The downside to playing in the state championship game is that there can only be one winner. Of course, the teams in District 6-3A might beg to differ.
“The last image a lot of people have from last year is that game,” University High coach Chad Mahaffey said. “It was such a great game. We were behind at the half and came back to win it. Both teams played so hard and left everything they had out there on the field.”
U-High’s come-from-behind 46-32 victory over Parkview Baptist in the Division II select state title game gave the local league then known as 7-3A some unique bragging rights. The Cubs and Eagles were the only district rivals to meet in the LHSAA’s nine title games.
That another district team, West Feliciana, advanced to the Class 3A semifinals before losing to eventual state champion Livonia only adds to the 2015 claim that the revamped 6-3A is Louisiana’s premier Class 3A district.
“I really like our district,” West Feliciana coach Robb Odom said. “And I think when you add a team that has the talent Donaldsonville has, it’s going to be even better. We know because we played them. There’s no question it helps prepare you for the playoffs.”
Though the competitiveness of the league won’t change, there are key differences. The addition of Donaldsonville — led by 6-foot-6, 220-pound receiver Stephen Sullivan, one of Louisiana’s top Class of 2016 recruits — is one major move.
Others involve the coaches. Mahaffey has coached the Cubs to a 26-1 record that includes Division II runner-up and state title finishes the past two years. UHS has the nation’s top Class of 2017 recruit in Dylan Moses, who’ll play both linebacker and running back this year.
Jay Mayet, in his second year as head coach at PBS, has helped the Eagles win four state titles and claim two runner-up finishes since 1999. Odom led the Saints to their second semifinal appearance in five years.
Two more coaches with title-game experience now join the mix. New Brusly coach Marc Brown was offensive coordinator for Livonia last fall. Nick Mitchell of Port Allen led Southern Lab to a runner-up finish in Division IV select last fall.
“It’s a really good district,” Parkview offensive lineman Grant Kerstens said. “The competition is something we like. We want the toughest schedule. That’s why we’re going to play John Curtis.”
The Eagles host powerful John Curtis on Sept. 17. U-High has a challenging schedule of its own: The Cubs start by hosting Livonia for a Friday jamboree.
While Parkview returns 18 of 22 starters, including 10 on offense, U-High faces a transition that includes plugging in Moses at running back for current LSU running back Nick Brossette. Basketball standout DJ White is the new quarterback. The 6-5, 230-pounder hasn’t played football since middle school.
Parkview is led by quarterback Reggie Hayes, a three-year starter. Running back Kayin White rolled up more than 1,000 rushing yards for the Eagles.
“We felt that, even as young and inexperienced as we were last year, the tough predistrict games helped prepare us,” Mayet said. “We only have three this year, but they’re all very good. We feel like that’s important for us to reach our ultimate goal, which is to get better. This year’s team is strictly about business. We have our fun, but when they get on the field, it’s nothing but work and business. It’s a workmanship mentality.”
Work ethic is important for the Eagles, who offer a sharp contrast to U-High in other ways. U-High has had a string of Division I prospects in recent years, including senior receiver Tre Jackson (South Carolina) and defensive back Malik Antoine (Stanford); Parkview has had just 21 players sign over the past 18 seasons. Hayes, Kayin White and Kerstens do have offers, including some from the military academies.
Mayet downplays the notion of a rivalry with U-High, noting that the Eagles have lost all four games so far against the Cubs, including that state title game.
West Feliciana has some retooling to do after the graduation of receiver Jazz Ferguson (LSU) and quarterback/defensive back Ryan Reed (Northwestern State). The Saints return five offensive linemen and all three linebackers.
Donaldsonville is the X-factor as the 6-3A newcomer. Defensive lineman Tyarise Stevenson has committed to Tulane, and quarterback Tyler Brown has his share of suitors.
Baker showed vast improvement last season and also warrants a closer look.
Obviously, playing for state championship honors remains at the top of the agenda for the District 6-3A powers.
“The thing I like about the district is the challenges,” Moses said. “You get a different one every week.”
Coach: Richard Oliver
2014: 4-7, 1-5
Last playoff appearance: 2014 (lost to Livonia in first round)
Looking back: The Buffaloes made a competitive quantum leap last season. That included playing eventual state champion Livonia tough in the opening round of the playoffs.
Moving forward: How the defense evolves and avoiding injuries may determine whether BHS can continue its upward trend.
Ask The Advocate: Offensive production will be crucial for the Buffaloes as they look to build on their 2014 gains.
Projected starters on offense: *QB Devontea Rogers (5-7, 165, Sr.), *RB Nick Morgan (5-11, 170, Jr.), *SE Delontae Miller (6-1, 210, Sr.), *TE Cameron Heil (6-2, 220, Jr.), *SE Kristen Shavers (5-9, 160, Sr.), *C Benz Parker (5-10, 220, Sr.), *T Raymond Pope (6-3, 250, So.), *T Jackie Jackson (6-3, 255, Sr.), G Kenny Jones (5-8, 255, Sr.).
Projected starters on defense: DT Raymond Pope (6-3, 250, So.), DT Jackie Jackson (6-3, 255, Sr.), *LB Delontae Miller (6-1, 210, Sr.), *LB Cameron Heil (6-2, 220, Jr.), DE Dillyn Knighten (6-2, 215, So.), *DB Nick Morgan (5-11, 170, Jr.).
Sept. 4 Tara
Sept. 11 at Northwest
Sept. 18 Mentorship Academy
Sept. 25 at Parkview Baptist#
Oct. 2 at Glen Oaks#
Oct. 9 University#
Oct. 16 at Donaldsonville#
Oct. 23 at West Feliciana#
Oct. 30 at Port Allen#
Nov. 6 at Brusly#
Coach: Marc Brown (first year at school)
2014: 3-8, 0-6
Last playoff appearance: 2014 (lost to Church Point in first round)
Looking back: A young Brusly team took its lumps in a talented, experienced district.
Moving forward: Succeeding in Louisiana’s premier 3A district isn’t easy, but with key personnel returning, the Panthers appear ready to give it their best shot.
Ask The Advocate: The move to the spread and the addition of QB Jason Holiday, a basketball standout, could be just the boosts the Panthers need.
Projected starters on offense (spread): C Christian Free (5-10 205, Sr.), G Mason Lindsely (5-6, 176, Sr.), *G Mitchell Callais (5-8, 197, Sr.), *T Akkai Ward (6-4, 315, Sr.), T Sam Fishburn (6-0, 220, Sr.), QB Jason Holiday (6-2, 186, Jr.), *RB Zavion Bell (5-11, 210, Jr.), RB Kevin Godfrey (5-6, 165, Jr.), TE Avery Grant (5-8, 163, So.), *SE Caleb Dupont (5-10, 165, Sr.), *SE Hayden Richard (6-0, 172, Sr.).
Projected starters on defense: DT Marquel Brumfield (6-3, 275, Sr.), *DT Rhett Frioux (6-2, 257, Jr.), DE Garrett Roberts (6-3, 190, So.), DE Kirk Sneal (6-1, 265, So.), LB Jarod Williams (5-11, 196, Jr.), LB Vanderbilt Bynum (6-0, 173, Fr.), *DB Dylan Claiborne (5-8, 177, Sr.), DB Kevin Godfrey (5-6, 165, Jr.), DB Paigedrick Crawford (5-8, 155, Sr.), *DB Klay Kopton (5-11, 175, Sr.), *DB Tyler Nash (5-9, 155, Jr.).
Sept. 4 at White Castle
Sept. 11 St. John
Sept. 18 St. Thomas Aquinas
Sept. 25 Donaldsonville#
Oct. 2 at Parkview Baptist#
Oct. 9 West Feliciana#
Oct. 16 Glen Oaks#
Oct. 23 Port Allen#
Oct. 30 University#
Nov. 6 Baker#
Coach: Benny Guilbeau (third year, 11-13)
2014: 6-6, 2-2
Last playoff appearance: 2014 (lost to West Feliciana in second round)
Looking back: The Tigers struggled to achieve consistency but were among the most dangerous 3A teams.
Moving forward: With Stephen Sullivan at WR, QB Tyler Brown and Tulane commitment Tyarise Stevenson playing on the defensive line, the Tigers have star power.
Ask The Advocate: The Tigers were like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates last season: They never knew what to expect. Added consistency would make DHS a threat in the district and statewide.
Projected starters on offense (multiple): QB Tyler Brown, RB Koby Bozeman, RB Davon Johnson, WR Carl Bell, WR Christopher Wyre, WR Stephen Sullivan, OL Kadarrion Jones, OL Dondre Fisher, OL Jason Mills, OL Daven Wright, OL Deondre’ Watis.
Projected starters on defense (4-3): DB Jacoby Smith, DB Chris Smith, LB Raymond Collins, LB Depore Rosemond, LB Tahj Brown, DL Tyarise Stevenson, DL Armondo Fernandez, DB Jaylin Williams, LB Demarcus Daggs, DL Ernest Baptist, DB Aaron Julien.
Sept. 4 Assumption
Sept. 11 at West St. John
Sept. 18 at White Castle
Sept. 25 at Brusly#
Oct. 2 at West Feliciana#
Oct. 9 at Port Allen#
Oct. 16 Baker#
Oct. 23 at Parkview Baptist#
Oct. 30 Glen Oaks#
Nov. 6 at University#
Glen Oaks Panthers
Coach: Donald Clark (3-17 in two seasons)
2014: 0-10, 0-6
Last playoff appearance: 2009 (lost in first round)
Looking back: It was another long season for the Panthers, who have struggled with a small, inexperienced roster for several years.
Moving forward: GOHS has 12 returning starters and must have some predistrict success before heading into league play.
Ask The Advocate: The good news is the Panthers’ roster is larger. Turning those numbers into success in this district may be asking too much.
Projected starters on offense: *TE Bryan Dundy (6-1, 185, Jr.), *SE Darren Evans (6-3, 165, Sr.), *SE Derrick Garner (5-11, 160, Sr.), *SE Christian Bell (5-9, 165, So.), *RB Stadford Anderson (5-10, 185, Jr.), *QB Eddie Harris (6-1, 205, Sr.), T Thomas Watson (6-0, 180, Jr.), *G Ke’Darius Johnson (5-10, 225, Sr.), C Jestyn Ford (5-10, 255, Sr.), *G Devin Claiborne (6-1, 280, Sr.), T Eric Tate (6-1, 195, Sr.).
Projected starters on defense: *DT Devin Claiborne (6-1, 280, Sr.), *DT Ke’Darius Johnson (5-10, 225, Sr.), *DE Bryan Dundy (6-1, 185, Jr.), DE Eric Tate (6-1, 195, Sr.), *LB Nick London (6-0, 190, Jr.), *LB Melvin Brown (5-9, 215, Sr.), *DB Darren Evans (6-3, 165, Sr.), DB Joshua Henderson (6-0, 150, Jr.), *DB Stadford Anderson (5-10, Jr.), *DB Darius Isaac (5-10, 180, Sr.), *DB Ron Duncan (5-10, 170, Sr.).
Sept. 3 Belaire
Sept. 11 at Broadmoor
Sept. 18 Northeast
Sept. 25 at Port Allen#
Oct. 2 Baker#
Oct. 9 Parkview Baptist#
Oct. 16 at Brusly#
Oct. 23 University#
Oct. 30 at Donaldsonville#
Nov. 6 at West Feliciana#
Parkview Baptist Eagles
Coach: Jay Mayet (9-4)
2014: 9-4, 4-2
Last playoff appearance: 2014 (lost to University in Division II select state final)
Looking back: The Eagles collected more hardware for their trophy case, reminding everyone that U-High was not the only standout team in the league.
Moving forward: Can PBS finally beat U-High? Considering the number of starters returning, perhaps it could be the Eagles’ year.
Ask The Advocate: The Eagles are arguably Baton Rouge’s top program over the past 15 years and, like U-High, will contend for another state title.
Projected starters on offense: *QB Reggie Hayes (5-7, 175, Sr.), *RB Kayin White (5-10, 215, Sr.), *RB Nelson Smith (5-8, 205, Sr.), RB Connor Joffrion (5-11, 180, So.), *SE Jaylin Carlin (6-0, 185, Sr.), *SE Brennen Dorsey (5-11, 165, Sr.), *T Trent Harrington (5-7, 255, Sr.), *T Vincent Blackwell (6-4, 265, Sr.), *G Grant Kerstens (6-2, 275, Sr.), *G Justin Kairfold (6-2, 265, Sr.), *C Tyler Boone (6-0, 245, Jr.).
Projected starters on defense: *DT Brohn Brignac (6-1, 255, Sr.), *DE B.J. Gaines (6-0, 265, Jr.), DE Parker Kirby (5-11, 205, So.), *LB Matthew Murla (6-1, 220, Jr.), *LB Xavier Davis (6-0, 215, Jr.), LB Cole Mayet (6-0, 185, So.), *DB Preston Roberts (5-9, 175, Jr.), DB Peyton Phillips (5-9, 180, Sr.), *DB Caleb Meaux (6-0, 170, Jr.) *DB Sam O’Brien (6-0, 170, Jr.), *DB Trent Kavanaugh (6-0, 200, Jr.).
Sept. 4 at Catholic
Sept. 11 Riverside
Sept. 17 John Curtis
Sept. 25 Baker#
Oct. 2 Brusly#
Oct. 9 Glen Oaks#
Oct. 16 University#
Oct. 23 Donaldsonville#
Oct. 30 West Feliciana#
Nov. 6 Port Allen#
Port Allen Pelicans
Coach: Nick Mitchell (first year; 30-21 overall)
2014: 7-5, 4-2
Last playoff appearance: 2014 (lost to Amite in the second round)
Looking back: Under former coach Guy Blanchard, the Pelicans soared to new heights with a series of playoff berths and a state quarterfinal appearance.
Moving forward: Mitchell is charged with taking PHS to the next level. An inexperienced starting lineup faces some tough, on-the-job training.
Ask The Advocate: The inexperienced Pelicans must mature in a hurry to be ready for the challenge of 6-3A.
Projected starters on offense (spread): QB Jarious Robertson (5-9, 180, Jr.), SE Sean Garner (6-3, 190, Jr.), SE A.J. Bynum (6-0, 170, Sr.), SE B.J. McClay (6-2, 170, Sr.), SE Cameren Battley (6-0, 165,), *RB Ken Broussard (6-1, 210, Jr.), T Kyle Washington (6-1, 210, Jr.), T Kyle Washington (6-1, 255, Sr.), G Landon Bridgewater (6-2, 325, Sr.), *C Tony Dupree (6-3, 305, Sr.), G Romello Decuir (6-1, 315, So.), T Jeremiah Jones (6-0, 220).
Projected starters on defense (4-2-5): DE Brenton Brown (6-2, 205, So.), *DT Trevon Dixon (5-10, 265, Sr.), *DT Landon Bridgewater (6-2, 325, Sr.), DE Trzavier Antoine (6-3, 200, Jr.), *LB DeMarcus Franklin (5-10, 225, Sr.), LB Clyde Robertson (5-10, 200, So.), *DB Juwan Johnson (6-0, 180, Sr.), *DB James Jones 96-1, 180, Sr.), *DB Kevin Ransom (6-1, 205, Sr.), *DB Casper Williams (6-0, 200, Sr.), *DB Zaylon Bellamy (5-10, 160, Sr.).
Sept. 4 Higgins
Sept. 11 Plaquemine
Sept. 18 at Livonia
Sept. 25 Glen Oaks#
Oct. 2 at University#
Oct. 9 at Donaldsonville#
Oct. 16 at West Feliciana#
Oct. 23 at Brusly#
Oct. 30 Baker#
Nov. 6 at Parkview Baptist#
Coach: Chad Mahaffey (58-8 at U-High, 62-13 overall)
2014: 13-0, 6-0
Last playoff appearance: 2014 (won Division II select state title)
Looking back: The Cubs have been Baton Rouge’s top team for the past two seasons and captured an elusive state title last fall.
Moving forward: Several key starters must be replaced, but there’s no shortage of talent — led by Dylan Moses, the nation’s top 2017 prospect, who moves to running back.
Ask The Advocate: U-High should be the heavy favorite to win 6-3A and the Division II select state title. Thanks to a 26-1 record over the past two years, who would bet against them?
Projected starters on offense (spread): QB DJ White (6-4, 230, Sr.), RB Dylan Moses (6-3, 225, Jr.), *WR Tre Jackson (5-10, 175, Sr.), WR Chris Raymond (6-3, 175, Sr.), WR Malik Antoine (5-11, 180, Sr.), WR Marshall Vick (5-8, 175, Jr.), *C Brenden Holliday (5-10, 255, Jr.), *G Prince Pines (6-4, 290, So.), *G Sam Wharton (6-0, 290, Sr.), *T Adrian Ealy (6-6, 275, Jr.), T Ethan Macloud (6-2, 255, So.).
Projected starters on defense (4-2-5): *DE Josh Becnel (5-11, 175, Sr.), *DE Vondero Weir (6-2, 215, Sr.), *DT Jordan Davis (5-9, 210, Sr.), *DT Sam Wharton (6-0, 290, Sr.), *LB Laryon James (6-0, 195, Sr.), LB Jeremy Jetson (6-1, 215, Sr.), *DB Titus Nelson (5-9, 195, Jr.), *DB Brennan Boudreaux (185, 5-10, Sr.), DB Adam Lewis (5-11, 165, Jr.), DB BJ Smothers (5-8, 150, Jr.), *DB Malik Antoine (5-11, 180, Sr.).
Sept. 4 Rummel
Sept. 11 at Southern Lab
Sept. 18 at Mandeville
Sept. 25 West Feliciana#
Oct. 2 at Port Allen#
Oct. 9 at Baker#
Oct. 16 at Parkview Baptist#
Oct. 23 at Glen Oaks#
Oct. 30 at Brusly#
Nov. 6 Donaldsonville#
West Feliciana Saints
Coach: Robb Odom
2014: 11-3, 4-2
Last playoff appearance: 2014 (lost to Livonia in 3A semifinals)
Looking back: The Saints advanced to the semifinals for the second time under Odom and enjoyed one of their best seasons.
Moving forward: LSU signee Jazz Ferguson and Northwestern State signee Ryan Reed can’t be outright replaced. But the Saints have plenty of talented players to reload with.
Ask The Advocate: Based on the graduation losses, the Saints will likely be less-heralded. That could make them all the more dangerous as the season evolves.
Projected starters on offense (triple option): *Zakk McKean (6-4, 250, So.), *SE Chris Taylor (6-4, 180, Sr.), *T Brent Williams (6-2, 260, Jr.), G Jacob Fudge (6-1, 250, So.), *C Noah Pace (6-1, 245, Sr.), *OG Josh Johnson (6-3, 210, Sr.), T Jason McCray (6-2, 220, Jr.), QB Derrick Turner (5-9, 170, So.), *RB R.C. Carmenia (6-1, 200, Sr.), *RB Steven Franks (6-1, 215, Jr.), RB Josh Morrison (6-1, 180, Sr.).
Projected starters on defense (4-3): *DE Zakk McKean (6-4, 250, So.), *DE Jason McCray (6-2, 220, Jr.), DT Brent Williams (6-1, 260, Jr.), DT Noah Pace (6-1, 245, Sr.), *LB Damien Straughter (6-1, 210, Jr.), *LB Hunter Smith (5-9, 200, Jr.), *LB Gregory Arbuthnot (5-9, 215, Jr.), DB Keondre Davis (5-8, 180, Jr.), *DB Treyshawn Cummings (5-9, 165, Sr.), DB Josh Morrison (6-1, 180, Sr.), DB Chris Taylor (6-4, 180, Sr.).
Sept. 4 at East Feliciana
Sept. 11 at Livonia
Sept. 18 Live Oak
Sept. 25 at University#
Oct. 2 Donaldsonville#
Oct. 9 at Brusly#
Oct. 16 Port Allen#
Oct. 23 Baker#
Oct. 30 at Parkview Baptist#
Nov. 6 Glen Oaks#
*— returning starters; # — district game