There’s been a notable void on the high school football spectrum in Baton Rouge.
It started in 1991 when the LHSAA added Class 5A as its top classification. Winning a state title in Louisiana’s top classification is the pinnacle and no local team had done it since then.
No local team ever advanced to play for one, either. Suddenly Baton Rouge has the chance to get not just one, but two top classification championships in just over a week.
Catholic High of District 5-5A won the Division I select title Friday. And now it’s second-seeded Zachary High’s turn. The Broncos (13-1) of 4-5A meet No. 9 John Ehret (12-2) in the Class 5A final that will close out the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Prep Classic.
“I just think this shows that we’re heading in the right direction with our program,” Zachary coach David Brewerton said. “Our kids set goals, and we’re still in the process of trying to attain our goals. I can’t say enough about our kids. They played extremely well in the second half to get us in this position.”
Game time is set for 7 p.m. Saturday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for the 5A final that will conclude two weekends of LHSAA title games. Action begins at 4:30 p.m. Friday when top-seeded Kentwood (13-0) takes on No. 3 Haynesville (11-2) in the Class 1A final. Eighth-seeded Mangham (10-4) plays No. 2 Kinder (13-1) in the 2A finale at 8 p.m.
The Saturday schedule begins at noon with what may be one of the biggest attendance draws.
Two parish rivals, top-seeded Lutcher (13-1) meets No. 15 St. James (11-2), in the 3A game. Top-seeded Neville (13-0) and No. 14 Karr (9-4) square off in the 4A title game at 3:30 p.m.
“The most people I’ve ever seen at a Lutcher-St. James game was in 1978,” Lutcher coach Tim Detillier said. “The second most was probably when we played them at St. James earlier this year. I think this one could top both of those.”
Detillier joked that the only people left in St. James Parish by noon will be the three or four tourists who come hours early for the bonfire festival set for Saturday night.
Just like the select games, the nonselect games feature plenty of connections. For example, Zachary’s Brewerton played on the Catholic High team that was the 1990 runner-up in Class 4A. It will be the second title game in three years for Brewerton, who led Livonia to the 3A final in 2013.
Catholic coach Dale Weiner said he got a congratulatory call from Zachary Principal Joe LeBlanc, who jokingly said “Catholic High North” was thrilled for the Bears. LeBlanc and current ZHS assistant coaches Gerry Garidel and Chris Carrier were long time Catholic assistant coaches.
Another big connection is Detillier and St. James coach Dwain Jenkins, who is a former Lutcher quarterback and assistant coach. The two coaches traveled to Saturday’s LHSAA meeting for Prep Classic coaches together.
Lutcher and St. James have never played each other to decide a state title. Lutcher’s most recent titles were in 3A in 2003, 2006 and 2008. St. James makes its first dome appearance since finishing as the 2A runner-up in 2007 and won a 3A title in 1979.
The return of quarterback Lowell Narcisse from a knee injury helped ignite St. James run to the title game.
“When we saw Lutcher was coming down to 3A, I think we both knew it (a title game matchup) was possible,” Jenkins said. “When Lowell went down with the (torn ACL) injury in the spring, we thought our chance might have gone away. This is great.”
There also are connections between Kentwood and Haynesville. KHS coach Jonathan Foster, a former Amite star, played with the brother of Haynesville coach David Franklin at Louisiana-Monroe.
Foster said he grew up admiring Franklin’s father, Alton “Red” Franklin, who won 366 games and 11 state titles as head coach at Haynesville. Kentwood makes its first Classic appearance since finishing as the runner-up to Vermilion Catholic in 2003. Red Franklin is now an HHS assistant coach.
“This is about as old school as it gets for 1A,” Foster said. “I grew up in the 1980s and 1990s following high school football and Haynesville was a team I loved. To be able to look across the sideline and see coach (Red) Franklin over there is going to be a thrill.”