By CHRISSY SMITH
Tammany West sports
SLIDELL – The Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s football playoffs will have a very different look this year.
In a ruling voted upon earlier this year, all private and a handful of public schools listed as “select admission” will compete separately from traditional public schools in the state football playoffs and championships.
Around the state of Louisiana, some public-school principals have pushed for the change for years, saying they are at an unfair disadvantage against private schools, which can recruit players from a wide area. In contrast, public teams are limited to students who live within their school’s enrollment districts, usually neighborhoods close to campus.
Schools overseen by the Louisiana High School Athletic Association voted 206-119 in January to establish the separate playoffs for this year’s football season.
Here is how things have changed:
Class 1A-through-5A public schools will each have its own league and state champion – just like it’s always been.
The difference will be within the four select brackets that will now also crown state champions.
Class 5A, 2A and 1A select schools will have their own brackets. Because of the lack of select schools in 3A and 4A, those schools will merge and will compete in its own bracket – a move that brings the number of state champions in Louisiana football from five to nine.
For public schools, nothing will be significantly different, as each classification will still have its own, five-round playoff bracket to crown a champion.
Little will significantly change except the percentage of non-select schools to reach postseason play will now be slightly higher.
In Class 5A, 52 public schools will compete for 32 postseason spots.
In 4A, there are 49 non-select schools, while Class 3A has 52.
Class 2A and 1A are the thinnest non-select fields with 39 and 27 teams, respectively. In Class 1A, first-round byes will be given to the top seeds determined by the regular season.
The dramatic changes come when one takes a look into the system in place for the select schools.
For Class 5A select schools (now called Division I), only 10 teams are eligible for competition. That means that every team made the postseason – whether 0-10 or 10-0. It also means that one of those same 10 schools will win the state championship every season – something that will eliminate parity in the sport.
For select schools now in Class 4A and Class 3A (now called Division II), 16 eligible schools will compete for the title.
Class 2A select schools (now Division III) and Class 1A select schools (now Division IV) will also all reach the playoffs with 15 and 30 eligible teams, respectively.
So for this year, in Class 5A, the Covington Lions will play at home on Friday at 7 p.m. They were seeded No. 14 for the playoffs and will take on No. 19 Airline. Also in 5A, the No. 12 Mandeville Skippers will take on No. 21 John Ehret on Friday at 7 p.m.
In Class 4A, the Lakeshore Titans will have to play on the road in the first round of the postseason after being seeded No. 21. The Titans will play at Belle Chass on Friday at 7 p.m.
Being a private school, the St. Paul’s Wolves were placed into Division I and were seeded No. 7, which means they will take on No. 10 Archbishop Shaw on Friday at 7 p.m.
Playing in Division III, Northlake Christian received a No. 3 seed, which means NLC will be playing at home against No. 14 Redemptorist in the first-round of the state playoffs.
Receiving the No. 4 seed in Division III is No. 4 Archbishop Hannan, and that local team will play at home against No. 13 Westminster Christian.