The split is here to stay.
Sorry, somebody had to say it. While the LHSAA’s select and non-select schools grow further apart, many Louisiana high school football fans cross their arms in displeasure. True fans want to see the best go up against the best, and that’s just not going to happen under this current format.
The good news is, though, certain football coaches actually mean it when they say they’ll play anybody, anywhere. That’s been proven by one of the most stacked non-district schedules we’ve ever seen in the parish.
Before I give you my top five non-district matchups of the season in Ouachita Parish, just take a look at the games that missed the cut: Neville at St. Thomas More, Neville at Ouachita, Wossman vs. Edna Karr, Sterlington vs. Oak Grove, West Monroe vs. Ridgeway (Tennessee), Ouachita vs. Airline and Neville vs. Ruston. Those games would be the best we’d see on a normal year. But as you’ll see, the 2019 non-district schedule for this parish is anything but ordinary…
5. West Monroe at Neville (Oct. 4)
The past couple of seasons have lacked theater when these two proud programs squared off. The moment it was announced that Neville and West Monroe would meet in the regular season, many Neville fans were upset because it followed the mass exodus of one of Neville’s most talented classes. Even so, last year provided a late Neville surge that had to make West Monroe fans a little nervous in the fourth quarter.
Sure, the final score read 29-14 in favor of West Monroe, but with seven minutes left, the Rebels led 22-14 and were in need of a major play to break Neville’s gained momentum. Rebel tailback Cam Wright obliged with a huge first down that allowed the Rebels to play keep away in those critical moments.
With Wright and most of West Monroe’s defensive front graduated from last season, and with Andrew Brister returning at quarterback for Neville, one has to wonder if we’ll have a more competitive game this fall.
4. Sterlington vs. Ouachita Christian (Sept. 13)
It’s unwise to say Sterlington and OCS always delivers the goods. In 2016, OCS beat Sterlington, 35-0, before Sterlington returned the favor with that very same score the following year.
But last year’s game was an instant classic.
In Sterlington’s 22-20 victory against OCS, Landon Green drilled a game-winning field goal after OCS was penalized for a “running into the kicker” call. And of course, this all came after OCS erased a 19-6 second half deficit to lead 20-19.
OCS hasn’t forgotten about that heartbreaker, which unfortunately went on to summarize the 2018 season for the Eagles.
3. West Monroe vs. Evangel (Sept. 27)
Evangel and West Monroe will always be synonymous with North Louisiana football dominance. And in 2019, both schools should compete for championships (again).
Evangel is two seasons removed from winning the Division-I Championship and recorded an 8-4 record last season.
Meanwhile, West Monroe was a late (controversial) touchdown away from winning another state title last year.
Seeing these two traditional powerhouses match up again has to give old school fans flashbacks of a two-year run that pitted Evangel with West Monroe in the state championship (2001, 2002).
2. University Lab at Neville (Sept 13)
The Mercedes-Benz Superdome has been a home away from home for Baton Rouge high schools recently.
Among those now super powers is one of the most dominant teams in the state, University. The Cubs have won back-to-back state titles with athletes that look destined to play in the NFL.
It wasn’t too long ago Neville was doing the same thing (2014-15).
By the Tigers’ incredible standards, Neville has had a couple of down years, but this season looks promising enough to see Neville get back to its home away from home. I can think of no better measuring stick than a second week showdown against one of the best in the state.
1. West Monroe vs. Longview (Sept. 20 in Shreveport)
If you’re not excited about this game, are you even a high school football fan? Even fans who hate West Monroe have to be giddy about this matchup because of the possibility of West Monroe being embarrassed. And that’s not to suggest I think they will, but I certainly understand it’s a legitimate possibly. After all, in Longview we’re talking about a 6A Texas high school state champion that returns its star quarterback in Haynes King. King, by the way, is a 4-star prospect with offers from 20-plus schools, including LSU, ULM and Louisiana Tech.
What’s going to happen when Texas and Louisiana clash on the border?