The Catholic League looks to be getting a new member.
When John Curtis submitted its paperwork to play all the way up to Class 5A in all sports Wednesday morning, it added a little drama to the LHSAA’s first classification meeting.
The fact Curtis and another football power, Evangel Christian, opted to play up to Class 5A was crucial to the process that continues with a second meeting on Feb. 25.
“It was a decision to consider,” Curtis Athletic Director/football coach J.T. Curtis said. “After talking about it with all our coaches, we determined that it was the right thing for all our programs. We’re playing a lot of these (5A) schools already in our other sports, so it made sense. I think it will generate fan interest, and there will be financial benefits. But we had to look at it.”
Curtis and Evangel were among five schools opting to play up to the top class in all sports. Archbishop Shaw, Helen Cox and St. Augustine had enrollment figures that put them in Class 4A, but all three opted to play up to 5A. That means Curtis and Evangel will automatically be in the LHSAA’s select Division I for the football playoffs this fall.
The move also puts Curtis into District 9-5A, also known as the Catholic League, based on the LHSAA’s first classification plan that was released during the Wednesday meeting at the LHSAA office. Evangel will be part of District 1-5A.
“When two schools made their decision to play up all the way rather than affect the select/nonselect playoffs, that’s when it got easy,” LHSAA President Vic Bonnaffee of Central Catholic said, referring to Curtis and Evangel. “That’s the way it should be. Last year we did certain things for one year and four schools, Curtis, Evangel, Teurlings Catholic, opted to play up to the highest select division.
“Before this meeting we knew St. Thomas More and Teurlings were staying in 4A, and Evangel had already applied to play up to 5A. Curtis was the only one we were waiting on.”
Members of the executive committee discussed and finalized the plan to require schools to play up in all sports before the 1 p.m. portion of the meeting held at the LHSAA office.
Looking at the big picture, Curtis said he hopes the decision to play up has a positive impact on where the LHSAA goes next with its split playoffs, which now feature only football.
“I hope this does alleviate some of that anxiety that other schools have about where certain schools play,” Curtis said. “My view is that no one school or individual point of view should be bigger than this association. If this helps us move a step closer to bringing the association back together, that will be a good thing.”
The other school that surprised some with its decision to play up was West St. John, which moves from 1A to 2A and into District 9-2A with River Parish rivals St. Charles Catholic and Riverside Academy. Country Day also moves up to Class 2A and will be in the district as well because of its enrollment.
“This makes sense. It gets us back to some regional games,” West St. John Athletic Director/football coach Robert Valdez said. “It gets us back to something that financially works for us.
“It’s good football and puts us playing in a location where we’re not traveling as much. So for all sports it’s going to help put us in a good situation. I was holding it a little bit, not letting anybody know. But at the last minute, maybe 11:56 (a.m.) or 11:57 we sent it in. It makes sense geographically and for our program.”
One other notable change among New Orleans areas schools was East Jefferson and Landry-Walker moving from Class 4A to 5A.
Barring any changes, East Jefferson and Landry-Walker will now compete in a nine-team district with Bonnabel, Chalmette, Helen Cox, John Ehret, Higgins, Grace King and West Jefferson.