Through a myriad of changes, including the addition of power ratings and a playoff format split on select/nonselect boundaries, district play remains an enduring part of LHSAA football.
Robb Odom of West Feliciana and Neil Weiner of The Dunham School know about change and how it relates to the 2018 season. Their teams face different challenges as district play begins in multiple local leagues in Week 4.
“Last week we played the No. 8 team in Class 5A, and this week we play the No. 7 team in the country,” Odom said. “I feel like we’re getting better every week and can be a good football team. We just haven’t put it all together yet.”
The Saints (1-2), the LHSAA’s defending Class 3A champion, have lost two straight, including a 35-0 loss to 5A Live Oak in Week 3. WFHS opens District 6-3A play by hosting nationally ranked University High (3-0), the defending Division II select champion. The Cubs were ranked No. 7 in MaxPreps' latest national poll.
Meanwhile, Dunham (3-0) is off to a roaring start and is ranked fifth in Class 2A, which also features Division III select schools. The Tigers host Port Allen (0-3) in their District 7-2A opener also Friday night.
“There are still some things we need to clean up,” Weiner said. “I thought we had too many penalties in our game Thursday, and things got sloppy. We played well against some larger schools, which helps with our power ratings and everything else as we look toward the rest of the season. District is the next step.”
District play also begins in District 4-5A with one blockbuster matchup as Live Oak (3-0), ranked No. 8, travels to play No. 6 Zachary (2-1), the defending 5A champion. Another key gauge in Dunham’s district will be Friendship Capitol (3-0) traveling to play East Feliciana (0-3) teams that have typically been on the opposite side of football fortunes in recent years.
The Week 4 schedule also includes several notable nondistrict matchups. It starts with fourth-ranked Catholic (2-1), the defending Division I champion, traveling to Lafayette to take on another select-school traditional power, Class 4A No. 3 St. Thomas More (3-0), in Lafayette.
Unbeaten Walker (3-0), the 4-5A team with a league bye, hosts traditional power Parkview Baptist (0-3), a 4A team whose losses were all to ranked 5A teams. St. Amant (3-0) travels to another traditional power, 4A Lutcher (1-2), which also has losses to two ranked teams.
Weiner uses Port Allen as an illustration of how deceptive records can be.
“Port Allen has a young team, and they came into the season with new starters at a number of positions,” Weiner said. “What people don’t see is they’ve played some good teams so far. You can see they are getting better.”
Of course, Odom faces the flip side of the scenario in University High, a team he says might be the most talented local team he has coached against. UHS beat Catholic 41-21 Friday night.
"All their (U-High’s) guys are back, and they’re a year older and stronger," Odom said. "We know what the challenge is, and we’ll come in Monday and put on our hard hats and go to work … like we have every week.”