Fans of Districts 4-5A and 5-5A probably disagree when asked which local football district is better.
There is no debate about which matchups highlight Friday’s first league games. Central (4-1) travels to Zachary (4-1) in District 4-5A, while seventh-ranked Dutchtown (3-1) hosts unbeaten St. Amant (4-0) to open the 5-5A schedule.
The four teams have already made an impression. Zachary handed Dutchtown its lone loss in nondistrict play two weeks ago. Last week, St. Amant handed Central its first loss.
Those nondistrict games fuel debate about the two local districts. Playing a rival is the ignition source this week.
“Playing another Ascension Parish school is always special, but considering where we are this year, this one means even more,” St. Amant coach David Oliver said. “The last two years, I felt like we were on the cusp of being a really good team and ended up 5-5.
“The difference this year is turnover margin. We’re plus-11 and have been very consistent. We’re doing what Dutchtown has done so well through the years.”
The St. Amant-Dutchtown and Central-Zachary games highlight a busy Week 6 schedule in Classes 5A-4A. Fourth-ranked Lutcher (4-0, 2-0) travels to Baton Rouge for the first time this season to play at Istrouma (1-4, 1-1) in District 6-4A. St. Michael (4-1, 1-0) hosts Belaire (0-4, 0-2) also in a 6-4A game at Louisiana Leadership’s Doug Williams Stadium. Plaquemine (2-3, 1-0) at Broadmoor (2-3, 1-1) is the other 6-4A game.
Tara (1-3) hosts Sarah Reed (1-3) for a nondistrict game at BREC’s Olympia Stadium.
Other 5A games include Scotlandville (2-2) at Denham Springs (3-2) and Walker (2-3) at Live Oak (3-2) in 4-5A, along with Catholic (2-2) at Woodlawn (0-5) and East Ascension (2-3) at McKinley (4-1) in 5-5A.
“I know he (Oliver) knows all their numbers on turnovers and takeaways,” Dutchtown coach Benny Saia said. “The thing I see when I look at St. Amant is their passion and intensity. We have to be able to match that.
“The thing we can’t do is let them control the ball on the ground and first down us to death. Our defense has to get stops, and when we have the ball, we need to capitalize.”
Quarterback Mason Nickens has passed for 492 yards to lead a balanced Dutchtown offense. Trey Washington, who ran for 211 yards last week, helps lead St. Amant’s option attack that features several backs.
There will be no shortage of intensity for Central and Zachary, either, but ZHS coach Neil Weiner said the game may be decided by the defensive lines.
“I really think the team that makes the fewest mistakes and gets an advantage with their defensive line will win it,” Weiner said. “Central’s line is undersized, but they get after you and make things happen.
“Our defensive line has the size advantage over their offensive line. But the way Central runs their spread offense it has a tendency to negate that. Our line needs to find ways to pressure them and make plays.”
Both teams have playmakers. Zachary quarterback Trey Hills has 1,146 passing yards, while Central’s Brett Courville at 998. Central’s Gary Triplett (26 catches, 432 yards) and Zachary’s Donald Gage (25-410) are the area’s only receivers with more than 400 yards.
The fact Zachary beat three previously unbeaten teams for a three-game winning streak is something Central coach Sid Edwards notes.
“I think we’re going to find out who we are as a football team this week,” Edwards said. “We experienced some adversity last week. How will we respond to that?
“Zachary gives you a lot to prepare for. It’s the first district game, and it’s a big one.”