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The Bears' Lucas Williams (14) breaks a tackle as Carencro High football hosts Westgate on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019, in Carencro, Louisiana.

Large area crop punches tickets

Thirty high school football teams from the Acadiana area earned postseason bids, three more than last year, and 17 will host their first playoff game. Three local select schools — St. Thomas More, Lafayette Christian and Notre Dame — earned first-round byes. Five local non-select schools were seeded in the top 10, including four from Class 4A (No. 5 Carencro, No. 6 Breaux Bridge, No. 9 Eunice and No. 10 Westgate)

The 8-2 Bears are the area's biggest playoff riser, going from the No. 22 seed in 2018 to the No. 5 seed in 2019. As usual, the area is well-represented in Classes 3A and 4A. Six teams qualified in 3A, while seven squads punched tickets in 4A. Southside reached the playoffs in Class 5A in its first year as a member of the LHSAA. There are no first-round matchups featuring two area teams, but there is one repeat first-round matchup involving a local team — No. 7 Teurlings Catholic versus No. 10 Parkview Baptist in Division II

Four top seeds from area

It’s not a surprise so much as further evidence of the strength of high school football in the Acadiana area. Four area teams — Acadiana in Class 5A, St. Thomas More in Division II, Lafayette Christian in Division III and Vermilion Catholic in Division IV — attained the No. 1 seed in their brackets. Yes, all four programs are among the local elite, but it’s not easy to earn the top seed. It requires winning a bunch of regular-season games — in the case of the Wreckin’ Rams, all of them — and beating quality teams along the way.

It certainly doesn’t guarantee any of the foursome will win state titles, and those that aren’t No. 1 shouldn’t be discounted. For reference, the Baton Rouge area had no top seeds last year, but had two state champions (Zachary and University High) and two runners-up (Ascension Catholic and Catholic-Baton Rouge). Still, it’s worth celebrating the teams that earn the lofty postseason distinction.

Tough road for area’s Division IV contenders

The Acadiana area boasts the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds in the Division IV bracket, but both will have tough roads to the state championship game. Top-seeded Vermilion Catholic, assuming it beats No. 16 Ascension Christian in the first round, could face No. 8 Metairie Park Country Day in the second round. The Cajuns reached the Division III semifinals last year and feature Tulane quarterback commitment Justin Ibieta. District rival Central Catholic is the other possible second-round matchup for the Screamin’ Eagles.

No. 2 Opelousas Catholic, on the other hand, could run into No. 7 Catholic-Point Coupee in the quarterfinals if gets through No. 15 Hamilton Christian in the first round. The Hornets handed the Vikings their only loss, a 44-10 decision on Oct. 18. OC’s side of the bracket also features traditional powers Southern Lab, which will play No. 11 St. Edmund in the first round, and Ascension Catholic. No. 4 Calvary Baptist, with stud quarterback Cade Hart, is lurking on VC’s side of the bracket.

All-area possibilities in Division III

Like Division IV, the top-two seeds in the Division II bracket are from the Acadiana area, and both No. 1 Lafayette Christian and No. 2 Notre Dame could face local teams in the quarterfinals after byes. LCA could host No. 8 Ascension Episcopal, which will entertain Holy Savior Menard in the first round.

Meanwhile, the Pios may face No. 7 Catholic-New Iberia in the quarterfinals if the Panthers can get through St. Thomas Aquinas. It would be the third straight year Notre Dame and Catholic-NI have played in the postseason, having met in Division III final the last two years, and 11th time overall in the last nine years.

What to make of area’s 3A teams?

First things first: The Class 3A playoffs always seem to be the most wide open, and it’s not uncommon for a few local teams to reach the third round. But it’s been a somewhat odd year for some of the area’s stronger 3A programs. For example, Kaplan, a three-time 3A semifinalist, finished the regular season 6-4 and earned the No. 15 seed.

Still, the Pirates closed the regular season winning four straight and could be a postseason dark horse, if you can ever call them that. Kaplan will likely have to beat No. 2 Sterlington to get the quarterfinals. If it does that, it could meet rival Church Point, the No. 7 seed which last reached the third round in 2013. The Bears, which started the season 0-2, have rattled off seven straight wins.

Keep an eye on No. 21 St. Martinville as well. The Tigers went 5-5 after dropping down to Class 3A, but they’re still a very talented team with maturing young players. No. 22 Northwest is also an interesting team, having won four of its last five. The Raiders’ win against No. 15 Iota, a semifinalist a year ago, during district play was a big boost to their postseason résumé. The Bulldogs struggled down the stretch, but all-state running back Luke Doucet and a strong defense make them a tough out.

Did you know?

At least one area football team has reached the state finals every year since 1995 and, excluding 1994, in 27 of the last 28 years.

Email James Bewers at jbewers@theadvocate.com