St. Thomas More leads strong Acadiana contingent in LSWA polls _lowres

Advocate photo by Buddy Delahoussaye -- STM's (7) Tiger Bech runs for extra yarsd at Cougar Staduim on Friday night Sept 19, 2014.

This week’s Class 4A state rankings have a thick Acadiana accent to them.

And it starts at the top.

For the first time in recent memory St. Thomas More (4-0) has risen to the summit in Class 4A, making short work of tradition-rich Evangel Christian Academy 56-19 on Friday.

The Cougars, who received six first-place votes, outpointed Neville 137-124 for top billing in this week’s Louisiana Sports Writers Association’s rankings that were released Monday. They replaced former No. 1 Warren Easton, which lost 28-21 to Woodlawn-Baton Rouge.

“It’s been quite a while,” St. Thomas More coach Jim Hightower, now in his 29th season at the school. “We went undefeated in 2010 but were never No. 1. I’ve seen Breaux Bridge and Teurlings and have been very impressed with what Northside’s done the last couple of weeks. That’s what has my focus.”

STM leads the Acadiana area’s show of strength in Class 4A that also includes No. 6 Rayne (4-0), No. 9 Breaux Bridge (3-1) and No. 10 Teurlings Catholic (3-1).

Acadiana (2-2) snapped a two-game losing streak, pulling out a 15-12 win over Lafayette in District 3-5A play, but slipped in the Class 5A poll from eighth to ninth behind Parkway (3-1).

Jennings’ narrow 49-47 loss to Plaquemine sent the Bulldogs from third to sixth, enabling Notre Dame of Crowley (3-1) to move up one to fifth, while Church Point (4-0) remained ninth.

Despite winning every week Catholic-New Iberia (4-0) has seen its ranking fluctuate between a high of No. 2 last week and No. 3 this week after the Panthers were just nipped by No. 2 Riverside Academy (4-0) 118-114 in total points.

For the second time this season, Loreauville (2-2) tumbled out of the poll and is receiving votes along with Opelousas Catholic (4-0).

Vermilion Catholic (3-1) opened District 7-1A play with a convincing 48-7 win over Lafayette Christian Academy, and coupled with No. 6 West St. John’s loss to Holy Cross, now occupy Class 1A’s sixth spot.

Count Hightower as pleasantly surprised with his team’s unblemished mark against such a demanding early schedule.

STM has maintained a 27.5 average margin of victory that began with wins over District 3-5A teams Sulphur (43-26) and Carencro (56-21). The Cougars also sandwiched an impressive 42-21 win over Gladewater, Texas, in the Battle on the Border at Shreveport’s Independence Stadium and avenged last year’s three-point Division II state playoff loss to Evangel.

“I’m surprised,” Hightower said. “We’ve had a lot of our linemen step up. We’ve had some backups come in and develop.

“Everything’s going pretty good right now for us. Being healthy is also a part of being successful. We can’t complain about injuries.”

Hightower, whose club travels to Cecilia for its District 5-4A opener, pointed toward the second half of the triumph over Gladewater — a stretch where they broke a 21-all halftime tie with 21 straight points — as a catalyst in the team’s recent run of success.

“That was a high water mark for us,” he said. “When we got over the hump there I think they realized what they need to bring to the table each week. I think they took some good, valuable lessons from that game and some confidence.”