Three River Parish teams will be moving down in classification for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years after the release of the final basic district plan released by the Louisiana High School Athletic Association on Tuesday.
Lutcher is dropping down from Class 4A to Class 3A, while St. Charles Catholic moves to 2A and Riverside Academy to Class 1A.
“I think until the last second, we weren’t counting on being in 3A,” said Dwain Jenkins, Lutcher’s football coach and athletic director. “It seemed like we would be 4A again and we would one of the smaller schools. There was enough movement in the number; I think there were 23 schools that had issues with their numbers before they got them verified and it left us as the second-biggest 3A school.
“In 3A, especially over the last 20 years, when he had been in 4A, looking at results and what’s happened the five years we’ve been in 4A, it was first or second round exits from the playoffs four of those five years.”
In what will be called District 9-3A, Lutcher again will be in the same league as St. James. Also in the district will be Donaldsonville, E.D. White, Berwick and Patterson.
While St. James remains in Class 3A, the arrival of Lutcher and E.D. White will cause some juggling of the schedule. St. James has played Lutcher and E.D. White in the recent past as non-league opponents in Weeks 2 and 3, respective. Those game will drop down to later in the schedule, leaving voids early in the season.
“It poses scheduling difficulties,” said St. James football coach and athletic director Robert Valdez, whose team will be the smallest school in Class 3A. “We are kind of in the middle where we have a hard time finding games. We will find these games later on in the district but it kind of causes a little bit of a situation for us to being able to find games.”
The district, Valdez said, will be good from a rivalry standpoint.
“It’s a good district for us to be in, not only in geography but with natural, traditional rivals. We get to be in the same district with Lutcher again and E.D. White and Donaldsonville. That’s three rivals we will be able to secure those games. Patterson and Berwick are two pretty good opponents. I’m excited, not only for football, but all our sports,” Valdez said.
St. Charles Catholic moves to District 11-2A with Cohen College Prep, Einstein Charter, Fisher, McGehee, Morris Jeff Comm., Newman, South Plaquemines, St. Charles, Katherine Drexel and St. Mary’s Academy.
For the playoffs, the Comets will now compete in Division III instead of Division II.
“As far as the playoffs, it’s good, but it won’t help you during the season. It will helps you that there are a few more teams in 2A than 3A and 4A combined. At least they have a full 16-team bracket. It would eliminate the early-round bye. You will not be playing teams in the playoffs that are three and four times your size like we play against this week,” said Frank Monica, whose team hosts St. Thomas More in the Division II semifinals on Friday.
In terms of football, only St. Charles, Newman, South Plaquemines and Cohen are likely to compete for district honors.
“It’s already tough enough to schedule what we can,” said Monica. “You have find people that have similar open dates. You have to choreograph all that, which is not easy to do. Normally, it’s a stronger team that’s available that’s way out of your class. That’s a real hassle and that’s something that the LHSAA really needs to look at. Bigger districts would be better.”
In order to fill out a full 10-game slate the last two years, the Comets had to play Wilkinson County out of Mississippi.
“There’s a very good possibility we would have to go back to Mississippi or whatever it takes to fill some open dates. I don’t want to do that but I might have. Now that we know, we can get on the phone and see who is out there. The biggest thing is who wants to play you,” Monica said.
Riverside now will be in District 8-1A with West St. John.
“It is what it is,” Riverside coach Kevin Dizer said of the move to Class 1A. “There are still good teams in 1A. Getting West St. John, that is a good matchup for us. I’m glad we get West St. John as a good River Parish rival.”
With Metairie Park Country Day also dropping down, the Cajuns will remain a district foe of Riverside.
“That will be good as well,” said Dizer. “Country Day got the best of us this year. Those guys are in the semifinals this week with a chance to go to the Dome and they have (Justin) Ibieta coming back. Country Day and West St. John, we were in the same district in 2A at one point, so it will be good to have familiar guys and natural, built-in rivals.”
Also in the district will be Ecole Classique, Crescent City, Ridgewood and St. Martin’s. Ecole Classique and Ridgewood are not expected to compete for league honors and Crescent City is looking to start a football program, so Riverside is another team that will be in need of fill numerous non-district openings.
“That will be a tough deal because you don’t get to pick and choose at that point. You just have to play who is available those weeks. That last thing you want to do is get stuck with an eight-game schedule like we’ve had before. I don’t even want to have a nine-game schedule. I’d like to play a full 10,” said Dizer.
District 7-5A will remain the same as previous years and will feature Destrehan, East St. John, Hahnville, H.L. Bourgeois, Central Lafourche, Terrebonne and Thibodaux.
“I’m very happy with that for a bunch of reasons,” Hahnville coach Nick Saltaformaggio said of District 7-5A remaining the same. “One, we have established a camaraderie between the schools. There is a lot that we have in common. We all have excellent facilities. I think the coaching in our district is really second to none. The kids are well-coached and they represent their schools well. I think a testament to that is how far our teams usually advance in the playoffs.
“I only wish we could find that eighth team so we wouldn’t have byes in our schedule. I’m happy we are staying together. I like the relationships we have with each other.”