It’s a question that makes Parkview Baptist football coach Kenny Guillot and his players pause to think.
The Eagles won the Class 3A state title last fall. With the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s new football playoff format that places schools into separate divisions for select and nonselect schools, the question is a simple one.
What, if anything, is Parkview defending?
“We are defending champions,” offensive lineman Lucas Reeves said. “But we’re not really defending anything. It’s the start of a new thing. Whoever wins it this year will be the champion.”
Parkview Baptist has won four Class 3A state football titles since 2001. The legendary Istrouma High program of the 1950s and 1960s is the only Baton Rouge school with more football titles.
Istrouma’s winning cycle ended. Dominance of private schools was one major reason given for the split plan that LHSAA principals approved in January.
Parkview was one of four private schools that won titles in 2012, along with a charter school, Karr, of New Orleans. Karr was recently deemed a nonselect and will be part of the larger division made up primarily of traditional public schools.
The Eagles now are part of the select Division II, which includes Class 4A and 3A enrollment-based teams. The group also includes traditional power John Curtis, which has 25 state titles, including last year’s 2A title.
Also in that Division II number is Evangel Christian, of Shreveport, which has 11 state titles since the 1990s. Curtis and Evangel were the teams singled out for their dominance before the select/nonselect vote.
Both opted to play up one class to 3A before January.
Guillot said he is not surprised to hear his team included in that number. The Eagles also won 3A titles in 2001, 2007 and 2010 to go along with a 2009 runner-up finish.
“My wife heard the talk about Curtis and Evangel, and she questioned what should be done,” Guillot said. “And I said, ‘Sandy, you know people are going to include us in that, too. That’s just how things are.’
“We’ve got to get ready for another season, and that’s what we’re focusing on. We know the playoffs will be extremely tough. We might have to play Notre Dame, St. Thomas More, St. Charles or Teurlings in the first round.”
A split destiny?
Guillot said PBS coaches have not addressed the select/nonselect issue with their players. In turn, the players say they didn’t follow it closely.
“I let it sort itself out and saw the end ruling,” senior offensive lineman Luke Gomez said.
“I personally don’t get it. We’re going to focus on our game. We’ll show up on Friday nights and play whoever we’re supposed to play. That’s all we can control.”
Guillot said there are still some unknowns about the new playoff system, including how the power ratings for select teams will work.
The fact Class 3A and 4A schools were combined to make Division II is another concern for the PBS coach, who notes that some 4A schools have enrollment of more than 1,000 students, about double that of Parkview and smaller schools from 3A.
Loss of playoff revenue is another concern for select schools. While the nonselect or traditional public schools can earn money from up to five playoff games, only one select division will have more than three playoff games to garner gate revenue.
Advocates point out some type of split was on the LHSAA’s horizon for 20 years before it happened.
The LHSAA staved off two attempts to split into separate divisions for public and private schools before January’s split football playoff vote.
The fact the split football plan was passed without a study on its impact remains a disappointment for Guillot, who also said LHSAA Executive Director Kenny Henderson could have taken a more active role without influencing votes.
“It was voted on without knowing for sure what schools would be select or nonselect,” Guillot said. “It was an emotional thing. What was voted on has already changed because most of the charter schools were taken out of the select group. We really didn’t know for sure what the playoffs would look like.
“I think they should have defined the whole thing better, and I think Mr. Henderson should have listed reasons for and against it. I know he doesn’t want to tell people how to vote, but I think he could have done it without telling people how to vote.”
A number of private schools are considering withdrawing from the LHSAA after 2013-14 if the split plan remains intact or if it is expanded to include other sports.
Guillot said he has questions about how the group of about 70 football schools could make their own playoff system work.
In defense of success
While PBS technically won’t be defending a state title on the field, the school’s winning tradition is something to defend. That is nothing new.
“People love to talk about recruiting, and I know that does happen,” Guillot said. “But it involves all schools, not just private schools.
“I had a public school coach in Baton Rouge tell me this summer that the hardest thing for him has been keeping all his players. They’re not going to private schools. … They’re going to other public schools.”
Gomez, the senior lineman, points out that 13 to 15 Parkview seniors started out in preschool there at age 3.
“There are people who say we recruit and we use steroids and that’s how we’re successful,” Gomez said. “And I can personally attest that doesn’t happen here.
“A lot of us were bed babies who started here as 3-year-olds. I’m 17, and I started coming here in preschool at age 3. Nobody was recruiting us then.”
Reeves adds, “We’re a bunch of average guys who work hard all year going toward one goal.
“It’s an uncommon goal of winning a state championship. We’ve succeeded and believe we can do it and that may what makes us different.”