WHO’S GOING TO WIN THE 9 STATE FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS?
Want to hit the fast-forward on your prep football remote button? Well no need to call Michael J. Fox to borrow his DeLorean; we’ve got ya covered. As I have for the past several years, I will tell you what’s going to happen well ahead of time. Hang on, maybe you should call Michael J. Fox after all.
I make fun because I don’t like to brag, so I won’t tell you last year I correctly picked 12 of the 18 participants in the nine title games and four champions. No, I won’t tell you that at all, because that might come off as if I have an ego. Wink, wink.
(1) WEST ST. JOHN over (2) OBERLIN: One of a few classifications that screams chalk. I thought about putting Haynesville in here instead of Oberlin because of all their experience making it to the Dome, but it’s hard to have faith in a team that lost 70-0 in a district game (to Calvary).
This isn’t nearly as talented a Rams team that won it all in 2017, but they are just as battle tested, having gone up against several teams higher in classification. While that’s where their losses come from, they competed in each of them except maybe against 10-0 St. James. (More about them later.)
This is one of the weaker 1A brackets I’ve seen in a while, but it won’t take anything away from another state title in Edgard.
(4) CALVARY BAPTIST over (3) ASCENSION CATHOLIC: Maybe Ascension learned a little from last year’s appearance in this game, but the problem is they’re up against a similar juggernaut in the Cavaliers as they faced in Lafayette Christian in 2018.
Actually, the biggest hurdle for Calvary could be fifth-seeded Ouachita Christian, whom they would get in the quarterfinals. Other than that, this whole bracket could see the highest percentage of blowouts.
(5) AMITE over (7) PINE: Maybe I am showing just a little regional bias in picking Amite to beat Ferriday, but it is clear the Warriors have had the much tougher schedule, and that usually helps this time of year. Still, the way the Trojans wiped out their opponents was highly impressive, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the top seed made the Dome. That semifinals game should be very interesting.
On the bottom half of the bracket, I simply don’t think the higher seeds are as good as either Pine or Kentwood. (Again, insert regional bias here.)
Either way, the Raiders or Kangaroos would make for a great district rematch – only with a little more significance placed on the second meeting. What Bradley Seal has done at Pine the past five years or so has been very impressive, as he seems to be turning that group into a program and not just a team that has some intermittent success.
Going with the new kids on the block as runner-up.
(1) LAFAYETTE CHRISTIAN over (2) NOTRE DAME: While I’m not 100-percent sure I have the correct winner here, I am 99.9-percent sure I have the correct participants. As good as St. Charles and Newman are, LCA and Notre Dame are in different worlds.
In such a short time, the Knights have become ridiculous, having lost only by 14 to Acadiana, which rivals West Monroe, Rummel and Catholic for the role of the state’s best overall team.
Meanwhile, it could make for quite the rematch, as LCA handed the Pios their first regular-season loss since God created Eve. Well, not that long ago, but five years, which is an eternity in prep football.
Can’t wait to see this one.
(1) ST. JAMES over (2) STERLINGTON: I already am not happy with all the chalk I have picked in this little blog, but really, the computers seemed to get it right at the top this season maybe more than any other I can remember in recent past.
One thing I know, is I don’t think there is a team in 3A that can compete with the Wildcats, and if I had to put these picks in order of certainty, I would have put this one at the top. St. James has been amazing this season, and it really didn’t matter who they played or what classification they came from.
As a side note, on the bottom half of the bracket, watch out for McDonogh 35, winners of seven in a row and playing maybe the second-best football in 3A. I think they blow past Loranger and lose in a tight one at Sterlington in the semifinals.
(1) ST. THOMAS MORE over (3) UNIVERSITY: Did someone say rematch?
You know the Cougars are hoping the Cubs can make it through and give them another shot. I am sure STM quarterback Caleb Holstein dreams about it at night.
For quite some time, I wondered if the Cougars were the best overall team in the state, and then they lost back-to-back games. (What was that against Westgate?) But if they were to win a state championship, no one will remember those two October losses.
Don’t count out No. 2 De La Salle on the bottom half of the bracket, but even being able to play the Cubs in New Orleans won’t be enough, I don’t think.
Last year, STM-University was 55-46. This one will be lower scoring (not much lower) and with a different result at a different venue.
(1) LAKESHORE over (2) NEVILLE: Another 1 vs. 2, you say? Yes, but who else are we going to pick here?
While many automatically pencil in back-to-back-to-back state champ Karr going back to the Dome, I don’t see it this time. The Cougars don’t seem themselves, and although I love Leonard Kelly (hey, college scouts, you’re missing the boat big time on this kid), this isn’t the Karr defense we’re used to. And going to beat Neville in Monroe is simply too much to ask against Andrew Brister and company.
Meanwhile, Lakeshore might be the best-kept secret in the state. Winners of 32 consecutive regular-season games, this IS the best Titans team to ever take the field in their short 10-year history, and that includes the one that went to the Dome two seasons ago.
The key will be to remain healthy, as they don’t have the depth Karr or Neville has, but they have more talent. Don’t believe me, take a look at their scores. While their schedule wasn’t as tough as some of the biggies, it’s what they did with what they have, defeating De La Salle 35-7, Westgate (the team that beat St. Thomas More) 35-13 while getting off the bus and almost immediately playing and their three district opponents (all of whom are in the playoffs) by a combined score of 153-14.
(3) JOHN CURTIS over (1) RUMMEL: Those reading this from Baton Rouge are throwing things at their phones and calling me really ugly names.
Nothing against the Bears, but could an undefeated team have had a more unluckier draw? After getting past Holy Cross or St. Paul’s, they have the pleasure of John Curtis in the semifinals after playing them in the Dome in consecutive seasons.
For Curtis, maybe the best thing that could have happened to them was losing to Rummel in the regular season. What? We really lost? It’s sort of Drago taking that first punch from Rocky and wondering just what they heck was that. (I know Rocky won the fight, but that was Hollywood, and this is real life.)
Taking nothing away from the Raiders, because I predicted them to win the first matchup before I chickened out and typed over it. (“Sure, you did Derry.”) Win or lose, that defense will go down as maybe the best I have ever seen while doing this job.
But this pick all goes down to “What’s the possibility of JT losing to the same opponent twice in the same season?” Hit the bear in the gut with a power punch, and the bear is gonna get a little steamed. Hey … Bear … Maybe I should have picked Catholic after all.
(2) WEST MONROE over (1) ACADIANA: So I picked the chalk again, but this time I am going with the 2 seed. While Acadiana has seemed to be unbeatable (and they have been thus far), I simply am going with my gut that the Rebels have been wallowing in that loss to Zachary last season, and it is eating at their souls.
Looking for their first championship in the post-Ted Davidson era, Acadiana has been ridiculous in the second two-thirds of the season. But I’m not so sure that district is as good as it appears on the surface.
All that being said, watch out for the 20 seed, as Ruston might just be the best 20 seed I have ever seen. Narrowly losing to some of the best teams in the state (except Rummel – that was ugly), don’t be surprised if they knock off fifth-seeded Zachary in the quarterfinals and give the Rams all they can handle in the semis.
Jim Derry is a Regional Reporter and Play-by-Play Announcer for VSN Louisiana and can be reached at email@example.com.