PLAYING-UP OR STAYING PUT? THAT IS THE QUESTION:
With the beginning of the 2012-13 school year, thoughts will not only turn to prep football and the other fall sports, but to re-classification as well. And with re-class comes the speculation of which schools will choose to play up to one class higher that their enrollment used to allow.
We know that Holy Cross, Archbishop Shaw and St. Augustine - now Class 4A schools - will choose to play up with hopes of reviving the Catholic League as we knew it. Chalmette will probably remain a part of the parochial district as the lone public school.
That would place West Jefferson and Grace King, which will have joined Jesuit, Archbishop Rummel, Brother Martin and Chalmette in a mixed district through next year, back in a league with other Jefferson Parish public schools (as they should be). East St. John, Destrehan and Hahnville will most likely be reunited with schools in the Houma-Thibodaux area, much to the chagrin of those Bayou Parishes schools.
But which other schools will choose to play up? The burning question is, will the LHSAA's two athletic enigmas, John Curtis and Evangel Christian, move up or stay put in Class 2A? Principals in Classes 2A and 3A are wondering the same thing and trying to find a way to avoid having either as a classmate.
I posed that question during a conversation with LHSAA Executive Director Kenny Henderson. His thinking is that when it comes time to declare their intentions once the enrollment numbers are determined, principals in those two classes may have two letters: one reading "Yes, I'll play up," and "No, I will not play up." They turn in one or the other depending on what Curtis and Evangel declares in an effort to circumvent the situation.
It could be that Evangel will have a Class 3A enrollment by 2013-14 and choose to play up to 4A. It could also be that Curtis may also enlarge its enrollment and do the same.
Regardless, Henderson could ward off the impending circumvention by having the principals declare their intentions by fax or e-mail at a set time on a set day and not let them mill around in one room. Then no one would know anyone's intentions unless they ask.
But even if the principals do indeed pull the two-letter trick on Henderson, they cannot all be in the same class. If 180 of 182 principals of Class 2A decide to play up to 3A if Curtis and Evangel stay put, Henderson will simply divide all the 3A schools and the two 2A schools in half to even the classes. So the ploy will not work. But it will make for interesting conversations.
· Another school that will move up in class is Archbishop Hannan, the former Meraux Catholic school that relocated to Goodbee, outside of Covington, following Katrina. The administration is constructing an on-campus football stadium and enlarging its athletic complex now that enrollment is increasing.
The move from Class 1A to 2A will be beneficial to Hannan because it will take the Hawks out of a district that includes Southern Lab and Christian Life of Baton Rouge, Varnado, Mount Hermon and Kentwood and place Hannan with closer 2A schools such as Northlake Christian, Pine, Springfield, St. Helena Central, St. Thomas Aquinas and Pope John Paul II.
· How about St. Mary's Academy? With a new and improved campus comes a new and improved softball team, which won the District 10-3A softball championship for the first time in 2012. The Cougars posted a 16-4 overall record and an 11-1 district record. And they did it with two of their top pitchers – Callie Diaz and Parris Nelson – in the seventh and eighth grades, respectively. The top hitter was Tiffany Doss, a 10th grader with a reported .600 batting average. A sixth grader, Edwenia Foster, reportedly hit for a .480 average. SMA has been a K-through 12 school since 2008.
· Xavier University and O. Perry Walker will once again co-host the Super Elite Summer Basketball League beginning on May 30 at The Barn. One of the featured games of opening night will be the 8 o'clock finale between Scotlandville and St. Augustine. Scotlandville (33-1) is the reigning Class 5A state champion and St. Aug (28-3) is the 4A runner-up.
Other teams scheduled to compete in the five-week, off-season league are Brother Martin, Jesuit, Edna Karr, McDonogh 35, Catholic (Baton Rouge), Ellender, East St. John, Riverside Academy, St. Thomas More and the aforementioned host O.P. Walker.
Because of LHSAA restrictions, the teams cannot wear their official uniforms. Mini-games are scheduled for 4:30, 5:15, 6, 6:45, 7:15 and 8 p.m. on five consecutive Wednesdays. The final night is June 27.
· Retired football official Harold Parker is one of the great storytellers of local prep lore. He related the story of what officiating was like a half century ago.
Parker noted: "The Catholic League had what they called a preferential list of officials. The coaches would meet before the season and select the officials they wanted to work their games.
"If your name was not on the list, you did not work the Catholic League. I was fortunate to be one of the seven field judges that they picked.
"This was a hard list to break into. Make one bad call and you would be scratched from the list...probably for life."
Parker also said that in the mid-1950s, he had the opportunity to work the Baton Rouge High vs. Istrouma game, the biggest rivalry at the time in the capital city. Istrouma's legendary coach "Fuzzy" Brown chose New Orleans officials over Baton Rouge's association. Parker worked two straight years in games that featured Baton Rouge High's Jimmy Taylor and Istrouma's Billy Cannon.
For those too young to remember, both Taylor (1955-57) and Cannon (1957-60) later attended LSU. Taylor became an All-American fullback who starred with the great Green Bay Packers teams of the Sixties. Cannon became Louisiana's second Heisman Trophy winner in 1959 before playing pro football for the Houston Oilers, Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs. Both are in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.