Ever since the Louisiana High School Athletic Association instituted the power rankings system in 1999, high school coaches have changed the way they look at district championships.
For some, winning a district crown is nothing more than a feather in a cap or a patch on a jacket — nice, but mostly meaningless now that playoff teams are determined by how many points teams can accumulate and where they finish on a pre-set scale. But for others, like the coaches in District 8-5A, winning a district championship could be the only ticket to the postseason.
At the midway point of the season, there is no clear-cut favorite to win the league, which combines three River Parishes teams with three Jefferson Parish teams.
Defending champion East St. John, and traditional powerhouses Hahnville and Destrehan all won their district openers last week against the three Jefferson teams. But of the six, only Bonnabel, which lost to Hahnville, has a winning record at 3-2. None are ranked in the current Class 5A polls nor even receiving votes.
And according to the current unofficial power rankings, which award points based on wins and losses of both the teams and their opponents, only one of the six, Destrehan, is in the top 32. Destrehan (3-2) is currently at the cut off spot of 32. East St. John (2-3) is 42, Bonnabel (3-2) is at 44, Higgins (1-3) is at 49, Hahnville(1-4) is at 52 and Ehret (0-5) is last at 56.
Compounding the issue is the fact the only opponents the teams have remaining are each other, giving even fewer opportunities to accumulate power points and rise on the list. But whichever team wins the district will be assured a spot in the playoffs, and, according to the numbers, could very well be the only one from the league. The district is a combined 10-19, and all six teams lost a week — and points — because of Hurricane Isaac.
“It’s still important to win the district,” said Hahnville coach Lou Valdin, whose Tigers were 0-4 until last week’s 20-19 win over Bonnabel. “Just to know that, if you win the district, you make the playoffs. And in our league, this year, that might be the only way you make it.”
East St. John coach Phil Banko, whose team won last year’s title, said he doesn’t like the power ratings system to begin with.
“I never have,” he said “It’s still a very competitive district. The teams have been less fortunate this year against nondistrict opponents. You’ve still got to finish. And we could be No. 100 in the power points. If you win the district, you make the playoffs and then anything can happen.”
And this year, with no dominant team scorching opponents and scooping up points, the race could go down to the wire.
“Everybody’s got a chance to win it,” said Destrehan coach Stephen Robicheaux, who returned to the Wildcats’ sideline after a two-year hiatus.
“It could come down to whoever’s playing each other in Week 10.
“It’s a rebuilding year for everybody,” said Bonnabel coach Reggie Rogers. “And every week you have to be ready, no matter who you play. We’re all trying to gain experience. But we’re sticking to the script. We still want to win the district championship. That’s not going to change.”
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