Area coaches split on select, non-select format

Should the high school football select divisions be reincorporated into its respective classes, or should the current select-nonselect split remain in effect?

That will be the question once again when the LHSAA annual convention rolls around from Jan. 29-31 in Baton Rouge.

Each class will get to vote whether to reunite that specific class, which could lead to some groups reforming and some remaining separated.

The dust has settled on the first year of nine state champions, and local coaches were split on if the system should remain in place.

Even two coaches that won state championships — Haynesville’s David Franklin and Calvary’s John Bachman, Sr. — had differing opinions on the split.

“We like it — it’s what you play for,” said Franklin, whose Haynesville team won the Class 1A state championship and completed the program’s 11th undefeated season. “I told the guys that you’ve accomplished all that you can accomplish.

“I’d like to play anybody in the state right now, public or private.”

If the split had not been in place, a potential championship opponent could have been Division IV winner Vermilion Catholic, who beat St. Frederick 63-18 and was one of three teams to either tie or break the previous state record for points scored by one team.

The first team to do it? Calvary. The Cavaliers scored 62 points in a 62-7 Division III win against Archbishop Hannan and nearly set a record for margin of victory in a title game.

But Bachman said he was against the split and will be again this January.

“Our kids will tell you right now — it was a watered down state championship,” Bachman said. “If I was asked that question, I knew this would be answer: You name a team out there (in the championship) that wants to play us next, and put the ball down.

“I didn’t think (the split) was the best thing for our organization. Anytime you can try and get the best competition, that’s what you need to try to do. That’s the America I know. I’m not knocking anybody … but do I think we could win (Class 2A) no matter what? Yes I do.”

Many and Kinder played for the Class 2A state title with the Yellow Jackets winning 34-20.

Calvary played two championship contenders in higher classes, losing to Byrd and Parkway in the first half of the season.

Parkway coach David Feaster, who led his Panthers to the Class 5A championship game in a 77-41 loss to Acadiana, said he thinks the school principals “got it right” with the split.

Feaster said mismatches in championship games occurred in the past, and he would like to see the system stay in place for several years to evaluate the balance of power.

“It shouldn’t be taken into consideration,” Feaster said of the mismatches. “I looked at the (Division III) bracket and thought Calvary was going straight to the Dome.

“But let’s leave it like it is for five years … and I think teams will rise up. You could say that (mismatch) about our game, but it helped our program. We beat Byrd who played Rummel really close, so I don’t think anybody was playing for a consolation state championship.”

Feaster added that he believes almost no school will vote to reunite the classes.

Mansfield coach Glen Hall, whose Wolverines play in District 1-3A with Evangel, said the split gives public schools a more equal opportunity at a state title.

“This allows public schools opportunities to play with their kids just in their community,” Hall said. “That’s the way it ought to be.

“It’s an opportunity to play against your peers. I believe if I wouldn’t have lost my quarterback (Dominique Hill), we would have been right there in the hunt for a championship. The opportunities are open to everybody.”

Byrd played in its first state championship game since 1962, falling to Rummel 23-22. Byrd is a public magnet school that “selected” about one-third of its enrollment, therefore being placed in the Division I category.

Coach Mike Suggs said he’s been against the split from Day 1, and he still doesn’t think it’s the right format for Louisiana even though his Yellow Jackets advanced to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

“This state isn’t big enough for nine champions,” Suggs said. “I don’t think we ought to be separated, we need to line up and play ’em.

“I’d like to see the whole thing go back to the way it was (five classes).”

The extra money earned by the LHSAA and member schools as well as the increased playoff and championship opportunities for students is enough to get Feaster’s approval.

“Captain Shreve made the playoffs (in 5A), and they got another $7,000 in their offseason account,” said Feaster, whose Panthers played the Gators at Lee Hedges in a game that wouldn’t have happened without the split. “A lot of teams got extra practice time.

“All programs benefit from it because you go further in the playoffs and it makes you better. There’s not a downside.”

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