Seasons come and go. And 2017 is almost gone, too.
As we reflect on the ups and downs of 2017, it seems natural to talk about what has gone down in high school sports.
There were titles won and plenty of stories that made headlines. If you are still looking for reasons why high school sports in Baton Rouge are compelling, let me give you 10.
CENTRAL SWEEPS BASEBALL/SOFTBALL TITLES: Never underestimate the power of the underdog, especially when the players for both teams had their lives altered by a flood months earlier. The softball team beat nationally ranked Ouachita. The baseball team did likewise with nationally ranked West Monroe.
SOUTHERN LAB STRIPPED OF FOOTBALL TITLES, BANNED FROM PLAYOFFS: The shockwaves from these LHSAA sanctions levied against SouthernLab in August linger. A two-year playoff ban was reduced to one. Former Glen Oaks/LSU quarterback Marcus Randall was suspended from coaching for a year and terminated by the school. He has sued Southern Lab and the LHSAA. This story will continue.
FOUR SCORE FOOTBALL TITLES: Zachary, Catholic, West Feliciana and University won LHSAA crowns. What a way to finish. West Feliciana won its first title in 3A. Zachary and Catholic won for the second time in three years and for U-High, it was the second title in four years. Not bad for a football area others in the state label as “soft.” Yes, I think U-High was the state’s best team in all classes.
DEATH OF UNIVERSITY VOLLEYBALL PLAYER BRIONNA ROSS: Healthy, athletic 15-year-olds aren’t supposed to die in their sleep. Sadly, Bri Ross died of viral pneumonia hours after playing in a match at Ascension Catholic. This was a blow not just for U-High but also the volleyball community. And it is reminder to all of us how fragile life is.
LHSAA EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE, BONINE FIND COMMON GROUND: The LHSAA and executive director Eddie Bonine settled their differences during their summer meeting in June. Unhappiness over how matters surrounding the LHSAA’s split were handled and Bonine’s pursuit of other jobs had some speculating Bonine would be terminated. Both sides emerged from one final closed-door meeting together, sporting a united front.
EPISCOPAL’S LONG RUNNING SUCCESS STORY CONTINUES: The Knights won their 22nd straight Class 2A boys cross country title last month in Natchitoches. The streak is the second longest nationally. The Knights had the top three finishers and placed all five of their scoring runners in the top 10.
THERE IS NO “I” IN TEAM BUT THERE IS ONE IN ISTROUMA: In its heyday, Istrouma was one of the state’s top powers in multiple sports going into the 1970s. Slumping academics forced the school’s closure. The Indians are back with a rebirth that includes updated facilities along with science/math components. They’ll play subvarsity for 2017-18 and 2018-19.
HOOPS ALIVE? YES INDEED: All the likely basketball powers and a few others scored big last spring. Madison Prep won its third straight boys title, its second in a row in 2A, and Scotlandville continued its string of tourney appearances that dated to 2010 and won in Division I. White Castle added to its tradition with a 1A title. Meanwhile, Parkview Baptist beat 6-3A rival University to win its first girls title in Division II. Madison Prep was the 2A girls champion.
MORE TITLE GAMES MEANS MORE TITLES: That was the lesson learned from the expansion of the LHSAA’s select/nonselect split into basketball, baseball and softball. More local teams got chances to win titles. How many titles is too many? Looks like the LHSAA will continue to debate, perhaps tweak that.
THERE WERE MILESTONES: Kenny Almond scored the biggest one two weeks ago, winning his 900th career boys basketball game in his first year at Holden. Zachary’s David Brewerton won his 100th game to close the regular season before the Broncos’ 5A football title run. Dunham’s Chad Myers got his 200th girls basketball win last week.