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

By 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.

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