- Feature Story
- George Becnel
- December 14, 2016 - 7:20pm
Three of the eight River Parish schools will be in new classifications for the start of the 2017-18 school year after the final basic districts were announced by the Louisiana High School Athletic Association on Wednesday in Baton Rouge.
One of the schools affected is St. Charles Catholic, which will be moving up from Class 2A to Class 3A.
“The way they re-did the numbers, I thought, was totally, totally unfair,” said St. Charles coach Frank Monica. “They made us count ninth through 12th and made us go back and count eighth graders from last year, which were the same kids and the reason behind it was never clearly identified. We had to count some kids that all they did was first they played volleyball, they swam and they played cross country and they did play sub-varsity sports. For us that was 55 kids we had to count twice. Really, our enrollment is still 2A enrollment at 393 but we had to count 55 kids twice and that kicked us into 3A.”
St. Charles will be competing in District 10-3A, along with St. James, Donaldsonville, De La Salle, Lusher Charter and Haynes Academy. Also in the district are all-girls schools Academy of Sacred Heart and Ursuline.
“I think it’s an excellent district in terms of competition. I’m glad Donaldsonville opted to get in. We have a history with them. St. James is always a good opponent and been a good rivalry game,” said Monica.
In football, St. Charles will be competing in Division II, which includes select schools from Classes 3A and 4A. In essence, the Comets could be moving up two classes in the playoffs.
“We want 3A to stand alone in the playoffs and not combine with 4A. That was OK when it was just football but now it involves basketball, baseball and softball. You are asking us, at 393 (enrollment) – our true enrollment – to play schools with 1,000 enrollment,” Monica said.
Lutcher, the two-time defending Class 3A state champions in football, will be competing in Class 4A beginning with the next academic year.
The Bulldogs were in Class 4A from the 2009-2014 seasons. Like in its previous tenure in Class 4A, Lutcher will be in a Baton Rouge-based district.
“Our initial thought was we wanted to go down the bayou. We thought it was a great fit for us. It’s where we were in the first district plan,” said Dwain Jenkins, Lutcher’s coach and athletic director.
That would have place Lutcher in District 7-4A with Assumption, Ellender, Morgan City, South Lafourche, South Terrebonne, Vandebilt Catholic and E.D. White.
Instead, the Bulldogs will compete in District 6-4A with Parkview Baptist, Plaquemine, St. Michael, Tara and Woodlawn of Baton Rouge. Parkview elected to play up from Class 3A. Also in the district is Lee Magnet, a coed non-football playing school.
“We knew once Livonia was moved from Baton Rouge into the Lafayette area, there was a great chance we would be put in Baton Rouge. We knew we could fit in either one, but community-wise, we thought it (the Bayou district) would be a better fit for us,” said Jenkins.
The Bulldogs will have to find five non-district opponents with their new district.
“That will not be any weaker. We already had made some prior arrangements. We will play the 5A schools in Ascension Parish – East Ascension, St. Amant and Dutchtown - and we will play St. James as four of those five games right now,” Jenkins said.
The other River Parish school switching classifications is West St. John. After electing to play up the past two years, the Rams again will compete in Class 1A.
“It will really help us in the other sports that we play to be a little more competitive. Football, it really wasn’t the biggest thing for us. We play up anyway (versus larger school in non-district games). It was just a matter of being in a district that is closer to home and not a whole lot of travel involved,” said Brandon Walters, West St. John’s football coach and athletic director.
In past years when West St. John competed in the Class 1A, the Rams were in a district against the likes of Ascension Catholic, East Iberville and White Castle.
Starting with the 2017-18 school year, the Rams will compete in District 8-1A with Covenant Christian, Ecole Classique, Houma Christian, J.S. Clark, Ridgewood, St. Martin’s and Varnado.
“We are looking forward to new teams and new blood and all that comes with it,” Walters said.
The Rams, like other River Parish teams, will be scrambling to find non-district opponents since Ecole Classique and Clark likely will not compete in football.
The least affected schools in the upcoming redistricting are the Class 5A schools. District 7-5A remains intact with Destrehan, East St. John, Hahnville, H.L. Bourgeois, Central Lafourche, Thibodaux and Terrebonne.
“I’m very happy with that,” said Hahnville coach Nick Saltaformaggio. “We consider ourselves a Bayou school and like to stay in that area with those schools. The only thing I wish they could figure out is a way to get the right number of teams in there so we have byes to deal with. Our bye is Week 6 and it’s hard for schools like Hahnville to fill those byes.
“You don’t want to play nine games for a variety of reasons. Primarily, you want to give the kids and opportunity to play 10, and financially, it hurts you not having that gate.”
St. James is staying in Class 3A. Competing in District 10-3A, the Wildcats lose one rival in Lutcher while gaining two in St. Charles and Donaldsonville.
“We are sort of just out there but I think this district plan sort of allows us to be in a good, competitive district, especially when you add St. Charles Catholic, you bring in De La Salle and you bring in Donaldsonville,” said Robert Valdez, St. James football coach and athletic director. “There are weeks you will be playing really, really quality football teams. I thought Lusher was a well-coached team. I’m not too familiar with Haynes Academy.”
Like other area schools, St. James will play five non-district opponents, although the Wildcats pretty much have their dance card for 2017 pretty well filled out.
“We will play West St. John in Week 1. We’ve agreed to play Lutcher in Week 2. E.D. White will be in Week 3 and we will take a road trip to Wossman in Monroe in Week 4 and then play St. Amant in Week 5,” Valdez said.
Riverside Academy, the current Division III state champion, will continue be to in a combined district but lost two local rivals with the reclassifications of St. Charles and West St. John.
Riverside’s District 11-2A features Country Day, all-girls school St. Mary’s Academy, plus Martin Luther King Charter and Patrick Taylor, a pair of coed non-football playing schools.
For football only, the Rebels will compete with Fisher, Newman and South Plaquemines from District 12-2A. District 12-2A also includes a pair of all-girls schools, McGehee and St. Katherine Drexel.
“The situation that we are in, with St. Charles moving up to 3A and West St. John moving down to 1A, kind of puts us here on an island,” said Chris Lachney, Riverside’s new head football coach. “I don’t think they had a whole lot of choice when they did what they did. Our travel will be a little greater, which is not as good, but we’re happy with our district.”
What does concern Lachney is the fact Riverside’s bye week in district play falls in Week 10. Destrehan faced Week 10 open dates the past two years in District 7-5A and were unable to find an opponent for the final week of the regular season.
“Those early games are a little easier to full, but when you have a Week 10 bye like we have, it makes it really difficult to find another team in the state that will play you that is also open Week 10,” Lachney said.