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Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- White Castle's head football coach Lamar Thomas directs practice Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014.

This season’s only blemish on White Castle’s record — a 35-12 setback against Class 3A Donaldsonville — has helped to serve as a learning tool for the youthful Bulldogs.

Not only has White Castle rebounded with four consecutive victories, including two over higher classification teams, but the early-season taste of defeat has helped the Bulldogs develop in time for a run at the District 8-1A title and beyond.

“I think they’ve responded great,” White Castle coach Lamar Thomas said. “That (Donaldsonville game) was the first time out of the gate for a lot of our young players. We only have four or five seniors. Our growth potential is enormous because we’re so young and inexperienced.”

That also hasn’t hindered White Castle from being a season-long fixture in the Class 1A state rankings compiled by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association.

The Bulldogs, who debuted at No. 9 after a season-opening 50-36 win over Class 4A Morgan City, have fluctuated between a high of No. 7 (before the loss to Donaldsonville) and No. 10, which is the case again after the statewide rankings were released Tuesday.

Southern Lab (2-5), Madison Prep (5-2) and Ascension Catholic (6-1) all received points in Class 1A.

“They’re excited about it and where we are,” Thomas said. “They’re excited about looking at the power ratings. They’re looking at what’s going on all the time, and they know before I do. It’s my job to keep them grounded and remind them of what it took to get here. We’ve still got work to do.”

For the first time in four weeks, Catholic High (6-1) slipped a spot to No. 6 following a narrow 20-17 win over Dutchtown. No. 5 Jesuit (5-1) outpointed the Bears 73-69.

Neville (6-1) replaced St. Thomas More (6-1) atop the Class 4A poll after the Cougars lost 56-46 to Teurlings Catholic, which rose to No. 2 this week.

Plaquemine (6-1) held firm at No. 7 with 55 points after a 54-16 District 6-4A win over Belaire with St. Michael the Archangel (7-0) picking up eight points.

The Baton Rouge area continued its strong representation in Class 3A with University High (7-0) still ranked No. 1 with eight of 10 first-place votes and 118 points. Livonia (6-0) dropped one spot to No. 6 followed by No. 7 Parkview Baptist (5-2).

Two straight defeats have dropped Episcopal (4-2) to No. 10 in Class 2A with District 6-2A counterparts — Northeast (6-0) and East Feliciana (4-2) — receiving points.

White Castle answered its loss to Donaldsonville with back-to-back wins over higher classification Westminster Christian (30-13) and Iowa (44-26), a Class 3A team that’s leading the District 4-3A race.

Moreover, the Bulldogs will follow Friday’s home game with Ascension Christian with consecutive road games against Ascension Catholic and West St. John with visions of winning the District 8-1A crown.

“We have aspirations of being a championship caliber football team,” Thomas said. “If you have those aspirations, you’re going to have to play against good competition. There’s going to be some good teams that you’re going to have to beat, and you have to learn how to do that. The only way to learn is to play against some good competition.”