WEST MONROE, NEVILLE, PARKVIEW, CURTIS, OCS START ON TOP
Four are defending state champions while the other was close a year ago and has a championship pedigree.
Defending state champions West Monroe (5A), Neville (4A), John Curtis (2A) and Ouachita Christian (1A) top the preseason SportsNola Louisiana Top 10 polls. Parkview Baptist is the pick in 3A.
In 5A, Don Shows is well, Don Shows. How can you argue with the success of West Monroe? The Rebels have won eight state championships since 1993, including in 2011. They have won two of the last three 5A titles. They have played for the 5A state championship in each of the last four seasons. West Monroe has key players back. Senior Michael Mims is the quarterback. Defensive back Xavier Woods had five interceptions a year ago. The Rebels could make it over the top if transfer Cameron Robinson, an elite player for the class of 2014, is declared eligible for 2014. Either way, they are the chalk. Barbe has the talent to challenge with Desean Smith, Kennon Fontenot and Trey Quinn.
In 4A, Neville remains the team to beat. The Tigers won it all in 2009 and in 2011. Mickey McCarty has restored the roar and the balance of power (along with West Monroe) in Louisiana's top classifications to northeast Louisiana. John Diarse is a terrific athlete on both sides of the football. LSU is getting a very good player. Junior defensive back Laurence Jones is an emerging star. Running back Salarrious Jones can really go. Neville has an elite pedigree, with 10 state championships to its credit. Edna Karr looks like the prime challenger with Speedy Noil, Noel Ellis and Standish Dobard leading the way.
In 3A, Parkview Baptist lost an epic battle to eventual champion St. Charles Catholic in last year's semifinals. The Eagles have excellent players returning under Kenny Guillot. They have three state championships to their credit, all since 2001. Parkview Baptist won the title in 2010. Senior quarterback Brennan Bozeman is a three-year starter. Three talented running backs average 200 pounds. Seth Reynolds is an elite punter. Amite may present the most serious challenge with talented running back James Oden Jr., a speedy quarterback in Adrian Seiber, a big offensive line and superb defensive back Reginald Bennett. You cannot discount Frank Monica and defending champion St. Charles Catholic with outstanding defensive lineman Taylor Cochran and linebacker Luke Jackson, a Tulane commitment.
In 2A, this is the best John Curtis team since 2006. That is a scary thought. In fact, it is one of the most talented teams in school history. Patrick Morton returns at quarterback. There is a stable of very good running backs. Malachi Dupre is an elite athlete. Duke Riley is an outstanding linebacker. The secondary is immensely talented. There are 10-14 seniors who will sign college scholarships. There is a coach with over 500 wins and 24 state championships. This looks like the best team in the state in any classification. Enough said. Evangel has a terrific receiver in Trey Taylor, running back Ja'Ylon Holmes, a huge offensive line, a good quarterback in Dakota Duron and an electric linebacker in X'Zavier Preston.
In 1A, Ouachita Christian was a dominant force in winning it all in 2011 for their fourth state championship. Steven Fitzhugh lost a lot of talent from last year's team but still has very good players returning. Quinn Graves and Braden Bristo excel at quarterback, running back Ahkeem Henderson is outstanding and linebacker Cade Harper is really good. While they lost key players, there is immense talent back. West St. John has perhaps the best running back in 1A in Kylum Favorite while quarterback Austin Howard is back. Eric Bell is an outstanding athlete.
Here are our preseason SportsNola.com Top 10 rankings:
1) WEST MONROE--Robinson would put them over the top
2) BARBE--Best offense in the class with Fontenot, Smith & Quinn
3) ACADIANA--Bitter taste still lingers from loss to Rummel
4) ST. PAUL--Bitter taste still lingers from loss to Central
5) OUACHITA PARISH--Taijuan Thomas is superb
6) RUMMEL--Williams best run/pass QB in area, maybe in state
7) WEST JEFFERSON--Ronald Lewis tops superb skill set of players
8) DUTCHTOWN--Looking to take next step
9) CARENCRO--Physical presence was obvious in 2011
10) DENHAM SPRINGS--Lawson and Blanchard lead the way
Others to watch: Central, Zachary, Jesuit, Byrd, Mandeville, East St. John, Brother Martin, Ruston, Haughton, Parkway
1) NEVILLE--Diarse leads the way
2) KARR--Good enough to beat Neville this year
3) ST. THOMAS MORE--Bergeron very good QB
4) BREAUX BRIDGE--Filer and Girouard lead defense
5) LUTCHER--Matherne a great leader
6) MCDONOGH 35--Santa Marina and Henderson lead way
7) ST. AUGUSTINE--Fournette is special
8) SALMEN--Doss and Thomas lead way
9) TEURLINGS CATHOLIC--Hebert and Provost lead top defense
10) O. PERRY WALKER--Clark and Smith lead athletic defense
Others to watch: Alexandria, Bastrop, Minden, Assumption, St. Louis Catholic, South Terrebonne, East Jefferson, Franklin Parish, Belle Chase, Washington-Marion
1) PARKVIEW BAPTIST--Physical, good offense, solid defense
2) AMITE--So close a year ago
3) ST. CHARLES CATHOLIC--Proven coach, proven commodity
4) NOTRE DAME--Proven coach, proven commodity
5) PATTERSON--Cannot ignore talent
6) FARMERVILLE--Very physical
7) PORT ALLEN--Claiborne and Johnson lead way
8) EAST FELICIANA--Beckwith is special
9) MARKSVILLE--Gibson outstanding DB
10) JENNINGS--12 starters back
Others to watch: Loranger, Livonia, Rayne, Bossier, Eunice, Westlake, Brusly, McMain, E.D. White, De La Salle
1) JOHN CURTIS--One of the best teams in the U.S.
2) EVANGEL--Try to avoid Curtis until 'Dome
3) WINNFIELD--Pyles has piled up talent
4) UNIVERSITY LAB--Ton of talent
5) CALVARY BAPTIST--Bradford leads the way
6) CATHOLIC-NEW IBERIA--Lissard is best in class
7) HOLY SAVIOR MENARD--Hallman will have them ready
8) KINDER--Harmon had 35 touchdowns last year
9) NEWMAN--Tyler and Bussey have chance to be special
10) EPISCOPAL--Bridgewater transfer hurt
Others to watch: Loreauville, Many, Ville Platte, Welsh, Homer, Pope John Paul II, West St. Mary, Riverside, St. Thomas Aquinas, Carver
1) OUACHITA CHRISTIAN--Until proven otherwise
2) WEST ST. JOHN--Could be in the 'Dome again
3) VERMILION CATHOLIC--Talent helps coaching change
4) CENTRAL CATHOLIC--Singleton, Hoffpauir & Brown good
5) MANGHAM--13-1 last year and Staten leads defense
6) HAYNESVILLE--Jackson good athlete
7) BLOCK--Very good speed
8) OAK GROVE--Dalrymple an elite coach
9) WESTMINSTER CHRISTIAN--Williams leads good receiving corps
10) KENTWOOD--Nichols leads very good defense
Others to watch: St. John, Christian Life, St. Edmund, Southern Lab, Cedar Creek, Elton, White Castle, Country Day, Delhi Charter, St. Mary