District titles are among the major prizes up for grabs when Baton Rouge’s high school football teams reach Week 9 of their 10-game seasons each year.

As Class 5A Zachary and 4A St. Michael the Archangel approach their respective Week 9 Friday showdowns the notion of breaking down barriers is as important as breaking down another opponent.

“I think to a certain extent both us and Denham Springs have played with a chip on our shoulders all year,” Zachary coach David Brewerton said. “Everybody looked at Central and Scotlandville before us when they talked about district before the year started. I know our guys have really embraced what we want them to do, which is play a physical style of football. To be able to play for the chance to win a district title outright — something Zachary has never done in 5A — means a lot.”

Brewerton’s ninth-ranked Broncos (7-1, 4-0) seek their eighth straight win when they travel to Denham Springs (5-3, 4-0) for a matchup of District 4-5A leaders. St. Michael (8-0, 2-0) hosts No. 7 Plaquemine (7-1, 2-0) in District 6-4A at Louisiana Leadership’s Doug Williams Stadium.

The two 7 p.m. games highlight the Week 9 schedule for 5A-4A local teams. In 5-5A, there are two other notable matchups. Sixth-ranked Catholic High (7-1, 3-0) hosts Woodlawn (5-3, 1-2) at Olympia Stadium. East Ascension (5-3, 2-1) travels to St. Amant (4-4, 1-2) for one of the area’s major rivalry games that is expected to attract more than 6,000 fans.

“This group of seniors really dedicated themselves to prove they’re a good football team after the lumps we took last year,” St. Michael coach Paul Varnado said. “They’ve worked extremely hard to put us in situations where we can succeed. We’re not a team with superstars, just a team that plays well together.

“It’s fair to say that Plaquemine is the best team we’ve faced. They’re physically talented, and they’re well coached.”

None of the four teams can win an outright title this week. With a win over the primary competition, the likelihood of a crown increases. Combined records of their Week 10 opponents is 9-22.

Zachary is led by dual threat quarterback Lindsey Scott Jr., who has 1,573 passing yards and 665 rushing yards. The huge improvement for Zachary has come with a hard-hitting defense that forces turnovers and limits scoring opportunities.

It also has been a year of change for Denham Springs with a move to a more spread-oriented offense and an influx of young players led by running back Tyre Golmond, a freshman who has 905 rushing yards.

“We knew this would be a transition year for us with a new offense and the young guys that we have,” DSHS coach Dru Nettles said. “We’ve lost some games, but I also think we’ve learned some things along the way. Zachary is a program that was good already, but this year they’re playing with so much confidence. Games like this are the reason you want to play the game.”

Plaquemine coach Paul Distefano is guarding against a letdown after a Week 8 win over traditional power Lutcher.

For the Green Devils, it will be about one particular fundamental part of football.

“I think it’s going to come down to who plays run defense the best,” Distefano said. “Both teams like to run the ball. We try to hold onto the ball and maximize the opportunities we get. St. Michael is going to make that hard. They got a bunch of three- and four-year starters on defense. And they like to run it too.”

St. Michael has not allowed more than 14 points in a game and has yielded just 71 points to date.

Plaquemine, with its option attack, has scored 317 points. Preston Russ leads PHS with 680 rushing yards, while Matthew Butler has 646 rushing yards for the Warriors.