Warren Arceneaux column: New playoff format an upgrade
Published 9:00 am Tuesday, November 15, 2022
The first round of the high school football playoffs seemed more eventful than usual – in large part because the new eight-division format meant there were fewer bad teams in the field. As a result, first round games were generally more competitive and there seemed to be a good deal of upsets, at least by seeding.
It is hard to put a lot of stock into the seeds this year, since the new format was introduced after reclassification. That means teams for different classes are lumped together in the eight divisions. As a result, you have teams that played a 2A district schedule opposing teams that played a 3A district schedule together in Division III, such as Rosepine and Westlake, who will meet this week.
That’s a problem that will likely continue next year should the new format remain in place, which I hope will be the case. The series of blowouts we’ve had in the first round of most sports since the split happened was largely a waste of everyone’s time.
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But, since the next reclassification not going into effect until the 2024-25 school year, we’d be stuck with the current situation where teams in the same division are playing unequal regular season schedules, which makes the power ratings a little less accurate. It’s a small price to pay for the new format, which allows better depth of quality teams in each division and many more games with teams of equal ability.
The local teams fared well last week, with all eight home teams winning, the Westlake Road Warriors continuing their string of first round road wins with an upset of No. 8 Pine in Division III and Lake Charles College Prep maintaining its history of never losing a first round playoff game with a road win at Catholic-New Iberia, its fifth opening round win in as many tries.
Jennings brought home a win, beating previously 9-1 Plaquemine to give outgoing coach Rusty Phelps at least one more week of work and another home game at Jerry Simmons Memorial Stadium.
The Bulldogs will host Leesville in a Division II regional round game that is one of three games featuring a pair of local teams. It is also a regular season rematch, with the Wampus Cats winning the first game 25-7 in the opening week of the season. That game was the first of eleven straight 100-yard performances by Leesville running back Xavier Ford, who had his best game of the season last week, with 372 yards and four touchdowns in a 42-14 win over Pearl River. Ford now has 2,403 yards and 32 touchdowns on the season. Jennings has shown great improvement in the second half of the season, winning four of its last six games.
Oberlin and Basile will meet in an all-District 5-1A Division IV regional. Basile, which earned a bye as the fourth seed last week, won the regular season game 35-13 in Week 7. The Bearcats have won seven straight games this season and have won eight of their last nine regional round games. Oberlin has won three of four since the first Basile game and has scored 35 or more points in each of those wins.
Westlake continued its recent history of success on the road last week, beating Pine for its third straight road win in as many tries. The Rams will be looking to reverse the second half that streak, as home losses have followed each of the first two road wins.
Rosepine will be the opposition this time. The Eagles advanced with a dominant 34-6 home win over Red River. The Eagles feature a prolific running-passing tandem in running back Grant Ducote and quarterback Jake Smith. The duo has produced 51 combined touchdowns.
Iowa, like Basile, was off last week as the top seed in Division II, opens its playoff run at home against No. 17 Abbeville. The Yellow Jackets have won seven straight since losing at Leesville in Week 2 – a trip the Yellow Jackets could have to make again if both teams advance this week.
Warren Arceneaux covers high school athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org