Great day in the morning! Perhaps great day the next morning is a bit more accurate if you want to talk about the LHSAA’s football playoff pairings.
Don’t see the connection? Let me explain. The original phrase “Great day in the morning” is by definition an idiom meant to describe something that comes as a surprise.
There were several things about the LHSAA’s playoff pairings that took people by surprise. Local teams earned spots in half of the 16 first-round playoff games in Class 5A was one of those surprises.
This kicks off the LHSAA football equivalent of the nature/nuture conversation. You know the idea. A child grows up and scientists debate how much of their skills/abilities came from heredity or were learned.
As we enter the fifth year of the LHSAA’s nonselect/select playoff system it is fair to ask if Baton Rouge’s success, especially in 5A, was because of performance on the field or an LHSAA system that crowns nine champions for less than 300 football schools.
The correct answer is both. But I’ll qualify that by saying you can’t discount what any of Baton Rouge’s Class 5A teams did on the field. The collective body of work is pretty impressive, especially for a sportswriter who has taken a few shots from colleagues over the years.
Here are a couple of examples: “Your 5A teams don’t last long in the playoffs do they,” or “Looks like you might have a few good 5A players. I don’t expect your teams to go real far. They never do.” Now you understand how significant it was for me in 2015 when Catholic in Division I and Zachary in 5A both won titles.
Let's get back to this season. When I say collective body of work, I’m including the select teams too. The fact 11 of 13 teams from the two local 5A districts made the playoffs sounds a bit gaudy. However, only two of those teams, Central (4-6) and McKinley (4-6), enter the playoffs with sub-.500 records.
Other than the three highest seeded teams, No. 4 Zachary, No. 5 St. Amant and No. 6 East Ascension, the other five 5A teams are all seeded below No. 16 and therefore must travel for the first round. Challenges certainly abound. Walker (6-4), at No. 19, travels to play No. 14 Landry-Walker, the defending 5A champion, to cite one example.
Denham Springs (6-4), Dutchtown (6-4) and Live Oak (5-5) have all put together winning streaks during the year. LOHS enters the playoffs with a two-game winning streak. There is always an element of surprise in the playoffs. One coach reminded me of perhaps the most important fact — as long as you are in the playoffs you have a chance.
This playoff system gives Baton Rouge teams in all classifications a chance to prove their worth beyond our immediate area. I’ve seen improvement in a number of programs across the area, encompassing more than 5A.
At this point, no one should explain or apologize for getting a playoff berth. Just win, baby.