Southern Lab and White Castle have one of Louisiana’s most storied boys basketball rivalries.
The teams seem to meet on a yearly basis. They’ve combined to decide Class 1A state titles and played more memorable games than you can count on two hands.
Football has never really been in the equation — until now.
The LHSAA’s decision to combine Baton Rouge area teams that were traditionally part of two 1A leagues into a District 6-1A powerhouse is a real game-changer. Another well-known power, Kentwood, also remains in the mix.
“I’m really looking forward to this district,” White Castle coach Lamar Thomas said. “Kentwood has had its (football) rivalry with Southern Lab longer because they’ve been together in a district for years. But this is going to be something special for all of us. Anytime you say Southern Lab and White Castle, you know you’re going to get a bunch of people. That’s just how it is. We’re used to competition in the district we came from, but I think this one is going to be even better.”
Consider 6-1A to be the LHSAA’s ultimate addition by subtraction. District 6-1A lost Christian Life (moved to 2A), Madison Prep (moved to 2A) and Varnado (moved to another district). Another traditional power, West St. John (moved to 2A), left what was 8-1A, paving the way for the two BR leagues to be combined. White Castle, the 2010 champion, was the last local team to win a 1A state title.
The possibilities are tantalizing. Southern Lab started 1-5 last season, weathering a brutal nondistrict schedule against larger-classification teams before getting on a roll to finish as the Division IV select runner-up with an 8-6 record.
When coach Nick Mitchell resigned in February, the Kittens pulled off a coup by hiring former LSU quarterback Marcus Randall. It is the first head coaching job for Randall, who was an assistant to his older brother, Eric, at Class 5A Scotlandville.
Kentwood was a 1A semifinalist, while White Castle made it to the 1A quarterfinals in 2014. Ascension Catholic also has a new coach in Drey Trosclair and is coming off an eight-win season in the old 8-1A.
“I think it’s been a long time coming,” Randall said when he was hired. “I’ve been tutored by some of the best coaches in the game — Nick Saban being one; Jimbo Fisher is another — and the last three years I’ve spent with my brother. All these things have prepared me for this opportunity.”
Randall has a variety of weapons at his disposal. Senior quarterback Bladrick Veal threw for 1,900 yards last year, and running back Darbbeon Profit nearly matched that production on the ground with 1,880 rushing yards. Profit’s running fueled the late-season drive.
Defensively, the Kittens are led by end Deion Rainey (33 tackles for loss), linebacker Dorien Welch (190 tackles) and defensive back Jonard Robinson (12 interceptions).
Kentwood has the league’s top college prospect in Shyheim Carter, rated the nation’s No. 5 cornerback by 247Sports and No. 51 overall. Avenging a loss to Southern Lab in district play a year ago, Kentwood’s first since 2009, is a goal.
“That was a tough loss for us,” Kentwood coach Jonathan Foster said. “That was the first time we lost a district game in a while. We should have a lot of speed again this year. From top to bottom, we also have the toughest district in the state.”
White Castle’s Thomas has his share of weapons, led by running back/defensive back Dontrell Taylor, a four-year starter. The play of new quarterback Jeremie Richard and a large, veteran line will be key.
“Right now, I’m putting a lot on those guys up front,” Thomas said. “They’ve got size, and most of them are seniors. They really need to come out and set the tone for us on offense and defense. We’ve got the chance to be very good, but we don’t have a lot of numbers. Right now, we have around 28 players. With that, you can’t take anybody for granted.”
Thomas notes that another longtime power, St. John, remains dangerous. The Eagles were 0-5 in nondistrict games before picking up three wins in 8-1A a year ago.
Ascension Christian won’t be playing for district honors, and East Iberville continues its quest to build a program with a new coach, former Capitol quarterback and coach Dameion Mills.
“I always like playing against the best teams in players,” Taylor said. “I’m sure some people are counting us out right now. But that’s OK; we’re more determined when we’ve got something to prove.”
(Zachary Junda contributed to this report.)
Ascension Catholic Bulldogs
Coach: Drey Trosclair
2014: 8-3, 4-1 in District 8-1A
Last playoff appearance: 2014 (lost to Madison Prep in Division IV select first round)
Looking back: Ascension Catholic’s solid season came to a close at the hands of Madison Prep.
Moving forward: Ascension Catholic doesn’t have many starters back, but veteran QB D.C. Mattingly and LB Cole Amedee should ease the transition.
Ask The Advocate: Having to play Southern Lab, White Castle and Kentwood on the road, the Bulldogs may take a step back.
Projected starters on offense: *QB D.C. Mattingly, RB Jacob LaGrange, *SE Kaleb Winchester, SE Jacoby Stewart, SE Javon Yarbrough, SE Kebori Hunter, *T Ashton Bourgeois, T Ethan Arceneaux, G D.J. Gloir, G Charlie Gianelloni, C Brad Schexnayder.
Projected starters on defense: DB Kebori Hunter, DB Javon Yarbrough, DB Kaleb Winchester, DB Alex Hebert, LB Jacob LaGrange, LB Cole Amedee, LB Landon Landry, DB Bubba Gautreau, DE Ashton Bourgeois, DE Colin Landry, DT Braxton Clark.
Sept. 3 at Catholic-Pointe Coupee
Sept. 11 at Dunham
Sept. 17 at Central Catholic
Sept. 24 at Southern Lab#
Oct. 2 at White Castle#
Oct. 9 Ascension Christian#
Oct. 16 at East Iberville#
Oct. 23 St. John#
Oct. 30 at Kentwood#
Nov. 6 Kaplan
Ascension Christian Lions
Coach: Josh Puryear (5-15 at Ascension Christian)
2014: 3-7, 1-4 in District 8-1A
Last playoff appearance: 2013 (lost in first round)
Looking back: Last season was not kind to the Lions, but their record was a slight improvement from 2013’s 2-8.
Moving forward: Running the ball should be a strength; the Lions return four starting offensive linemen and RB Brye Templet.
Ask The Advocate: Ascension Christian won’t play for district honors, and not playing White Castle, Kentwood or Southern Lab could help the Lions flourish.
Projected starters on offense: QB Chris Middleton (6-0, 190, So.), *RB Brye Templet (5-10, 165, Jr.), TE Nick Schexnayder (6-1, 180, Jr.), *T Dylan Capiel (5-10, 205, Jr.), *G Eddie Krass (5-4, 220, Sr.), *C Micah Freeman (5-10, 190, Sr.), *G Jeff Ragusa (5-10, 165, Sr.), T Eric Sims (6-0, 250, Sr.), *SE Paxton Page (6-0, 150, Sr.), *SE Payton Bahlinger (5-11, 165, Jr.), *SE Seth Mangrum (5-10, 155, Sr.).
Projected starters on defense: DE Nick Schexnayder (6-1, 180, Jr.), *DT Dylan Capiel (5-10, 205, Jr.), *DT Derek Hedricks (5-11, 205, Jr.), *DE Jeff Ragusa (5-10, 165, Sr.), *LB Micah Freeman (5-10, 190, Sr.), LB Brennan Tramonte (5-11, 165, So.), *DB Seth Mangrum (5-9, 160, Sr.), DB Ricky Martinez (5-5, 135, Jr.), *DB Payton Bahlinger (5-10, 165, Jr.), *DB Joshua Diez (5-9, 140, So.), *DB Paxton Page (6-0, 160, Sr.).
Sept. 4 at Gueydan
Sept. 11 Crescent City
Sept. 18 at Ridgewood
Sept. 25 Westminster Christian
Oct. 2 Houma Christian
Oct. 9 at Ascension Catholic#
Oct. 16 St. John#
Oct. 23 at Ecole Classique
Nov. 6 East Iberville#
East Iberville Tigers
Coach: Damieon Mills (first year)
2014: 0-11, 0-5 in District 8-1A
Last playoff appearance: 2014 (lost to Logansport in the first round)
Looking back: For the second year in a row, the Tigers endured a winless season. Four of their 19 players decided against making the trip for their 48-0 loss in the playoffs.
Moving forward: First-year coach Mills brings energy and newfound hope.
Ask The Advocate: A lack of players makes 2015 just as rough as the past two seasons.
Projected offensive starters: *QB Lyndell Joseph (5-11, 160, Jr.), *SE Robert Dundy (5-9, 155, Sr.), RB Keston Johnson Jr. (5-9, 165, Fr.), *G Lester Joseph III (5-10, 165, So.), C Rickey Jones (6-0, 225, Fr.), T Justin Hollins (5-10, 175, Fr.), T Tre Terrell (6-4, 230, Sr.), *G Alex Campbell (5-8, 150, Jr.), RB Lawrence Johnson (6-0, 175, Sr.), SE Damieon Mills Jr. (5-8, 155, So.), Michael Triplett (6-1, 175, Fr.).
Projected defensive starters: *DB Lyndell Joseph (5-11, Jr.), *DB Robert Dundy (5-9, Sr.), DB Keston Johnson Jr. (5-9, Fr.), DT Jester Joseph III, 5-10, Fr.), LB Jaylon Brown (6-0, 205, Sr.), DT Justin Hollins (5-10, Fr.), DE Tre Terrell (6-4, Sr.), Alex Campbell (5-8, Jr.), LB Lawrence Johnson (6-0, Sr.), DB Damieon Mills Jr. (5-8, So.), LB Michael Triplett (6-1, Fr.).
Sept. 4 at False River
Sept. 11 at Albany
Sept. 18 Grand Lake
Sept. 25 at St. John#
Oct. 1 Kentwood#
Oct. 9 at White Castle#
Oct. 16 Ascension Catholic#
Oct. 23 at Christian Life#
Oct. 30 Southern Lab#
Nov. 6 at Ascension Christian#
Coach: Jonathan Foster (9-3 in one year)
2014: 9-3, 3-1 in District 6-1A
Last playoff appearance: 2014 (lost to Mangham in semifinals)
Looking back: Kentwood suffered its first district loss since 2009 at the hands of rival Southern Lab, costing it the 6-1A title.
Moving forward: The Roos bring back plenty of starters and will have a plethora of speed, led by the fifth-best cornerback prospect in the country, Shyheim Carter.
Ask The Advocate: The Roos have another fabulous season, but beating Southern Lab is too tough a challenge and prevents Kentwood from claiming the district title.
Projected starters on offense: *QB Shyheim Carter (6-0, 190, Sr.), *RB Darriyn McKnight (5-9, 180), *RB Kyvan Trout (5-8, 160), SE Al Lott (5-8, 175), *SE Jaleel Hampton (6-0, 170), SE Larnez Moriss (5-8, 165), *T Kordell Williams (6-1, 215), *G Dontrell Berry *6-0, 380), C Justice Ulshack (6-1, 230), G Jalen Bickham (6-3, 315), *T Eric Dunn (6-6. 240).
Projected starters on defense: *DE Wayne Brown (6-2, 215), *Jaleah Covington (5-11, 190), DT Taydron Lee (6-1, 210), *DE Brandon Holmes (5-10, 200), *LB Tyrone Brumfield (6-0, 205), *LB Jerriel Robinson (5-9, 170), Jimmie Hacket (5-11, 185), *DB Shyheim Carter (6-0, 190), DB Raymontre Palmer (5-11, 170), *RB Larenz Morriss (5-8, 165) *DB Jaleel Hampton (6-0, 170).
Sept. 4 at Loranger
Sept. 11 Jewel Sumner
Sept. 18 at Amite
Sept. 25 at West St. John
Oct. 1 at East Iberville#
Oct. 8 at St. John#
Oct. 16 St. Helena
Oct. 23 White Castle#
Oct. 30 at Ascension Catholic#
Nov. 6 at Southern Lab#
St. John Eagles
Coach: Crickett Crockett (6-16 in two years)
2014: 2-8, 2-3 in District 8-1A
Looking back: Games against non-District 6-1A teams were a winless affair for St. John, but the Eagles rebounded nicely.
Moving forward: St. John’s do-everything RB/WR/DB/K Gavin Landry is the engine that makes the Eagles go.
Ask The Advocate: Another tough nondistrict slate keeps St. John down but not out.
Projected starters on offense (Wing T): *RB Gavin Landry (5-7, 189, Sr.), *RB Gavin Primeaux (5-8, 195, Sr.), RB Landon LeBlanc (5-9, 175, So.), *QB Clay Payne (5-9, 197, Sr.), *TE Collin Crockett (6-2, 197, Sr.), *OT Peyton Voisin (6-2, 225, Sr.), *OG Garrett Booksh (5-9, 235, Sr.), *C Dylan Tempanaro (5-9, 225, Sr.), *OG Andrew Gulotta (6-1, 210, Sr.), *OT Chandler Hebert (6-2, 225, Sr.), SE Joseph Thibeau (6-2, 175, Sr.).
Projected starters on defense (4-2-5): DE Jace Cedotal (6-2, 220, Sr.), *DT Peyton Voisin (6-2, 225, Sr.), *DT Dylan Tempanaro (5-9, 225, Sr.), *DE Andrew Gulotta (6-1, 210, Sr.), *ILB Nick Alexander (6-0, 220, Jr.), ILB Walter Barker (5-6, 180, Sr.), *OLB Collin Crockett (6-2, 197, Sr.), *DB Gavin Landry (5-7, 189, Sr.), *DB Gavin Primeaux (5-8, 195, Sr.), DB Devin Brock (5-6, 165, So.), DB Christopher Lewis (5-8, 175, Jr.), DB Landon Leblanc (5-9, 175, So.).
Sept. 3 Central Catholic
Sept. 11 at Brusly
Sept. 18 at Catholic-Pointe Coupee
Sept. 25 East Iberville#
Oct. 2 at Southern Lab#
Oct. 8 Kentwood#
Oct. 16 at Ascension Christian#
Oct. 23 at Ascension Catholic#
Oct. 29 Hannan
Nov. 5 White Castle#
Southern Lab Kittens
Coach: Marcus Randall (first year)
2014: 8-6, 4-0 in District 6-1A
Last playoff appearance: 2014 (lost to Ouachita Christian in Division IV select title game)
Looking back: Southern Lab was champion of 6-1A and appeared in its first state championship game in 16 years.
Moving forward: Southern Lab returns 20 of 22 starters, including QB Bladrick Veal, RB Darbbeon Profit, DE Deion Rainey and LB Deion Welch.
Ask The Advocate: Despite Randall being a first-year head coach, the large amount of returning starters and drawing White Castle and Kentwood at home helps Southern Lab repeat as district champion.
Projected starters on offense (multiple): *TE Chris Allen (6-5, 228, Jr.), *SE Xavier Bell (5-11, 175, Jr.), *T Cedrick Banks (6-1, 310, So.), *G Chad Brown (6-0, 260, 260, Jr.), *C Chad Smith (6-3, 300, Sr.), *G Donald Clark (5-11, 308, Sr.), *T Kardell Thomas (6-4, 310, Fr.), *QB Bladrick Veal (6-6, 215, Sr.), *RB Darbbeaon Profit (5-9, 285, Sr.), *WR Courtland Williams (5-9, 175, Sr.), *WR Tevis Abraham (6-2, 205, Sr.).
Projected starters on defense (4-3): *DE Deion Rainey (6-4, 260, Sr.), *DE Chris Allen (6-5, 228, Jr.), *DT Ben Mason (5-11, 280, Jr.), *DT Shannon Forman (6-2, 260, Jr.), *LB Dorion Welcon (5-10, 185, Jr.), LB Cameron Williams (6-1, 215, Jr.), LB Marcus Martin (6-3, 220, So.), *DB Malcolm Hall (5-10, 180, Jr.), *DB Jonard Robinson (6-2, 185, Sr.), *DB Trey Epps (5-11, 190, Sr.), DB Devonte White (6-0, 175, Jr.).
Sept. 4 Bogalusa
Sept. 11 University
Sept. 18 at West St. John
Sept. 24 at Ascension Catholic#
Oct. 2 St. John#
Oct. 9 at IMG Academy (Fla.)
Oct. 16 White Castle#
Oct. 23 Ascension Christian#
Oct. 30 at East Iberville#
Nov. 6 Kentwood#
White Castle Bulldogs
Coach: Lamar Thomas
2014: 8-4, 3-2 in District 8-1A
Last postseason appearance: 2014 (lost to Mangham in the quarterfinals)
Looking back: The Bulldogs quietly went 3-2 in district play last season and made it to the 1A semifinals.
Moving forward: White Castle brings back all five starting offensive linemen and two experienced running backs.
Ask The Advocate: How successful White Castle’s season will be depends on health. Even if it does stay healthy, White Castle still has to go through Southern Lab and Kentwood.
Projected starters on offense: G Columbus Willis (6-5, 298, Jr.), G Calvin Degg (6-2, 240, Jr.), C Shawndrick Stevenson (5-9, 205, Jr.), T DaMicha Carter (6-1, 240, Sr.), T Felton Dominique (5-8, 220, Sr.), RB Dontrell Taylor (5-8, 155, Sr.), RB Daniel Edwards (5-11, 205, Sr.), RB Marlon Lewis (5-8, 145, So.).
Projected starters on defense: DT Columbus Willis (6-5, 298, Jr.), DT Calvin Degg (6-2, 240, Jr.), DE DaMicha Carter (6-1, 240, Sr.), DE Felton Dominique (5-8, 220, Sr.), DB Dontrell Taylor (5-8, 155, Sr.), LB Daniel Edwards (5-11, 205, Sr.), DB Marlon Lewis (5-8, 145, So.), DB Jeremie Richard (5-8, 140, So.), DL Orthello Batiste (6-4, 210, Sr.), LB Malik White (5-11, 180, Jr.).
Sept. 4 at Brusly
Sept. 11 at Madison Prep
Sept. 18 Donaldsonville
Sept. 25 at Belaire
Oct. 2 Ascension Catholic#
Oct. 9 East Iberville#
Oct. 16 at Southern Lab#
Oct. 23 at Kentwood#
Nov. 5 at St. John#
* — returning starter; # — district game