North Louisiana dominated the final Class 1A state poll with Ouachita Christian ranked first, Haynesville second, Mangham fourth and Cedar Creek fifth.
Whether the same area of the state dominates the state playoffs remains to be seen.
Area teams Ascension Catholic, Southern Lab and White Castle will hit the road Friday looking to represent south Louisiana against teams with better records and higher seeds.
No. 32 seed Ascension Catholic (4-6) plays No. 1 seed Ouachita Christian (10-0) in Monroe, No. 29 seed White Castle (4-6) faces No. 4 seed Mangham and No. 20 seed Southern Lab (7-3) matches up with No. 13 seed Cedar Creek (8-2) in Ruston to open the 1A playoffs.
“We’re going to travel up there and see what happens,” Ascension Catholic coach Rick Bolotte said. “We’re going to give them everything we’ve got.”
OCS returns starters at all but four positions from the team that lost to White Castle in the 1A final last year.
The Eagles won nine of their 10 regular-season games by double figures, surviving a 20-14 slugfest to stave off Cedar Creek in a showdown of District 2-1A rivals. Cedar Creek’s only other loss came against Haynesville, a 20-18 squeaker in nondistrict action.
Next up for the Cougars is the matchup with Southern Lab, which has only a handful of players back from last year’s 1A quarterfinalist team.
“I’m certainly excited for the opportunity because the kids have worked hard all year,” Southern Lab coach Nick Mitchell said. “There are 20-some-odd schools that didn’t get this chance. We’re going to go up there with the mindset that this is a game we can win and we must win.”
Even though Mangham enters the playoffs unbeaten, White Castle coach Ferrante Dominique sees his team as an underdog in seedings alone.
The Bulldogs took their lumps playing one of the area’s toughest 1A schedules, losing all six games to teams that are in the playoffs. Five of the six teams are playing their first-round games at home.
Returning all-staters Tyre Bracken, Isaac O’Bear and Gerad Carlin lead a White Castle team that has returned to health after battling injuries much of the season.
“You can take out the records and the rankings,” Dominique said. “Bring it on. We’re just going to go out and play football.”
En route to the school’s first state title in 11-man football, White Castle last year entered the playoffs as a No. 15 seed and beat teams seeded 2, 7 and 3 before facing OCS in the final.
“Hopefully, the playoff factor will kick in for us,” Dominique said.