The name may have changed, but the teams are the same.
The new District 7-4A will consist of the same five teams that played in District 8-4A last season: Assumption, Ellender, Morgan City, South Terrebonne and Vandebilt Catholic.
And while Vandebilt may have been the favorite last year and lived up to it by winning the league behind the state’s leading rusher, Elijah McGuire (2,094 yards), his departure for Louisiana-Lafayette has the district title up for grabs in 2013.
Ellender senior quarterback Dustin Creppel helped the Patriots snap a 32-game losing streak last season as a junior and had some of the best numbers in the state, passing for 2,698 yards and 34 touchdowns.
He returns with his top four receivers and will look to improve on last season’s 1-3 district mark.
“We started out 3-1 (overall) last year, but this year we just have to stay humble,” he said. “Last year we were not humble. It messed us all up toward district, and we started losing a lot of games.”
Don’t count out Vandebilt, which has many starters back and is looking to prove it was more than a one-man show last season after going 11-2 overall and 4-0 in district and making a run to the state quarterfinals.
“We have always been in there ... but we have a lot of work to do to be as good as we were last year,” coach Brad Villavaso said. “I think the district is a lot more even than it has been in the past. I don’t think there is a bell cow in the group, but I think there will be some good games.”
South Terrebonne started a bunch of sophomores last season, and its strength will be defense, especially early on.
“The key for us will be to execute our game plan in district,” Gators senior linebacker David McCormick said. “I can’t wait to start hitting, and personally I can’t wait to play Ellender. I think their quarterback now knows what to expect from us (after the Gators topped Ellender 42-0 last season).”
Assumption, last season’s district runner-up at 3-1, also lost a lot of offensive talent but has seven defensive starters back.
“This district is a tough district, but it’s real open,” senior offensive lineman Grant Comeaux said. “You have a lot of teams looking to capture a championship, but it’s open. All five teams could take it. We just have to be a team that comes together and surprises everyone. A lot of teams are thinking, because we lost a lot on offense, we may not be competitive, but we have to use that to our advantage and work hard every day and get our team ready to play.”
The wild-card team may be Morgan City, which after a 15-year playoff absence hired Baton Rouge native Dennis Lorio as coach and athletic director. Lorio brought longtime coach Don Jones on as an assistant; he has a career mark of 232-151-3 as a head coach in the prep ranks.
Lorio led Thibodaux to the 1991 Class 5A state title and has an overall record of 105-70.
The Tigers, coached the past two years by former LSU player Brandon Nowlin — now an assistant at Nicholls State — have 13 combined juniors and seniors, but Lorio said the future is bright and the program is making strides with lots of participation from its sophomore and freshmen and some upgraded facilities.
“With the help of the administration and school board, they got the fieldhouse air-conditioned for the first time since 1973,” Lorio said. “We had homemade lockers, and we replaced them with metal lockers, and we upgraded helmets and shoulder pads and uniforms. But the most important factor of any team is the young men wearing the gear. We are trying to attract more kids and get the best kids we can to compete.”
Which may be a possibility for the Tigers this season in wide-open 7-4A.