This season was supposed to be like the last six, but it isn’t.
Central was the preseason favorite by many so-called experts who evaluated the District 4-5A football race.
The Wildcats had won or shared six straight district titles and featured two players among the 2015 recruiting class elite — defensive back Kevin Henry, an Oklahoma State commitment, and receiver Terrell Chatman, a Miami commitment.
So the idea of another district title for Central was a safe bet to make. Instead, the Wildcats found that the line between winning and losing can quickly become a blur.
Central (3-6, 1-4) snapped a six-game losing streak last week but goes into Friday’s 4-5A finale at Live Oak (4-5, 2-3) knowing there won’t be any playoff berth. Not this year.
“This is not my first losing season,” Central coach Sid Edwards said. “But this one is different in a lot of ways You always look back on things you wish you could have done differently.
“I know this was not the best coaching job done by me. I’ll say that. And I can also tell you that this group has worked just as hard as any team we’ve had. I love them as much as any team I’ve coached. It’s a different ending than we hoped for, but that is part of life.”
Edwards is known for his success that includes two state titles at Redemptorist and trips to the quarterfinals and semifinals at Central.
With no playoff berth in site, Edwards said Central will set its sights on getting a Week 10 win while also getting the chance to use as many players as possible.
The philosophy served Central well in a 68-26 win over Walker High in Week 9.
“Do you know what the best part about last week was,” Edwards asked. “It was watching these guys have fun again. Considering the success of the past five or six years they’ve had a huge burden to carry.
“We played some guys, many of whom are seniors, who hadn’t got many chances to play and they performed well. I always play disco music in the locker room after we win. They hadn’t heard the music in a while. That was good too.”
Now the key is to get the Wildcats to take on a persona they haven’t had in a while — that of an underdog for one last game. It will be a chance for a role reversal.
“You couldn’t blame Zachary, Denham, Scotlandville or anybody for making us the favorite,” Edwards said. “That’s what coaches do.
“The reality is this group gets one last chance to go out and play hard for 48 minutes together. For a lot of these guys it will be their last football game ever. My hope is they make it one to remember.”
There has been a change of plans for Belaire and St. Michael the Archangel and their District 6-4A finale.
Instead of playing on Thursday night, the two teams will play at 7 p.m. Friday at Belaire. It will be the third game the Bengals have hosted at their new on-campus stadium.