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, but the Hornets responded by scoring 27 unanswered points.
This week, Albany is at home against Bogalusa, which opened 7-3A play with a victory over Independence and a loss to Amite.
Denham Springs volleyball was scheduled to face Walker on Wednesday in their second meeting of the season.
Denham (13-15, 2-2 in district) won 3-0 at Walker (6-21, 0-5) on Oct. 3.
Meanwhile, Live Oak had games scheduled against district rivals Woodlawn (Monday) and Broadmoor (Wednesday) earlier this week.
Live Oak (14-8, 5-2) suffered both of its district losses against Central.