Sportswriters often cringe when they hear a coach use a cliché.
You know the ones.
“Anybody can beat anybody in this league.”
“The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win.”
“We will have to play our best to win.”
Or the one St. Augustine coach Cyril Crutchfield gave me on Monday when asked about his thoughts on the Catholic League race.
“It’s going to be a battle every week.”
We sportswriters won’t cringe this time.
In fact, let’s give Crutchfield, Scott Bairnsfather, Mark Bonis, Jay Roth, Eric Rebaudo, and Mark Songy a free pass on those clichés for the next five weeks because they are all true for District 9-5A, which begins play this weekend.
This year, there appears to be plenty of parity in the district and anybody really can beat anybody.
(Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. “That Rummel team looks pretty dang invincible.”)
So far this season they have been, running through a pre-district schedule that looked more like a playoff bracket.
They’ve found a way to win some close ones (a triple-overtime win over Hahnville and a 3-point win over Catholic of Baton Rouge); and they’ve had some surprising blowouts, beating East St. John, Acadiana and Dutchtown by a combined score of 110-25. OUCH !
Collectively, the six teams in the league are a combined 25-4 headed into league play.
The four losses were by a combined 17 points.
Three of the losses came in Week 1 and were by a combined 11 points (Thibodaux beat Shaw 35-30, Ponchatoula beat Jesuit 24-21 and Covington beat Holy Cross 24-21).
Since then, the league is a combined 22-1, with the only loss being St. Aug’s 25-19 loss to Karr.
Now it’s time for the Catholic League teams to do their best SEC West impersonations and start beating up on each other.
It starts Friday night when Holy Cross and Jesuit meet at Tad Gormley for the 95th time.
It continues on Saturday when Brother Martin and St. Aug clash at Gormley at 2:30 p.m, then Shaw takes on Rummel Saturday night at 7 at Yenni.
Last season, the pecking order in league play didn’t give any surprises.
St. Aug beat everybody.
Rummel beat everyone except St. Aug.
Holy Cross beat Jesuit, Brother Martin and Shaw.
Jesuit beat Brother Martin and Shaw.
And Brother Martin beat Shaw, which was winless in league play.
Best guess here?
Things won’t be so cut and dry this season.
Let’s take a look.
Shaw has proven it’s no pushover.
In a league overflowing with talented running backs, the Eagles may have the best in the bunch in Trey Ragas. The junior is just 104 yards from reaching the 1,000 yard mark.
Their lone loss came against Thibodaux, which scored the game-winner with 61 seconds left.
In case you’re wondering, Thibodaux is still undefeated, including a win over Hahnville, which took Rummel to triple overtime.
Brother Martin. Raise your hand if you had the Crusaders at 5-0 at this point? Nope, me either. But the Crusaders have been solid with the running duo of Jared West and Bruce Jordan-Swilling and the passing of Jake Broggi. The 41-20 victory over Franklinton was impressive.
Holy Cross lost a lot off last year’s team. But quarterback Kyle Schexnayder has filled in admirably for James Tabary, now at Arkansas State. With weapons around him like receiver Michael Chigbu and running back Tre Turner, the Tigers are dangerous.
Jesuit, meanwhile, has everyone back from last year, and the Blue Jays have played like it.
Quarterback Trey Laforge (yes there are a lot of guys named Trey in this league) has been on fire, competing 65 percent of his passes. Kalija Lipsomb has been the go-to man and the defense has been stellar.
St. Augustine, with guys like Leonard Fournette (LSU) and Jermaine Roberts (Texas) departed, weren’t supposed to be as good.
But Justice McCoy at quarterback and playmaker Stanley Morgan at receiver had something to say about that. Any doubts about the Purple Knights was removed Saturday night in the win over John Curtis, snapping the Patriots 11-game winning streak.
Speaking of streaks…
Rummel, ranked 13th nationally by USA Today, is riding an 11-game winning streak. The Raiders haven’t lost a game since losing to St. Augustine in the 2013 regular season. (They avenged the loss in the semifinals of the playoffs on their way to the Division I crown.)
The rematch comes in Week 2.
But wih the parity in the league this year, neither team should look past Week 1.
“No doubt, the league is more balanced this year,” Crutchfield said.