Second-year Livonia coach Guy Mistretta knew exactly where to look to find a similar scenario.
Mistretta, then a defensive coordinator, reached back 12 years to when he was part of the Redemptorist coaching staff that guided the Wolves to consecutive state championships in Class 3A and 4A.
Fast-forward to 2015 as Mistretta hopes to push all the right buttons in Class 4A after directing Livonia to an undefeated run to the Class 3A championship a year ago.
A significant part of the challenge facing the Wildcats in reclassification is being grouped in competitive District 6-4A, where three other teams advanced to the state playoffs last season — including Plaquemine, which reached the semifinals.
“You’re always concerned about complacency — not having that same fire after a good season,” Mistretta said. “By going up to 4A, the kids know the competition’s going to be a lot stronger. It got our kids more focused.”
While Livonia aims for another title, Plaquemine is looking to continue its upward trend since the arrival of coach Paul Distefano. Not only have the Green Devils qualified for the playoffs three straight years, they were on the cusp of a trip to the Class 4A title game, losing to Warren Easton 43-36 in the final seconds of last year’s state semifinal.
“The mindset’s changed among the kids and community,” Distefano said. “The kids feel they’re a part of something bigger than them. Everybody’s willing to do what it takes to win.”
The new-look district also features a pair of playoff teams from last season in St. Michael the Archangel, which is coming off a school-record 9-2 season, and Woodlawn, which was a Class 5A participant.
“I feel like the district’s tougher than it’s been,” said Distefano, whose club is the reigning champion.
Before Livonia concerns itself with the Class 4A summit, the Wildcats must first build momentum at the beginning of the season, starting with a challenging nondistrict schedule.
Two of Livonia’s first five games represent rematches of last year’s postseason run, when the Wildcats defeated West Feliciana 23-15 in the semifinals and Amite 43-14 for the championship.
“The schedule’s the toughest the school’s ever seen, and that goes with the territory of having success,” Mistretta said.
With 15 returning starters, including all-state selections on both sides of the ball, Livonia has the front-line players in senior quarterback Cee Jay Powell and defensive end Willie Baker to match up with most of its competition.
The Wildcats realize, though, another deep postseason run is contingent on the development of depth — an advantage they enjoyed a year ago.
Plaquemine has reeled off a 17-3 regular-season record the past two years, with all three of those setbacks coming against Class 5A teams.
The Green Devils were state quarterfinalists in 2013 and rallied from a 20-point halftime deficit in last year’s semifinal to lead Warren Easton with 1:21 to go. With seven college signees gone from last year’s 12-2 team, Plaquemine will rely on a 12-member senior class and a lot of fresh faces. Of the 87 players who took part in preseason camp, 55 were freshmen or sophomores.
“I can’t be happier about the kids we have,” Distefano said. “We’ll need to grow up and grow up fast to play winning football at the 4A level.”
Senior Austin Mitchell, a starter last year at receiver, transitions to quarterback, where Air Force signee D’Morea Wicks led a potent attack that averaged 455 yards.
Junior defensive back Todd Harris is the team’s leading returning tackler (81) and interception leader (six).
A difficult nondistrict schedule awaits Plaquemine, which hosts Class 5A Brother Martin and then plays three road games before opening district play with St. Michael and Livonia.
“We’re going to be tested big-time early in the season,” Distefano said. “No matter what happens, our team and coaching staff won’t panic. We’re in it for the long run. We are looking to play our best ball toward the end of the season.”
Coach: Claude Coleman (first season)
2014: 3-7, 0-4
Last playoff appearance: 2003 (lost in first round)
Looking back: Belaire scored a touchdown or less in four games a year ago.
Moving forward: Coleman replaces Keith Woods after five victories in three years.
Ask The Advocate: With more than 70 players dressed out for preseason drills, there’s a greater sense of optimism.
Projected starters on offense (spread): QB Trayvon Miles (5-10, 170, Fr.), *RB Dequan Hicks (5-7, 170, Sr.), SE Claude Coleman (6-2, 170, So.), TE Brock Coleman (5-11, 185, So.), RB Anthony Nelson (5-11, 230, Sr.), SE Joseph Forbes (5-8, 160, Sr.), *G Tory Williams (5-10, 280, Jr.), T Kendrick Hodge (6-4, 265, Jr.), G Brian Robinson (6-4, 305, Jr.), T Joseph Spruell (6-5, 290, Sr.), C Isiah Zachary (6-1, 235, Fr.).
Projected starters on defense (multiple): *DB Twonne Harris (5-11, 175, Jr.), DB Ranard Valentine (5-11, 160, So.), DB Darrald Love (5-9, 165, Jr.), DB Devin Harden (5-9, 160, Sr.), LB Kirkland Bova (5-11, 175, Sr.), LB Abel Freeman (5-10, 225, Sr.), LB Leroy Byrd (5-10, 180, Jr.), *DT Torry Williams (5-10, 280, Jr.), DT Anthony Nelson (5-10, 230, Sr.), DE Dequalin Williams (6-1, 190, Sr.), DE Sedric McCray (6-0, 185, Jr.).
Sept. 3 at Glen Oaks
Sept. 11 Mentorship Academy
Sept. 18 Broadmoor
Sept. 25 White Castle
Oct. 2 at Independence
Oct. 9 Woodlawn#
Oct. 16 St. Michael#
Oct. 23 Tara#
Oct. 30 at Livonia#
Nov. 6 at Plaquemine#
Coach: Guy Mistretta (14-0 in one season at Livonia, 100-35 overall)
2014: 14-0, 5-0 District 5-3A
Last playoff appearance: 2014 (won 3A state championship)
Looking back: Mistretta celebrated his 100th career victory with his second state title as a head coach.
Moving forward A move up in classification gives the Wildcats a clear mission.
Ask The Advocate: With 15 returning starters, Livonia appears equipped to handle a difficult district and make another deep postseason run.
Projected starters on offense (spread): *T Jonathan Hawkins (6-2, 245, Jr.), *G Paul DeRogers (6-2, 240, Sr.), C Sheldon Holsapple (5-11, 230, Jr.), *G Owen Thompson (6-3, 280, Sr.), *T James Todd (6-0, 220, Sr.), *SE Kendrick Paul (5-11, 175, Jr.), SE Nick DeRogers (6-3, 180, Jr.), RB Patrick Queen (6-1, 205,), RB Kolby Johnson (5-9, 165, Jr.), *QB Cee Jay Powell (5-7, 155, Sr.).
Projected starters on defense (4-3): *DE Willie Baker (6-4, 235, Sr.), DE Desmond Collins (5-9, 180, Sr.), *DT Jason Hammond (5-10, 280, Sr.), DT Treven Tibbs (6-3, 265, Jr.), *LB Lionel Johnson (6-0, 185, Sr.), *LB Elijah Maloid (6-1, 190, Jr.), *LB Tolliver Trippeaux (5-10, 180, Jr.), *DB Barrick Slaughter 6-1, 210, Sr.), *DB Donovan Robertson (5-9, 165, Sr.), DB Christion Edwards (5-9, 170, Jr.), *DB DeQuincy Victorian (5-10, 170, Sr.).
Sept. 4 Madison Prep
Sept. 11 at West Feliciana
Sept. 18 Port Allen
Sept. 25 Northside
Oct. 1 at Amite
Oct. 9 Tara#
Oct. 16 Plaquemine#
Oct. 23 at St. Michael#
Oct. 30 Belaire#
Nov. 6 Woodlawn#
Plaquemine Green Devils
Coach: Paul Distefano (28-10 at Plaquemine)
2014: 12-2, 4-0
Last playoff appearance: 2014 (lost to Warren Easton in state semifinals)
Looking back: Plaquemine has reached the Class 4A quarterfinals and semifinals in consecutive years.
Moving forward: Talented senior Austin Mitchell must fill the shoes of Air Force signee D’Morea Wicks at quarterback.
Ask The Advocate: Plaquemine may not have the interior size of a year ago, but it does have plenty of talented skill players.
Projected starters on offense (Wing-T): TE Michael Sproles (6-0, 190, So.), SE Clinton White (6-2, 181, Sr.), T Traylon O’Bear (5-11, 295, Sr.), G Joshua Mellion (5-8, 232, Sr.), *C Abraham Delfin (6-0, 272, Jr.), G Dijohn Forrest (5-10, 285, Jr.), T Chazz Colliver (5-9, 275, Jr.), *QB Austin Mitchell (5-11, 171, Sr.), RB Kevin Domingue (5-11, 195, Jr.), RB Tyler Wesley (5-8, 155, Sr.), RB Jared Mosby (5-7, 160, Sr.), RB Wayne Toussant (5-11, 172, So.).
Projected starters on defense (3-3 stack): DE Nelson Jenkins (6-3, 282, So.), DE Jermain Spriggs (5-10, 202, Jr.), DT Jacoby Thomas (5-11, 190, Jr.), DT Zayien Bouvay (5-10, 222, Fr.), *LB Steve Conerly (5-10, 260, Jr.), LB Leeland Williams (5-9, 175, So.), LB Tredrian Favroth (5-9, 179, Jr.), DB Trey Williams (5-10, 168, Jr.), *DB Todd Harris (6-1, 188, Jr.), *DB Brian Jordan (5-11, 190, Jr.), *DB Wayne Toussant (5-11, 172, So.).
Sept. 4 Brother Martin
Sept. 11 at Port Allen
Sept. 18 St. Thomas More
Sept. 25 Riverside Academy
Oct. 2 at South Lafourche
Oct. 9 St. Michael#
Oct. 16 at Livonia#
Oct. 23 Woodlawn#
Oct. 30 Tara#
Nov. 6 Belaire#
St. Michael Warriors
Coach: Paul Varnado (13-9 in two seasons at St. Michael)
2014: 9-2, 3-1
Last playoff appearance: 2014 (lost to Parkview in Division II select quarterfinals)
Looking back: Led by a 21-member senior class, St. Michael enjoyed its best season in school history.
Moving forward: The Warriors will rely on another sizable senior group (15) and a talented junior class to lead the way.
Ask The Advocate: Expect St. Michael to continue its winning ways and perhaps earn the school’s first postseason victory.
Projected starters on offense (multiple): QB Treylan Sibley (6-3, 190, Jr.) or Dwain Varisco (5-8, 155, Jr.), WR Jonathan Pitcher (6-0, 155, Jr.), *WR Scott Terrell (5-10, 155, Jr.), *WR C.J. McGarner (5-9, 165, Sr.), *TE Ross Scelfo (6-1, 190, Jr.), RB Jacob LaCour (6-0, 180, Sr.), C Robert Quiroga (6-1, 250, Sr.), *G Andre Husers (6-2, 240, Jr.), T James Albano (5-9, 190, Jr.), *T Connor Mains (6-0, 225, Sr.), *T Beau Morris (6-5, 250, Sr.).
Projected starters on defense (multiple): DT Hunter Fruge (5-10, 250, Jr.), *DT William Hartman (6-1, 230, Jr.), *DE Keagan Valdry (6-1, 215, Sr,), DE Jeremiah Campbell (6-5, 215, Sr.), LB Jonathan Culivan (5-9, 170, Sr.), LB Zachary Tolbert (5-9, 175, Sr.), SS Taylor Daniels (5-11, 170, Jr.), *WS Nathan Scott (5-9, 150, Jr.), *FS Vincent Cook (6-2, 175, Sr.), *CB Davon Parker (6-0, 180, Sr.), *CB C.J. McGarner (5-9, 165, Sr.).
Sept. 4 Broadmoor
Sept. 11 at Loranger
Sept. 18 McKinley
Sept. 25 at Live Oak
Oct. 2 at Denham Springs
Oct. 9 at Plaquemine#
Oct. 16 Belaire#
Oct. 23 Livonia#
Oct. 30 at Woodlawn#
Nov. 6 at Tara#
Coach: Cooter Mansur (8-11 in two seasons at Tara)
2014: 3-7, 1-3
Last playoff appearance: 2013 (lost to Breaux Bridge in first round)
Looking back: Tara finished the season on a four-game losing skid.
Moving forward: With only 11 seniors, the Trojans have a youthful look and plan to count on a capable sophomore class.
Ask The Advocate: Senior QB Jajuantae Brown, who passed for 903 yards and seven TDs, should provide a spark to an offense that scored a touchdown or less six times a year ago.
Projected offensive starters (spread): *QB Jajuantae Brown (6-0, 180, Sr.), *RB Michael Washington (5-10, 160, Jr.), RB Daquarius Haynes (5-9, 160, Jr.), *SE James Owens (6-1, 180, Sr.), Brandon Hulbert (6-4, 185, So.), C Raylin Alexander (6-0, 170, So.), *T Darrick Brooks (6-0, 255, So.), T Joseph Williams (6-2, 215, Jr.), Tyante Howard (5-10, 220, So.).
Projected defensive starters (4-3): DB Jajuantae Brown (6-0, 180, Sr.), DB Jarren Powers (5-11, 175, Sr.), DB Desment Green (5-10, 170, So.), George Myles (5-10, 165, Sr.), *DB Trevon Travis, 5-11, 170, Jr.), DE Kaylum Shaffer (6-2 185, So.), DE Clarence Jones (6-0, 210, So.), DT Dyon Seawire (6-0, 235, Jr.), LB Deandre Miller (5-10, 180, So.), LB Marques Guillory (5-11, 185, Jr.), *Austin Ware (6-0, 175, Sr.).
Sept. 4 at Baker
Sept. 11 at Denham Springs
Sept. 18 at Central
Sept. 25 at Jewel Sumner
Oct. 2 Pine Prairie
Oct. 9 at Livonia#
Oct. 15 Woodlawn#
Oct. 23 at Belaire#
Oct. 30 at Plaquemine#
Nov. 6 St. Michael#
Coach: Daniel Luquet (first season)
2014: 6-5, 2-3 District 5-5A
Last playoff appearance: 2014 (lost to Denham Springs in Class 5A first round)
Looking back: Woodlawn endured an uneven 2014, starting 4-1 but finishing 2-4.
Moving forward: Luquet, an assistant last season, is Woodlawn’s third head coach in four years.
Ask The Advocate: The Panthers should benefit from moving down from 5A and be a part of the mix for the district’s title.
Projected starters on offense (spread): QB Jamari Nelson, *RB Javin Myers, SE Darion Johnson, *SE Taj Sullivan, *SE Quincy Vessel, SE Aaron Gilbert, *C Ed Ducre, *G Landon Perkins, *T TJ Coleman, G Jarvis Paulin, T Tyrell Lewis.
Projected starters on defense (3-3 stack): DT Aaron White, *DT Isaac Drury, DE Jyron Anderson, LB Malik Brady, LB Courtlen Walker, DB Dillan Whitehall, DB Xavier Lodge, *DB Rashawn White, DB Trevon Hardnett, LB Troy Domino, DB Sean Snowden.
Sept. 4 at Hahnville
Sept. 11 Destrehan
Sept. 18 at Lafayette
Sept. 25 at St. Amant
Oct. 2 at West St. John
Oct. 9 at Belaire#
Oct. 15 at Tara#
Oct. 23 at Plaquemine#
Oct. 30 St. Michael#
Nov. 6 at Livonia#
* — returning starter; # — district game