No matter how much camouflage is applied, Livonia begins the season as the obvious target in District 5-3A.
“Livonia, hands dow,n is the team to beat,” said Ville Platte coach Tracey Jagneaux, whose team wasn’t in 3A last season.
Not many, it seems, disagreed with him.
While all the teams in the district have a sufficient number of returning starters, it’s the ones at Livonia who stand out.
Even Northwest senior receiver Justin Ardoin has taken notice.
“The best team is Livonia, definitely, and also Church Point,” he said. “Livonia has a very good running game, and they implement it well. They also do a good job of spreading the ball around.”
Livonia coach David Brewerton tried to point to Church Point as a contender, but the rest of 5-3A wasn’t buying it.
The Bears are returning a leading rusher and tackler, but that’s not enough to draw the district consensus.
Brewerton said he likes the progress that Northwest, in St. Landry Parish, has made in the two seasons that coach Darnell Lee has been at the school.
But the Wildcats played in the Class 3A semifinals last year, and that caught the attention of Livonia’s opponents.
Throw in the return of Livonia all-state linebacker Russell Farris and split end Darius Hammond, and the rest of 5-3A is taking notice.
Ardoin said he likes Farris’ ability, but he said there are other good players in the district.
“Ville Platte is going to have a lot of height, and Church Point has James Bellard, who’s very good,” he said. “Port Barre has a good running back who is also a good linebacker (in Brennan Romar.”
Bellard, who gained 986 yards last year, said he is looking forward to the matchup with Livonia.
“I think we should have beaten them last year, but we lost the game in the last few minutes,” he said.
Ville Platte senior Kendall Ardoin, a 6-foot-7 tight end who has committed to Tulane, said he welcomes the competition in 3A.
“Personally, I like competition,” he said. “Livonia would have to be my pick as possibly the best team, but Northwest and Church Point are always tough.”
Farris, a returning all-state linebacker, said there are other good teams in 5-3A.
“Church Point, they’re pretty good,” he said. “I think we have all good teams, so (Livonia) is going to have to bring it to the table. I like Northwest, too, because they are improved this year.”