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Wednesday, April 23, 2014
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American Press sports reporter Albert Burford.<br>

American Press sports reporter Albert Burford.

Burford Column: District play signals start of real season for area teams

Last Modified: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 10:55 PM

By Rhett Manuel / American Press

It’s the fourth week of games in the high school football season in Louisiana, but it’s the first one that really matters for many teams, at least when it comes to results. That’s because district play opens this week for a number of schools.

So if your team struggled, stumbled and sputtered through the first three games of the year, have no fear. They won’t count for much. Coaches and players spend those first few weeks working out the kinks. Coaches try out different players at various positions, seeing who excels at what and in which situations. Finding the right combination is important early on, but it takes some experimentation. Players focus on lining up correctly, cutting down on those annoying issues that cost a team precious yards, like false start or offsides penalties. They figure out how to move together and work with their teammates as a unit on each play for the entire game.

So forgive them if they screwed up, shot themselves in the foot and missed a couple opportunities. After all, it was only a dress rehearsal for the big show.

Unfortunately for those teams that experienced strong starts to their seasons, the message is the same. They may be looking good, but this is when it comes time for teams to prove their depth and consistency on a week-by-week basis against their district foes.

These teams are building for something. If they showed their final, polished product in the first or second week of the season, there would be nowhere to go but down. Instead, they are working to create a complete team that can properly execute for an entire game, and that takes weeks of practice in real-game situations.

This isn’t to say a 3-0 team isn’t good. Barbe, for instance, tested itself against strong competition and passed with flying colors. But it won’t mean much if the Bucs can’t keep the ball rolling through district play.

And, of course, some winless teams will continue to flounder for the duration of the season. That’s just how it goes.

But take a look at a school like LaGrange and it’s obvious the Gators (0-3) won’t be finishing their season the way they started. Coach Jules Sullen has made it clear he tries to challenge his team in a big way before it gets to district play. He’s done that, pitting LaGrange against Notre Dame, Barbe and University Lab all away from home in its first three games. But last year’s co-District 4-4A champs will be in good position to make a play for the district title this season.

The same could be said for Washington-Marion and Westlake. These teams have talent and took on some of the area’s best schools in the first quarter of the season, hitting the expected bumps in the road along the way. But each of them could be a legitimate contender in their respective districts and may end up that much better for their challenging start to the season.

• • •

Albert Burford covers high school sports for the American Press. Email him at aburford@americanpress.com

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