Stability is one thing every high school football coach yearns for.
And for the first time in three years, LHSAA schools will have it … at least when it comes to the state finals format.
Here’s the good news: The LHSAA’s split football playoff format remains the same for the second straight year. Title games for select schools and nonselect schools are scheduled for separate weekends at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
There will be no three-day, eight-game marathon like there was in 2013. That was the first year after principals voted to put select schools, a group dominated by private schools, into separate football playoff brackets away from the nonselect/traditional public schools.
People still have a hard time understanding how it all works, especially because the teams play in the districts together during the regular season.
Make no mistake about it: The teams and the coaches get it. They know how the system works.
Can more Baton Rouge teams work the system well enough to win state titles? That’s the biggest question going into the 2015 season.
Whether you love it or hate it, the select/nonselect system does one thing the previous five-class system could never do: It has nearly doubled the number of state titles teams play for. And there are more playoff teams.
Going from five to nine state titles at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Prep Classic seems a bit excessive to some. For every outcry about the LHSAA system being watered down, there are tears of joy for fans of the teams that got to take home a title trophy.
Two local teams, Division II select University High and Parkview Baptist, were the only district rivals to square off in a title game last fall. U-High won that one, and Livonia came away with the Class 3A title on the nonselect side.
The victories gave Baton Rouge a sweep of the LHSAA’s 3A titles, continuing a tradition that started 14 years ago with Parkview and now-defunct Redemptorist.
Southern Lab advanced to a title game for the first time since 2000 and finished as the Division IV select runner-up to Ouachita Christian.
Fans of all those schools are primed for yet another deep playoff run and, hopefully, a state title. Of course, more Baton Rouge teams want to join the party.
Class 5A Zachary and 4A Plaquemine came close last season, narrowly losing semifinal games. Zachary returns the majority of a team that lost a nail-biter to eventual state champion Acadiana. Plaquemine must do some rebuilding following its loss to Warren Easton, the 4A runner-up. Livonia’s move up to 4A and into District 6-4A with the Green Devils makes for an intriguing fall.
Northeast lost to eventual state champion Many in the 2A semifinals, while Madison Prep lost a Division IV select semifinal to Southern Lab. Like Livonia and Plaquemine, MPA and Northeast will be district rivals this time.
Based on these scenarios, it’s safe to assume there should be strength in numbers for Baton Rouge area schools once the playoffs begin. Numbers don’t necessarily equate to titles, though.
No Baton Rouge team has advanced to the 5A title game since the class was added in 1991. The road to a 4A title during the Prep Classic era, which began in 1981, has seen some impressive teams fall by the wayside.
Redemptorist won a 4A title in 2003, the year after winning a 3A crown. Catholic in 1990, Capitol in 1999 and Baker in 2001 were runner-up finishers in 4A. Talented Broadmoor and Glen Oaks teams in the 1990s fell just short of the 4A title game.
A look at the local hopefuls indicates there’s stability for more than just the LHSAA’s finals format.
Can Baton Rouge teams beat the odds and take home more title trophies, including some in the highest classifications? Or would a trip down Poydras to Harrah’s be a safer bet?
Yes, it’s time for Baton Rouge and its teams to go all-in.