There are probably as many ways to analyze this year’s LHSAA Prep Classic as there are teams.
One point cannot be disputed — it's a south Louisiana thing. Call it an Acadiana, Baton Rouge and New Orleans thing, too.
Eighth-seeded Richwood, a Class 3A Monroe team in the three-day, 18-team LHSAA event for the first time, is the lone north Louisiana representative. That fact alone is enough to shock fans who have followed high school football in this state for decades.
It's also validation of the “parity” coaches preach about every year. I certainly would not throw dirt on traditional powers like Evangel, West Monroe and Neville. Expect them to be back. I do.
In the meantime, this different mix of teams will square off in the three-day event that begins at noon Thursday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The possibilities are fresh, and the chances for a first-time breakout champion exist in multiple classes. Throw in the fact that all nine titles — five nonselect and four select — will be decided on the same weekend and it could become a bigger surprise party.
Baton Rouge’s portion of the party runs through all three days, with local teams set to play in five of the nine title games. Throw in nearby St. Helena and Kentwood and the guest list swells with greater pride. Can't make it to the Dome? No worries, CST is set to broadcast all nine games.
I love the list of first-time Classic teams. It includes Lakeshore (Class 4A), West Feliciana and Richwood (3A), De La Salle (Division II) and Lafayette Christian (Division IV).
There are teams making their first appearance in years. Put Ascension Catholic (Division IV) and Welsh (2A) at the top of that list. ACHS has not played in the Dome since 1992. The Bulldogs won the 1A title that year. Welsh makes its first appearance since finishing as the 2A runner-up in 1992. St. Helena is back for the first time placing second in 2A in 2004.
Of course, John Curtis (Division I), Edna Karr (4A) and Notre Dame (Division III) lead the list of traditional powers. The 1A game between West St. John and Kentwood matches two teams who are not strangers to the LHSAA’s big dance.
Zachary (5A), Catholic (Division I) and University (Division II) are in a position to make huge statements for Baton Rouge. Both ZHS and Catholic seek their second LHSAA titles in three years. The Broncos had never been to a Prep Classic title game before 2015, and Catholic’s only previous appearance was in 1990. U-High is back for the first time since winning the DII title in 2014.
And yes, there is talent. At this point, everyone wants to see Hahnville running back Anthony "Pooka" Williams face Zachary. Seeing how the speed for teams like De La Salle, West Feliciana and U-High translates to the Superdome turf should be an eye-opener.
My advice is pretty simple — come early and plan to stay late.