Questions that need answers this prep season

By By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

It has been eight months since the last high school football season ended with Barbe falling short of winning the first area

state championship since 1999.

As a new season is set to begin, a fresh group of players will join veterans in a journey they also hope will end in New Orleans

and a shot at the title.

With that in mind, we take a look at the five big questions local teams face heading into the new season.

1. Can Barbe finish?

The Bucs are loaded, with key players back at all positions. They can run the ball with both speed and power, and they can

throw it with just about any team in the state.

And this season the cry has been for better defense consistently. Last year the defensive unit came up big enough to turn

the ball over. But it also gave up points and yards in bunches too.

That can’t happen again.

While on paper the Bucs seem like a lock to head back down to New Orleans, don’t reserve your rooms just yet.

If you remember it took a miracle comeback in the semifinals to rally the Bucs to the Superdome.

Ask West Monroe about locks. The powerhouse led Barbe by 20 points with more than 2 minutes left and still didn’t reach the

title game.

So things happen.

Now the Bucs, ranked No. 1 in 5A, find themselves definitely the ones being chased.

They must remember a lesson learned last year: you don’t have to be the best team to win a championship, just playing the

best at the right time.

2. New kids on the block

Grand Lake has football once again. For some this will be a great thing, for others it will continue to change the landscape

of high school football in the area.

While the newest team isn’t likely a contender for a few years, it does mean players have another place to play.

Does this mean there is more, fresh talent for the Lake Area to follow, or does it mean there is just another team to share

in the talent pool that already exists?

This won’t be fully known until long after this season and others to follow.

High school powers usually shift with the change in population. As younger families move into an area, and the kids grow into

their teens, teams get better. The opposite usually happens when an area matures and the group of kids move on to college

and adulthood.

A new school means a fresh start for an area and could have long-term impact on other schools.

It is something to keep your eye on this fall and for years to come.

3. Select/nonselect

Nothing has been more talked about, shouted about and fought about than this subject. And here we are, the first year with

football being divided by private and public lines.

This has worked in some states and has not in others. We will find out how it works in Louisiana at the end of this season.

There are more questions in regards to this topic than answers.

By some it is viewed as a way to balance the playing field, giving schools that don’t win a chance since this year there will

be nine state champs in football for a small state like Louisiana where there were only five last year.

To compare, California has just three.

The private, or select schools will play four championship playoffs with the public or nonselect playing five.

Many who fought for this didn’t want to see traditional powers that win with the help of recruiting continue. They are kidding

themselves into thinking public schools are clean when it comes to recruiting.

The biggest question of all is, Will the public buy it? What happens if the private (select) schools make far more money with

bigger title game attendance than the public (nonselect) like in other states?

Be careful Louisiana High School Athletic Association members, you don’t want to kill your golden goose.

4. Sulphur comeback

The tradition is there, but recent history has been not so good.

With that in mind, Sulphur High begins a new era with a new head coach. Jeff Wainwright will take over a Tors program that

has been only so-so over the past few seasons.

That isn’t good enough for the City of Sulphur, which has a rich tradition of playing good, winning football.

And this is not a school that is willing to play in the shadows of Barbe, which it has been forced to do over the last few


Now the Tors hope a fresh start can lead to a resurgence in both wins and pride.

We will see if this new direction Sulphur is taking leads the Tors on a path to more victories.

5. Replacing stars

Gone to LSU are Barbe’s DeSean Smith and Washington-Marion’s Melvin Jones, two of the best players the Lake Area had to

offer last year.

Their talents will be missed by the fans who watched them play over the past few seasons.

And while there are still plenty of big names around, such as Trey Quinn (Barbe) and Jacory Washington (Westlake), the real

fun every fall is seeing who else sees their stars shine under the bright lights of Friday night.

There is no shortage of players willing to fill those shoes, but getting it done week in and week out is the big thing. And

to become a star you also must do it in the big games.

Quinn has done that over the years, but finding out who the others are to step up and join him will be one of the big things

to follow this fall.