1. It’s a new year with new challenges.
LHSAA schools finally may be settling into a select/nonselect football playoff routine, but a new two-year districting plan shakes things up. One key change sends Livonia, last year’s 3A state champion, into Class 4A and District 6-4A. Woodlawn drops from 5A to 4A and also into 6-4A, while Madison Prep moves up to 2A and District 6-2A. There will only be one Class 1A district in the BR area for the first time in decades.
2. Catholic coach Dale Weiner is closing in on 300 wins.
Weiner already is the winningest coach in the Baton Rouge area. He enters the season with a 297-105 record and figures to become just the eighth Louisiana high school coach to crack the 300-win barrier. The question: When will it happen? A rugged predistrict schedule that includes Parkview Baptist, Zachary High and St. Thomas More won’t make it easy.
3. Is it rebuilding or reloading for U-High?
I’ll say reloading. The Cubs are 26-1 over the past two seasons, winning one state title and finishing as the state runner-up once. But for the first time in five years, LSU running back Nick Brossette won’t be getting the lion’s share of the carries for U-High. Quarterback Manny Miles also graduated. With junior phenom Dylan Moses at running back and 6-foot-5 basketball standout D.J. White at quarterback, the UHS offense has a new look.
4. Zachary eyes a breakthrough to the Class 5A title game.
David Brewerton’s Broncos played eventual state champion Acadiana toe-to-toe in the semifinals last season and return the majority of their starters, led by quarterback Lindsey Scott Jr., receiver Douglas Coleman and offensive lineman Kellton Hollins, a TCU commitment. With that said, navigating the 5A ranks is never easy. Zachary needs to stay healthy and consistent.
5. They asked for it: Check out these marquee matchups.
When the LHSAA approved split football championships, I could see this coming. And it’s only a jamboree, but last year’s Class 3A champion, Livonia, plays reigning Division II select champion University, also in 3A, on Aug, 28. Livonia QB Cee Jay Powell asked about playing the Cubs in a postgame text. Parkview Baptist hosts Louisiana’s premier program, John Curtis. Why? Because the PBS seniors asked to do it.
6. If you like running backs, you’re in luck once again.
Moses, the nation’s top junior prospect as a linebacker, will take on a bigger role in the offense. He’s big, fast and physical. Catholic High junior Clyde Edwards-Helaire will be the feature back in place of another LSU RB, Derrius Guice, and is getting major college buzz of his own. Southern Lab’s Darbbeon Profit and Tyre Golmond of Denham Springs are other backs looking to build on breakout seasons in 2014. Barrick Slaughter figures to be the next notable Livonia running back.
7. Baton Rouge will have its share of talented QBs, too.
The list starts with Zachary senior Lindsey Scott Jr., the Class 5A all-state and 5A-4A All-Metro MVP a year ago. Southern Lab’s Bladrick Veal is another tall (6-5), experienced QB. Livonia’s diminutive Powell was a title-game MVP a year ago, and Parkview Baptist’s Reggie Hayes is another dual-threat QB with savvy. Then there’s Torez Kinchen of Denham Springs, Scotlandville’s Levi Lewis, Plaquemine’s Austin Mitchell and Dutchtown’s Jared Sparks. Walker’s Terry Bozeman III, who passed for 3,282 yards and 31 TDs for a winless team, also warrants a mention.
8. It’s a new job and high expectations for Marcus Randall.
The former Glen Oaks and LSU QB is the first-year head coach at Southern Lab, last year’s Division IV select runner-up. With a lineup full of returning starters, the Kittens will be expected to contend for a title again. Randall excelled in the underdog role as a player — think “Bluegrass Miracle.” It’ll be interesting to see how he handles a tough schedule that includes prep-school power IMG of Florida.
9. On the spot in 5A-4A: Catholic High and Plaquemine.
Along with Weiner’s quest for 300, Catholic seeks a breakthrough in the Division I select playoffs after earning a high seed the past two years. Plaquemine has soared to the quarterfinals and semifinals the past two years in 4A. The Green Devils have to replace key personnel and face Livonia in District 6-4A.
10. Also on the spot: Parkview Baptist, Southern Lab and 6-2A.
Parkview of 3A was the Division II select runner-up to U-High last year and will challenge the Cubs in 6-3A. Title or bust for Southern Lab? People do think that. Last year, Northeast made a Cinderella run to the 2A semifinals. East Feliciana and Episcopal have their share of deep playoff runs. And then there’s Madison Prep, a Division IV semifinalist last year. Whose turn is it this time in 6-2A?