I am going to make a quick overview of the upcoming District 8-1A football race this week and then move on next week to the District 8-3A.

Also, I am doing a little research on the state prep football scene and will likely have a report later in September.

I have one more column of information written by Coach Don Landry on a brief history of prep boxing in the BR area, which always includes Plauemine High, a dominant state and local program back in the 40s and 50s. I will get that out soon, but want to get rolling with football first.

The 8-1A coaches took a vote and it came down about the same way I picked when I was on the Plaquemine Sports Radio Show with Denny Wright at Plaquemine High recently.

It certainly looks like the trio of White Castle, St. John, and West St. John are a bit above the rest of the district programs on the gridiron. However, I see Ascension CHS being, in the least, an outside contender for a power-point playoff berth.

I think WCHS, SJHS, and WSJHS are all in good shape for state playoffs berths in 2010. The trio of league meetings will be interesting.

West St. Johnis a very tough place to play (down Edgard way). This year the WSJHS Rams must go to Plaquemine, where they have both won and lost in the past against St. John. However, after last year’s unexpected and down-to-the-wire 28-27 Eagle victory, the locals should be happy to be the host this time around. To a slight disadvantage, the WCHS Bulldogs must travel to Edgard this season and that will be a tough place for them to win. West St. John holds a recent advantage over the Bulldogs, beating the WCHS boys home and away. If White Castle’s veteran team wants to win a district title, they must break a string of losses to both WSJHS and St. John that goes back to the late 1990s. While WC travels to Edgard, they host St. John at home this season. After giving the Eagles troubles for an entire half last year in Plaquemine, their big hope will be to play a complete game against St. John at home this season.

WhiteCastlehas the most returning starters (17) and proven offensive power with LSU commitment Ronald Martin (2,700 total offensive yards and 19 TDs to his credit last year) and junior running back Tyree Bracken (1,450 yards and 14 TDs). Those are just two of many talented returnees. Gerad Carlin could be the best returning lineman in the league, while Jonathan Roberts is the most underrated defensive standout in the district. The list goes on with speedsters Shaquille Armstead and Terrance Taylor and others.

The one element of the team that could keep them behind either St. John or West St. John, or both, is a defense that has never been outstanding in recent playoff seasons. The offense scores points for Bulldog glory, but the defense sometimes gives up more.

St. John has more holes to fill with young, untested players than in recent years, but the Eagles looked surprisingly smooth and strong in their recent scrimmage against a better than average 3-A Livonia High team. The Eagle coaching staff is a good one, and head mentor Barry “Tut” Musemeche is a proven leader of winning football. And, despite a few more new faces in the lineup than usual, plenty of standout and two- and three-year productive Eagles return.

La. Tech commitment Warren Bates is a solid all-district level running back and linebacker. Senior quarterback Mike Martinez has a matured arm and improved success running the ball, personally, and the Eagle offense, overall. Junior Da’vante Williams adds to the offensive mix and is as dangerous with the ball in his hands as any of the standouts coming from the other district teams. He can catch as well as he can run.

And, to pull it all together is a veteran group of defensive regulars in Herman Fitch, Curtis Jones, Kade Yarbrough, and Nathan Voisin as well as the biggest offensive line group Musemeche has had in his three years at SJHS. Only Dakota Richard and Dustin Comeaux have any experience from last year, but the newcomers are all big and solid, including senior Michael Collins, who was set to start last year, but suffered a season-ending knee injury and missed all of 2009.

The league coaches picked West St. John and WCHS to tie in the district title race and for St. John to be right behind them and playoff eligible. I see it a bit different. West St. John has its least experienced group of the last four years with a lot of holes to be filled. Although the Rams always show up with talented and solid football players, that lack of experience in a lot of key lineup spots could push WCHS and SJHS by them in the final standings. Of the three top runners, WCHS is the closest to being what everyone things they will be, while St. John is underrated and WSJHS is overrated. We will just have to see.

If there is a darkhorse team that could challenge the top three teams, it is likely Ascension CHS. Longtime veteran and knowledgeable coach Ricky Bolotte picked up a solid running back over the summer who can replace injured standout Myron Dominique (1,398 yards). Reports out of the ACHS camp are that Dominique will miss the entire season with a severe knee injury. But transferring in from 5-A Dutchtown High is 6-2, 215-lb. senior eligible Parris Stewart. If he can lead the Bulldog offense like Dominique did last year, then the AC boys could have a shot at a playoff berth with the district known to be one of the better ones in the state Class A ranks.

I expect East Iberville, still down in numbers and young in experience both on the line and in the backfield in some spots, will challenge Christian Life Academy for what is left of 8-1A victories and honors. The EIHS Tigers beat CLA last year to claim its first district gridiron victory in close to a decade of attempts.

Despite lack of experience and numbers, the EI Tigers have football talents in RB Nicholas Brooks, RB-WR-DB Greg Pickett, OL-TE-LB Andre Wright, and OL-DL Marlon Stewart.

CLA lost talent to graduation for the second consecutive year in a row as well as highly-regarded head coach Warren Capone. The Crusaders return fewer starters than even East Iberville (11 to 7 overall). Meanwhile, Ascension Christian goes at least one more year with a Junior Varsity schedule after just starting a grid program two years ago.

I say the key game of the year will be in White Castle with the hosting Bulldogs taking on parish rival St. John for the title (on my birthday...Oct. 8). Whatever team shows up with the better defense will win it all. Other key encounters will be Oct. 22 in Edgard with the WSJHS Rams hosting WCHS, and then Nov. 5 with the Rams visiting St. John in Plaquemine.

Right now, I say SJHS and WCHS is a tossup for the title with West St. John and ACHS just outside the realm of champs. If the WCHS team that beat St. Martin’s 20-6 in the playoffs shows up early this season, instead of the one that allowed 67 points to Haynesville the next week in the playoffs, then I might give the Bulldogs an edge the closer we get to the early October game kickoff against the Eagles. WC has a great offense, but great defensive efforts win championships.

All three of the parish teams in the league (SJHS, WC, and EI) have five home games and five away this season. That beats Plaquemine High, which has only three games at home this season. But that is another story, coming next week.

POST COLUMN…After penning the above column I watched White Castle against Brusly last Friday in a scrimmage workout and was very impressed with the Bulldogs offensively, and even more so with what looks like an improved defense. Meanwhile, Ronald Martin showed me he has moved to another level as a prep player and a standout. I see why he impressed Coach Les Miles and was offered a scholarship to LSU. He has the ability to dominate a high school game.

FORMER PHS Principal and old buddy and fellow Catholic High alumni Joe LeBlanc is now the assistant principal at Zachary High. He happened to mention to me that former LSU friend and Tiger receiver standout Lonnie Myles is a big booster of ZHS and the school system up that way. He also announces the Zachary gridiron games.

My cousin Duncan Bridewell lived in the Pentagon Barracks dorm across the hallway from Lonnie when the three of us were freshmen in the fall of 1965. After playing a few touch football games outside of the dorm, my cousin and his dorm area mates, and me, managed to take Myles into walking on the next spring. The rest is history. Lonnie became a favorite of Coach Charlie McClendon and became a standout receiver for the Tigers. He later settled with his family in Zachary.

I wish I had known sooner that was Lonnie up in the press box. I would have visited and told him what Duncan is up to these days.

VOLLEYBALL NOTE: Since volleyball jamborees were so early in the week and after sports deadline, we will begin coverage next week and with photos from the Brusly jamboree.