District 4-5A: This league’s about more than Central’s Kevin Henry and Terrell Chatman

Other coaches contend the choice is obvious. Central High is the easy pick to win District 4-5A.

After all, the Wildcats have won six straight district titles and advanced to the state quarterfinals last season. In safety Kevin Henry and wide receiver Terrell Chatman, Central has two seniors ranked in the nation’s top 300 recruits for 2015.

Yet there’s an uneasy smile on the face of Central coach Sid Edwards. The veteran coach knows a setup when he sees it, and he knows looks can be deceiving.

“People asked me all summer about this season,” he said. “Yes, we have two guys who are highly regarded and they’ve committed to major schools. And that’s a good thing. That doesn’t guarantee you’ll win, especially in this district.”

Edwards’ comments bring up two valid questions. How do you judge success in District 4-5A? And is it all really about the Wildcats?

It’s no secret that District 4-5A is often considered to be Baton Rouge’s “other” 5A district and doesn’t always get the attention District 5-5A gets with its penchant for deep playoff runs and highly regarded recruits.

Consider this: District 4-5A technically had three teams in the state quarterfinals last season. Central and Zachary played in 5A, and Scotlandville was a quarterfinalist in the smaller Division I select bracket.

Central pulled off the biggest playoff upset by ousting traditional power West Monroe a week after another 4-5A team, Denham Springs, nearly beat the Rebels. Zachary lost to eventual state runner-up Parkway. Scotlandville lost to eventual Division I champion Archbishop Rummel by three points.

So it’s easy to see why Edwards believes the district race has to be about more than just Central. But things are quite different for teams other than the Wildcats.

Zachary has a new coach in David Brewerton, who coached Livonia to the Class 3A title game. After years of playing power football, Denham Springs is embracing the spread era with new offensive coordinator Aaron Vice. There’s also a different wrinkle at Broadmoor, where veteran coach Rusty Price and longtime assistant Elliott Wilkins will serve as co-coaches.

And then there are the players. Central’s Henry (LSU) and Chatman (Miami) are already committed to major schools. The spread offense will display Denham Springs quarterback Torez Kinchen in a new light.

“I think (the new offense) definitely interjects some new excitement,” DSHS coach Dru Nettles said. “It’s a transition year, but it’s something the players like, and they’re adapting to it. For us, it was more about finding ways to score more points.”

Zachary junior quarterback Lindsey Scott Jr. is another up-and-coming player. Live Oak senior quarterback Michael Claverie is a three-year starter. Scotlandville graduated much of its backfield but has some talented youngsters. Central’s Gabe Brown and Scotlandville’s Levi Lewis are sophomore QBs set to start for the first time.

Interestingly, Scotlandville is viewed as the No. 2 team in 4-5A team, just ahead of Zachary. The Hornets also move into the 5A playoff picture, thanks to an offseason rule change by the Louisiana High School Athletic Association.

“We’ve got young guys who are just as talented as some of the guys we graduated,” Scotlandville receiver Kaleb Harmon said. “They’ve done well this summer, and I definitely think we’ll surprise some people.”

Zachary’s Brewerton and Scotlandville coach Eric Randall contend that conversations about 4-5A must start with Central.

“Central’s won six straight titles, and they have a program that is proven,” Brewerton said. “The goal for the rest of us is to get to that level.

“We spent a lot of time in the spring and offseason focusing on toughness, especially on defense. If we can get the defense off the field more, we believe that will help us achieve our goals.”

Added Randall: “I have so much respect for the coaches and teams not only in our district, but in the other 5A district as well. Central is obviously successful, and everybody knows Zachary.”

“But I like the things Dru does at Denham Springs. And you can’t overlook Live Oak. (Coach) Tut Musemeche will have a plan just for you, and it won’t be pretty. Broadmoor, with Rusty Price, will be prepared. If you’re not focused, you’ll get beat.”

If you take a cue from Central’s Edwards and the other coaches, it’s easy to see there’s much more to 4-5A than just Central. The possibilities for an explosive district race abound.

The players, like Zachary linebacker Avery Neal, won’t let their imaginations run wild just yet.

“To be honest with you, I haven’t thought about the other teams in district yet,” he said. “We’ve been concentrating on us and making sure we’re ready to play our best. On defense, everything for us is faster and more physical. When the time (for district play) comes, I believe we’ll be ready.”