High hopes

Kyle Riviere
EA quarterback Jason Wakefield. Photo by DKMoon Photography.

It’s a new season, which means there are new teams, new expectations and new goals.

Things may shake out differently once the season progresses, but right now, every team has that hope, that hope that they can take home a district championship, that hope that things can come together perfectly in a memorable run to the dome.

Who will meet those goals and who will fall short, we can only predict.

Last year, there were no district champions in Ascension Parish. The best finish came from St. Amant as they ended the season as runners-up in District 5-5A.

Will that change in 2017?

Ascension Catholic will try to bring home a league title in the always loaded District 6-1A.

The Bulldogs will have a nice balance of talent and experience.

Even though they lose quarterback Javon Yarbrough and receiver Kebori Hunter, they will return one of the best backfields in the area as it features 1,300-yard rusher Jamar Barber and impressive sophomore Jai Williams.

Their defense returns four all-district players in Williams, linebacker Bubba Gautreau, defensive end Dillion Davis and safety Mason Zerinque.

The Bulldogs should roll over three of their first five non-district foes. Mentorship Academy, Sophie B. Wright and KIPP Renaissance went a combined 3-26 last season.

Thomas Jefferson of Class 2A and Covenant Christian will be tossup games.

When it comes to the district, things could very well mimic last season. They should cruise by East Iberville and St. John. White Castle will be tougher, but it’s a game in which they’ll probably be favorites.

However, Kentwood and Southern Lab will be tough to beat.

Southern Lab won’t be the same team this year. After the school was found to have committed multiple rules violations over the years, head coach Marcus Randle has been fired, and their assistants have been suspended.

So, they will have to throw together a coaching staff at the last second. Plus, some players may end up being ruled ineligible.

Either way, that team still has tons of talent. Even with the suspensions and coaching changes, they’ll still be fighting with Kentwood for district superiority.

Donaldsonville returned to the playoffs for the first time in two years and now return nine all-district players from 2016. This includes: Tahj Brown, Kadarrion Jones, Davon Wright, D’ondre Fisher, Jaylin Williams, Jemon Pleasant, Ladarius Jackson, Jeffrey Johnson and Jaquavis Tenner.

They will move to a new district this year, and it’s a tough one. St. James, St. Charles, Haynes Academy and De La Salle all combined to go 34-6 during the 2016 regular season.

De La Salle looks to be the clear favorite in the district. Donaldsonville will have to catch some big breaks to get past St. James, Haynes and St. Charles in the race for district runner-up.

There is new excitement surrounding Dutchtown as they enter the season with a new head coach in Guy Mistretta. Mistretta has won two state titles at two different schools (Redemptorist and Livonia).

The Griffins return their quarterback Ben Mays and dynamic athlete Noah Gray, along with a talented secondary, but it’s hard seeing them making a drastic change from last season, when they finished 3-7.

They have a very challenging non-district schedule with road games against Walker and Central and tough home games against Covington and Lutcher.

In district, they might get past McKinley, but parish counterparts St. Amant and East Ascension look significantly better on paper.

Both the Gators and the Spartans will be fighting nip and tuck to take the district crown in 2017.

Each team has many similarities. They both headed into the playoffs with great momentum last season and flashed great potential.

They both lost some of their most important pieces, but yet, they return plenty of talent and experience.

If I had to pick which team ends the year with the better record, I’d have to give the nod to St. Amant.

With East Ascension losing Justin Harris, Justin Daniels and Demontrey Jacobs, St. Amant has the better front seven. In fact, their front seven should be the best in the parish this season.

I also think the Gators are in better shape at quarterback. Halen Miller is a first-year starter, but he’s a senior that has had two years to learn under Hayden Mallory. Miller showed impressive flashes during the spring game and during the summer’s seven-on-seven tournament.

The Spartans lost offensive coordinator Keragan McCready right before the spring, as he joined the Dutchtown staff.

Also, East Ascension’s non-district schedule is simply a mine field. They have to play Parkview Baptist, Lutcher, Thibodaux, St. Charles and Cecilia. On the other hand, the only challenging non-league games St. Amant will have are against Lutcher and St. James.

I think St. Amant will again finish as district runner-up, with Catholic taking the title. I know the Bears lost tons of starters from last season, and Dale Weiner is gone, but until they’re dethroned, I won’t pick against them.