Two weeks before the curtain raises for real on the 2017 football season, the three District 4-5A teams in Livingston Parish will get their toes wet against teams coming off of playoff seasons.
None is more enticing than a matchup that a lot of folks would like to see as a regular event during the regular season.
Live Oak entertains Franklinton at 5:30 p.m. Thursday and on Friday, Denham Springs High will host Catholic High, while Walker takes on Comeaux at Wildcat Stadium.
The matchup between the Yellow Jackets and Bears pits two first-year head coaches against each other who also happen to be close friends
New Denham coach Bill Conides was the offensive coordinator under first-year CHS coach Gabe Fertitta at St. Stanislaus and those two teamed up to direct a record turnaround – taking the Rock-a-Chaws from 0-9 in 2012 to 12-1 in 2013.
Fertitta left after that season for Catholic, with Conides taking the wheel and taking St. Stanislaus to new heights, with current LSU freshman Myles Brennan as his quarterback. Fertitta was named the Bears’ coach late last fall after Louisiana legend Dale Weiner retired.
Now Conides will take his new crew to the field against his friend and former boss.
“Gabe and I go way back and that’s part of it, but this also gives us a chance to compete against a really good team and that’s something looking for; we’re tired of hitting each other,” Conides said. “We wanted to make sure we get a chance to get in some good work against somebody who is going to make us better.”
Could this be a precursor to DSHS and Catholic returning to a regular-season rivalry? Conides said he would like to get the Bears on the schedule.
“We want to play great teams every chance we get,” Conides said.
For now, though, Jacket fans will have to settle for a controlled scrimmage, which kicks off at 6 p.m. Tickets will be $5.
The format will be both teams working on down-and-distance and red-zone situations, with second- and third-team players in the mix. The final portion will be a 12-minute quarter that simulates real-game conditions.
While DSHS and the Bears get work in, Walker and Live Oak will also be sharpening their claws.
The Wildcats get their first test against Comeaux, which finished 5-6 in 2016 with five losses by four points or fewer, including a 20-17 setback vs. Ponchatoula in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs.
Under new coach Lester Ricard, Walker is looking to build on its first playoff berth since 2001 with a strong corps of returning players, led by receiver Darius Hampton and linebacker Josh Cook. The scrimmage starts at 6 p.m. at Wildcat Stadium and tickets are $5.
Live Oak enters the 2017 season on the most successful run of the parish teams with back-to-back playoff berths and takes on perennial 4A playoff team Franklinton to get the new year rolling. The Eagles and Demons get started at 5:30 p.m. and admission is $5.