If Baton Rouge area high schools were in the market for a theme song going into the football playoffs, the Willie Nelson standard “On the Road Again” just might fit.
As has been the norm in recent years, a substantial number of Baton Rouge teams will be hopping on buses to go play their bidistrict-round Louisiana High School Athletic Association playoff games on the road this week.
Sure, there will be BR teams ranked high in several classes. Fifth-ranked Dutchtown (7-2), Catholic High (7-2) and Central (9-1) are top 5A teams that won’t have to travel.
Top-ranked Parkview Baptist, third-ranked Lutcher (4A) and another third-ranked team, 2A University, have been top teams all year and will also begin their quests for a state title at home.
The LHSAA’s top 16 teams, according to its power rankings, get to host bidistrict games. Power rankings are based on a mathematical program and differ depending on the source before the 1 p.m. Sunday pairings/seeding meeting at the LHSAA office. They also differ from the Louisiana Sports Writers Association rankings listed above.
The LSWA polls don’t factor into the LHSAA equation. What does factor in are the schedules the teams play. Whether or not a team plays a full 10-game schedule can also be a difference maker to some degree. Strength of schedule can be a matter of choice or a fickle twist of fate, depending on the team.
I’ve known schools to schedule certain teams for predistrict games, figuring those opponents would again excel and boost their power rating. And then those opponents go on to have losing seasons. Other schools choose to schedule weaker teams, looking to garner wins that may not always boost power rankings.
Once the pairings are announced, the power rankings intrigue will be over. It will be up to the teams to prove their mettle on the field.
As a general rule, playoff teams not in that top 16 don’t fare well. But last fall Central was the giant-killer. The 32nd-seeded Wildcats beat top-seeded St. Paul’s to open the 5A playoffs.
Is there a giant-killer in the Baton Rouge ranks this year? Could it be 3A East Feliciana (5-3)? Or could it be the remaining 5A group that includes Scotlandville (6-3), Denham Springs (5-5), Live Oak (5-5) or Zachary (6-4)? All those teams might be rated in the 20s and bound for a road game. I expect a few upsets to punctuate next week’s results. A year without an underdog pulling off an upset or a highly regarded team getting bounced off the bracket just isn’t likely.
After not having a team from the BR area advance to the state finals last season, there’s plenty to prove. And the time to prove it is here.
Keeping it real
I value the relationships I have with Baton Rouge football coaches and the professional way they approach their jobs.
That’s why I was a little surprised by the initial response I got from Dutchtown High coach Benny Saia, who at first questioned officials’ calls at key points in Catholic’s 26-21 win over the Griffins.
Saia’s reaction mirrored the emotions of the game, something you don’t always see. However, the DHS coach also reviewed the film of those plays and deemed them so close they really could have gone either way.
Officials, coaches, players and sportswriters all make mistakes. As fans, we’re spoiled by the replays of fumbles and other key plays we get to watch on television. High school officials don’t have that luxury.
Saia credited Catholic for doing what was needed to win. And he also credited his team for their intensity and effort. There’s nothing wrong with a little emotion as long as things are kept in perspective.
Early this week, I incorrectly listed Baker’s win over New Iberia’s Highland Baptist as being a junior varsity team.
Highland is actually a first-year LHSAA varsity school that did not play for league honors in District 8-1A.