It’s not set in stone, but teams from Livingston Parish got what they were looking for when the Louisiana High School Athletic Association released its revised redistricting plan for the 2022-24 school years on Monday.
The biggest shift for the basic districts is in Class 5A, where Denham Springs, Walker and Live Oak are now in District 5-5A with Ascension Parish’s St. Amant, East Ascension and Dutchtown, something coaches and administrators from those schools sought during last week’s first round of appeals.
“I think it went as well as we could ask for,” Walker athletic director Joey Sanchez said. “We’re looking forward to it, and hopefully everything is finalized on (Dec. 3). We’ll go back Wednesday (Dec. 1) and see if anybody’s got any appeals, and then we’ll move forward after that, but we’re excited about the new district.”
“We’re excited, man,” Live Oak baseball coach and athletic director Jesse Cassard said. “I’m kind of anxious to see when we get back (from Thanksgiving break) to see what happens. I want to make sure it’s 100 percent. You never know, man, I’ve seen some crazy stuff.”
Cassard and Sanchez praised the presentation made by Live Oak principal Beth Jones to the LHSAA during last week’s appeal process.
“She did a real good job of presenting our case,” Sanchez said. “I think it helped that we were all in alignment, that all six principals were there and Mr. (David) Alexander, the superintendent (from Ascension Parish), was also present. The show of … unity really helped us out and it’s a feather in our cap.”
Added Cassard: “We had all the right information. We answered all the questions that were asked. I really worked well in our favor.”
“All six schools are on board,” Cassard continued. “All six schools signed a letter. All six schools were in support at LHSAA, so strength in numbers. We’re unified going into it, and it just makes a lot of sense. I think all of us are excited for the possibilities.”
Denham Springs football coach and athletic director Brett Beard summed up his feelings on the plan.
"I'll play in any district they've got," he said. "Wherever you tell us to play, we're going to play. But I'm not going to sit here and lie to you and tell you I'm not excited about it. I'm excited for it from the standpoint of all these communities, the parity is a lot alike. Freshman games are going to be packed. JV games are going to be packed, and varsity games are going to be packed. No matter what sport, they travel well. There's a lot of similarities that are going to bring a lot of excitement to all our sports, girls and boys. It should be a very solid district."'
In the new plan, Central, Scotlandville and Zachary are part of District 4-5A along with Baton Rouge High, Catholic, Liberty, St. Joseph’s Academy and Woodlawn.
"Really, when you look at it, how do you not make sense of it?" Beard said. "The EBR schools together, that's EBR Parish, and they've got a big enough group to make a very competitive district across the board. I see arguments on both sides, but it's really not a terrible situation. I think it benefits everybody."
Sanchez stressed the current district plan isn’t a done deal and said an appeal from the schools headed to the Baton Rouge district is a possibility. Appeals must be received by 1 p.m. Monday.
“I would think so,” Sanchez said of a possible appeal. “I know it was discussed the other day at the football all district meeting. To what extent, I really don’t know, but I’m sure one of the schools is going to propose something.
“We’re just going playing a waiting game and hopefully it will continue to fall out like we proposed, and we’ll be set to meet and get everything lined up for the next two years,” Sanchez said. “Hopefully it will be a long-lasting relationship with Ascension Parish.”
Elsewhere, Doyle, which is moving up to 3A, opted not to appeal and is in District 6-3A with Collegiate Baton Rouge, Glen Oaks, Madison Prep, Mentorship Academy, Parkview Baptist, Port Allen and University Lab. Meanwhile, District 7-3A includes Albany, Amite, Bogalusa, Sumner and Pine.
“Just the logistics of being closer, not having those long nights driving home played the biggest part in it,” Doyle baseball coach and athletic director Tim Beatty said of the school’s reasoning behind not trying to get into District 7-3A. “A lot of our players, kids drive once they turn junior and senior, we don’t take a bus, so we didn’t really want them on those dark roads coming home from Bogalusa and Pine, those long trips. You go to Baton Rouge, there’s an exit every few miles, and it’s lit up pretty good, and I think we’ll have more fan support going into Baton Rouge than we would going the other way. I think that was the biggest part of it.
“Besides the boys basketball, I think the other three (major) sports, are going to compete really well, and I think the boys basketball, I think they’ll get better playing in that district, too,” Beatty continued.
Beatty said playing in a Baton Rouge based district will also help Doyle athletes get more exposure.
“I’m real excited,” Beatty said. “From the baseball standpoint, hey, if I’ve got a really good team, guess what? Some scouts are going to come watch me play Parkview and U High. They’ve got great facilities, and they’ll drive to Baton Rouge and watch us. They’re not going to go anywhere else to watch us.”
In Class 2A, the new plan has French Settlement in District 7-2A with Springfield, Independence, Northlake Christian, Pope John Paul II, St. Helena and St. Thomas Aquinas.
“That’s what we were hoping for,” FSHS principal John Chewning said. “That’s a district that we have several rivalries and relationships in, so we were hoping to kind of stay in it, so I’m thankful that they honored the request and put us back in there.
FSHS was in District 6-2A with Baker, Capitol, Dunham, East Feliciana, Episcopal and Northeast in the original plan.
“I think really, overall, it kind of came down to the fact that it only really did anything with us,” Chewning said of why the LHSAA likely went with the change. “French Settlement was the only people that were really, one way or the other, affected by it.”
“I’m happy,” Chewning continued. “I know our coaches will be happy. Not that we necessarily didn’t want to be in the other district, but this is kind of our district we’ve been in. We’ve got some rivalries there that help when it comes to the gate and stuff like that that we didn’t want to lose.”
In Class B, Holden and Maurepas are in District 7 with Christ Episcopal, Christo Rey and Mount Hermon.
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