With the Louisiana High School Athletic Association's approval of separate football playoffs based on select or non-select school status recently, area schools such as White Castle, East Iberville and St. John of Plaquemine will be able to compete against each other for a district championship but no longer a state title.
"Going into the season, I never thought it would pass but as time progressed it gained momentum," White Castle coach Lamar Thomas said. "When you look at it, there are pros and cons. We are not sure enough to say that one school has an advantage and another doesn't and that is pretty much what it amounts to. A blind man can see that."
Between 120-140 of the LHSAA's 389-member schools will be designated as select, including private, charter, magnet, laboratory and dual-curriculum schools.
"It is a complicated situation," Plaquemine coach Paul Distefano said. "It wasn't a perfect system before and it is still not even close. Hopefully, some common ground can be reached within the next few years and we can meet halfway because it is not fair for a lot of schools that fall into that select category."
The select total could make up as much as 30 percent of the LHSAA's total membership. The LHSAA has 291 football schools. Schools in enrollment classes 5A to 3A would be placed in Select Division I; 2A and 1A schools would fall into Select Division II.
"It is going to be left up to the parties involved," St. John coach Mike Dugan said. "We are just going to go with how it is set up."
Select and nonselect schools will remain in districts together and play each other in the regular season. It is expected to add 59 schools to the football playoffs.
"I do believe that the LHSAA got it right this time by dividing the schools into select and non select categories," East Iberville coach John Young said. "Schools that are governed by attendance zones have been at an extreme disadvantage when playing against private schools."
The vote means that District 9-1A will remain the same with three public schools - White Castle, East Iberville and West St. John - vying for a title against three private schools - St. John, Ascension Catholic and Ascension Christian – before entering different playoff brackets. Plaquemine moves into realigned District 6-4A next season but will continue to compete with select school St. Michael the Archangel for league honors.
"As long as there is two different sides, you are not going to agree," Thomas said. "That is the biggest problem. Just do what is best for the kids. Some people confuse that and just do what is best for their kids and that is not right. They don't understand what goes on in a public school system on a daily basis. That is the straw that broke the camel's back."
Dissent among select schools may lead to withdrawal from the association, according to other sources.
"We are just not sure what is going to happen," Distefano said. "There are a lot of options for the future. There could be a backlash from private schools, which want to form their own association. A few schools will fall under select but it will not completely change everything."
Distefano noted that traditional 4A powers Edna Karr, Teurlings Catholic, St. Thomas More and Vandebilt Catholic will be select schools as well as John Curtis Christian and Evangel Christian, who have a combined 38 football titles, and were approved to play up in classification to 3A before the vote.
"They allowed schools to play up," Thomas said. "If they just would have let that happen, I don't think we would even be having this conversation."