The 2022 high school football season is less than two months away, and I can’t help but think of all the amazing storylines last season provided us.
Ouachita and Neville ended losing streaks to West Monroe, two Northeast Louisiana teams were among the last four standing in Division IV and Sterlington recorded a perfect 15-0 season.
The stories were truly boundless in 2021, and I can’t help but turn the page and preview 2022. With that in mind, let’s dive into why you should be fired up for the 2022 football season.
1. Sterlington repeat?
Only 14 teams from Ouachita Parish have ever produced undefeated seasons in the history of the LHSAA. Last year’s Sterlington squad was one of them.
The chances of the Panthers repeating such a feat without the likes of Armod Mills, Luke Handy, Cliff Jones, J’Keldrick Miller, Cole Thompson, Jacob Green, Ram Foster, Chase Mitchell and Caleb Andrews aren’t likely. And trust me, I could’ve kept going, but you get the gist. The Panthers lost some really important pieces.
Plus the Panthers open against Class 5A powerhouse West Monroe, so Sterlington won’t ease into the 2022 football season.
Still, I like this team with quarterback Mason Lawhon and running back Trammell Colvin occupying to the backfield again and D1 prospects John Barr (WR), Mitch Hodnett (OL) and Charlie Robinson (DL) returning to the fold.
Expect District 2-3A to look a lot different in 2022 also. I like what I’ve seen from new Wossman head coach Terence Cahee in the offseason so far, Richwood’s due for a winning season and Carroll has some of the best talent in the district with players like running back Amareya Greeley and wide receiver Demardrick Blunt returning.
Union still has LSU commit Trey Holly, who Sterlington head coach Lee Doty told me just might be the best player he’s ever coached against, and don’t forget Bastrop and North Webster have moved into District 2-3A also.
The chances are low that Sterlington records another perfect football season in 2022, but this team is still capable of winning Class 3A again.
2. The Year of Amazing Matchups
I have already written an entire column about the 2022 matchups that were announced earlier this year. That’s how good they are. From Sterlington vs. West Monroe to Ouachita vs. Ouachita Christian and Calvary Baptist vs. Wossman, Northeast Louisiana fans are in for a treat in 2022. Don’t sleep on Ouachita vs. Brother Martin, Jena vs. St. Frederick or Ouachita vs. Neville either.
3. Year Two for Garvin
=Ouachita was arguably the story of the year last year.
I was beginning to worry about the state of that program, and had honest conversations about whether or not it was a top five job in the parish before Todd Garvin was hired.
Well it’s a no-doubter now, and it honestly feels like Garvin is sitting on a gold mine with the young talent we saw in Ouachita’s spring game.
To lead Ouachita from a 1-5 campaign to a 9-4 season that featured the Lions capturinig a share of the District 2-5A title and reaching the quarterfinals for the first time in a near decade more than earned Garvin a share of the Ouachita Citizen’s Coach of the Year.
But now what? Garvin made a difficult schedule. Non-district foes Rummel, Conway (Arkansas), Brother Martin, OCS and Neville will provide a weekly grind before entering one of the toughest districts in the state against the likes of West Monroe and Ruston.
Garvin’s Ouachita surprised us all in 2021. Can the Lions do it again in 2022?
4. West Monroe and Neville rebuilding?
Don’t get me wrong — both will still be good and win a majority of their games, but don’t be surprised to see either get off to a slow start. Programs like these are expected to just reload, but you have to take into account what each lost. Talent remains, but inexperience will be an obstacle.
West Monroe basically lost its entire defensive backfield and enter the season with major questions at receiver, linebacker and defensive back.
Meanwhile Neville has to replace Will Campbell, the electric A.J. Allen and really talented pieces off of a defense that included the likes of Lorenzell Dubose, Henton Roberts and Enyce Sledge. That’s tough.
We call it rebuilding for West Monore and Neville if they have nine or 10 wins at the conclusion of the season, so don’t take this as disrespect for either program. Both will still win a lot of ballgames, but both fan bases should be patient at the start of the season.
5. Is St. Frederick ready to take that next step?
The Warriors made a semifinal run last year, and have some key offensive pieces returning in running back Michael Thompson and wide receiver William Patrick, along with some guys up front, but they have to replace some studs on defense.
Will the losses on that unit force the offense to carry the load this season? St. Frederick is older at certain positions, but this is still a predominantly young football team.
Let’s not forget the Warriors still have to go through Ouachita Christian in Division IV, and the Eagles are aiming to make their fourth consecutive Division IV State Championship Game appearance.
St. Frederick will once again be formidable, though, and it isn’t crazy talk to include the Warriors in state championship preview conversations.