Livingston Parish football teams have reason for optimism as new season kicks off

The regular season of high-school football kicks off Friday around the state.

Over the next 10 weeks, playoff berths will be chased and district championships decided.

And stories will be told.

All five teams from Livingston Parish have reason for optimism.

Here is a look ahead at some of the games that should offer the highest stakes and the most compelling storylines.

Sept. 6, Madison Prep at Walker: New Walker coach Chad Mahaffey makes his debut with the Wildcats after going 102-15 and winning three state titles at University High. He isn't starting from scratch. The Wildcats went 8-3 in 2018 and made the playoffs for the third straight year.

Sept. 6, Hahnville at Denham Springs: The Yellow Jackets buzz into 2019 with much momentum after last year's late-season run that included a first-round playoff win. This is a huge opening test against a Hahnville team that ended their season two years ago.

Sept. 13, Destrehan at Walker: Gone from Destrehan is five-star recruit and LSU signee John Emery. Into Emery's old spot steps senior running back Kyle Edwards, who recently committed to Alabama.

Sept. 13, Denham Springs at Ponchatoula: This was one of the area's most memorable games last year with Ponchatoula quarterback and LSU commitment T.J. Finley leading a 64-63 win. Finley is back this year. So is Denham Springs quarterback Luke Lunsford, who threw for 353 yards and four scores in the 2018 meeting.

Sept. 20, Live Oak at West Feliciana: Last year's 35-0 win by Live Oak was an anomaly; games in this series have usually gone down to the wire.

Sept. 20, Albany at Springfield: Albany has won three straight in the annual "Battle of I-12" featuring these rival schools located 6 miles apart. The ties do run deep. Albany coach Mike Janis served two stints as a Springfield assistant earlier in his career. Springfield coach Ryan Serpas is an Albany alumnus.

Oct. 11, Zachary at Live Oak: Zachary has gone 12-0 in district play the last two seasons, winning those games by an average score of 40-8. The Broncos must replace 18 starters, but star quarterback Keilon Brown's return has Zachary as the clear favorite yet again. Live Oak gets the first crack at last year's 5A champs in this district opener.

Oct. 11, Scotlandville at Walker: Lester Ricard resigned as Walker's coach two weeks into the 2018 season. He will be on the opposite sideline for this one as the first-year coach of Walker's district rival.

Oct. 11, Denham Springs at Central: These old rivals meet for the 72nd time in what is the Baton Rouge area's longest running series. Denham Springs has won the last two meetings, but holds only a 34-33-4 advantage overall.

Oct. 18, Walker at Live Oak: Live Oak jumped out to a 10-0 lead last year before giving up 27 unanswered points. It marked the first victory for Walker over the Eagles since 2011.

Oct. 25, Live Oak at Denham Springs: A trick-play touchdown pass in the final minutes last year gave Live Oak a breathtaking 31-27 win. The Eagles have won three of the last four meetings in a series the Yellow Jackets once dominated.

Nov. 1, St. Thomas Aquinas at Springfield: No more Amite or St. Helena makes 9-2A a suddenly wide-open race. Springfield hopes to contend. For that to happen, the Bulldogs must handle STA in this Week 9 clash.

Nov. 8, Walker at Zachary: The regular season finishes with a matchup of the teams that finished one-two in 4-5A last season.

Nov. 8, Hannan at Albany: Albany went winless in 8-3A last year, but three of the four losses were by 10 points or less. The Hornets need to turn the corner in some of those games. If they do, this Week 10 matchup with last year's district champ could create some serious buzz.

Scott Hotard covers sports for The Livingston-Tangipahoa Advocate. He can be contacted at shotard44@gmail.com or livingston@theadvocate.com.