Warren Arceneaux column: Sizing up local district races

Published 11:00 am Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Despite the rising temperatures, we are moving into the nitty gritty of high school football, with two of the area’s best districts, 3-3A and 5-1A, slated to start league play this week.

The 3A district has been Prep vs. the pack in recent years, but that could change with Blazers entering the district season with a 1-2 record and coming off a shutout loss at Opelousas.

Iowa, which nearly took the district title last season, and Westlake figure to be the top challengers to topple the Blazers this year.

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Outside of a Week 1 blowout win over Class 1A Magnolia in which they scored 54 points, the Blazers have yet to show much explosiveness on offense, scoring 12 points in a Week 2 loss at Westgate before last week’s shutout in Opelousas.

The Blazers return plenty of talent at the skill positions, with quarterback Josiah Bushnell, running back Jarell Joseph and receivers Eric Beloney and Elijah Garrick all back. But, only one offensive lineman had any starting experience. The defense is similar, with plenty of experience on the back end at linebacker and defensive back, but new faces finding their way along the line.

Those units will need to gel in a hurry if the Blazers are to retain the district title. Both Iowa and Westlake boast strong defensive lines. Each of those teams are off to 2-1 starts and hungry to take the district title back.

Both are similar on offense, with a star running back — Ronald Young for Iowa and Brandon Jupiter of Westlake — leading the way. Each also has the advantage of hosting LCCP in key district games. Westlake gets the first crack in Week 5, while Iowa hosts the Blazers in Week 8.

The district has a new look this year with Kinder moving in. The Jackets are no stranger to district members, having played regular season games against Prep, Iowa, Westlake and St. Louis in recent years. The Jackets have held their own in those games and are entering district play off a quality win over Rosepine last week.

St. Louis is 2-1 and could be a factor in the race with an explosive offense led by quarterback James Reina and a deep receiving corps. Consistency on defense will be key for the Saints, who allowed 51 points and nearly 400 yards rushing in a loss to Vidor (Tx.) last week.

District 5-1A will also sport a new look with Grand Lake moving up to Class 2A after sharing the district title with Hamilton Christian and Basile last season.

The Bearcats figure to be among the title contenders again this season, led by two-way stars Ashton Deaville and Horace Edwards. Oberlin, with perhaps the area’s top athlete in Noah Carter, has started the season strong and has an experienced team that took some lumps early last season before showing progress down the stretch.

This week the Tigers host Merryville, which has shown good signs early in the season behind the passing of quarterback Remington Coody. Elton, after going winless last season, is off to a 3-0 start and features a trio of outstanding runners in Jadon Ross, Demarcus Jack and Sherman Bellow.

The Indians will see where they stand in the pecking order this week when they host Basile Friday night.

Last year’s race was a tight one, with all three games between the tri-champions decided by seven points or less. Most of the contenders play a similar style, depending on sound defense and steady running games to stay in games.

This year’s race figures to be another close one, decided by one-score games. Avoiding costly mistakes in low-scoring games will be key when the contenders face off.

Last year the district produced a pair of quarterfinal teams in Grand Lake and Basile, with Oberlin losing to the Hornets by six points in the second round.

Warren Arceneaux covers high school athletics. Email him at warren.arceneaux@americanpress.com