Warren Arceneaux column: 3-horse race in 3-3A

Published 9:00 am Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Last year, my big impression of St. Louis was the noise they made before the game, when they unleashed a spine-tingling yell while taking the field before the jamboree game against Barbe.

This year’s team has been making plenty of noise on the field, particularly Friday night when they knocked off Lake Charles College Prep, which has ruled the district for the past four years. The win confirmed that the Saints’ 6-1 record is no fluke and put the Saints in the driver’s seat in a suddenly competitive District 3-3A race.

Both the Saints and Iowa can claim the district title by winning their remaining games. Iowa hosts College Prep this week before visiting St. Louis next week in what could turn out to be the biggest regular season game in the area this season.

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St. Louis has a nondistrict game against South Lafourche this week before hosting the Yellow Jackets and closing the regular season with a trip to Jennings. The Saints have won four games in a row and have a dynamic playmaker on each side of the ball in dual-threat quarterback James Reina and linebacker Graham Montet. The secondary chipped in with three interceptions against College Prep.

Despite the loss, the Blazers can still claim at least a share of the district title if they can win out against Iowa, Jennings and Kinder while St. Louis and Iowa each lose at least once. The most simple scenario of the Blazers would be winning at Iowa this week, then having the Yellow Jackets knock off the Saints next week.

While their 3-4 record doesn’t look good, all of College Prep’s losses have come to good competition. Opelousas (6-1) is ranked second in the Class 4A in the unofficial power rankings, Westgate (6- 1) is the defending Class 4A champion and St. James (6-1) is the fourth-ranked team in Class 3A.

The Blazers are averaging 28.5 points per game this season, 10 points fewer than last season. The running game, which last year produced two running backs (TreVonte Citizen and Devonte Guidroz) that averaged more than 100 yards per game, has not been dominant this season. In losses to St. James and Opelousas, the Blazers were held to less than 90 yards on the ground in each game. QB Josiah Bushnell leads the team in rushing with 431 yards.

Getting the run game back on track would help relieve pressure on Bushnell and open things up for Prep’s bevy of receiving targets in Elijah Garrick, Eric Beloney, Seth Woods and Matthew Higginbotham.

The good news for Prep is that their strong strength of schedule means they are still in decent shape in the power rankings, currently 17th, just one spot away from hosting a first round game. A win over Iowa could be enough to vault them back into the top 16.

That won’t come easy, as the Yellow Jackets have been one of the area’s hottest teams over the past month. Iowa has won four straight and outscored opponents by nearly 38 points per game during the winning streak, with each of the wins coming by at least 16 points. The defense has allowed only seven points over the past three weeks, while the offense is averaging 35 points per game during the winning streak.

The Jackets have a largely new group of starters at the skill positions on offense outside of running back Ronald Young, but the new faces have delivered. Quarterback Cole Corbello has thrown nine touchdown passes with no interceptions during the winning streak. Receiver Jonathan Walker, Jr. has four touchdown receptions over the past two games. Young is a workhorse back who has run for more than 100 yards in each game of the winning streak.

The Jackets were a point away from winning the district last season, losing a heartbreaker at home to College Prep. Their shot at revenge this week will go a long way towards determining the area’s best district race.

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