As high school football in Louisiana reaches the halfway point, two big-time district openers in the Baton Rouge area take place Thursday night.
In District 8-2A, Episcopal (4-1) travels to Friendship Capitol (3-1), and Ascension Catholic (4-0) journeys across the Mississippi River to White Castle (3-2) for a 7-1A opener.
Episcopal’s start to the season has been a resounding success. Outside of a loss to Country Day, the Knights have thoroughly dominated each opponent. The average margin of victory in their four wins is 22 points.
“We are still searching to put four consistent quarters together,” Episcopal coach Travis Bourgeois said. “I’m happy about the 4-1, but we need to keep building for this tough district schedule.”
Capitol and standout wide receiver JaCoby Bellazar offer quite the test. Capitol coach Dorsett Buckles knows his team will have a tough time against Episcopal, which he called “well-coached and hard-nosed” with a fighting spirit.
The key for Capitol is getting the ball into the hands of Bellazar, who has game-breaking speed. In the Lions' last game against Lusher, Bellazar had four touchdowns and 238 yards of offense on six touches. He has 11 touchdowns on the season.
Last season, Capitol opened 3-0 but dropped its first two district games, including a 29-20 loss to Episcopal.
“We have to be fundamentally sound in all three phases of the game,” Buckles said. “We haven’t played our best football yet. I’m optimistic that we will put it all together starting this week.”
Down in White Castle, two of the best, not only in 7-1A, but in all of the small school classifications, go head to head.
Ascension Catholic has started undefeated again after starting last season 6-0, and White Castle has bounced back following an underwhelming season in 2018.
White Castle will be the biggest test of the season so far for Ascension Catholic, and coach Benny Saia is trying to prepare his team for the Bulldogs’ speed on both sides of the ball.
Saia described White Castle quarterback Tahj Favorite as Division I college-caliber player, and Brown is flanked by a solid group of running backs led by Marcus Williams and wide receivers headed by Barry Richards.
“On defense they swarm the ball from a bunch of different angles,” Saia said. “We will have to play our best game of the year to get a win.”
And for White Castle, welcoming Ascension Catholic is no easy chore. Ascension Catholic has outscored its first four opponents 138-51, and last season, it beat White Castle 45-6.
Coach Aaron Meyer said his team has had a good start despite two tough losses early, and he hopes they can continue to improve in preparation for Ascension Catholic, which once again looks like one of the better teams in the state.
“They have a great team and will be a challenge in all phases of the game,” Meyer said. “They have a strong defensive and offensive line with great second-level play.”