Coaches, especially at the high school level, like to downplay things like football polls — at least claim to.
Being ranked simply gives the opposition more reason to get hyped to beat you. A case in point is Acadiana, Class 5A’s top-ranked team in the preseason poll, but the Rams fell out of the top 10 after two losses.
It’s hard for fans to avoid talking about District 1-5A, however, which is setting the bar statewide with four teams ranked in the Louisiana Sports Writers Association Top 10 poll, a first in recent memory.
“Who’s not in there?” asked Parkway coach David Feaster. “If you had asked me to pick which school wasn’t in there, I would have had a tough time picking one. Haughton definitely deserves to be in there too.”
Undefeated Airline (6-0) leads the local contingent at No. 5, while Evangel, Parkway and Byrd, each 5-1 overall, come in at 8, 9 and 10 respectively in the poll.
“I think it’s a testament to the schools in the Shreveport area – the coaches and the talent – people are doing a good job,” Evangel coach Byron Dawson said. “We are the newcomers and we feel like a guest. We feel fortunate to be in the same class as the Parkways, Byrds and Airlines.”
The Yellow Jackets made it as high as No. 2 in the poll and were receiving No. 1 votes, before losing to Parkway two weeks ago. Byrd coach Mike Suggs was cloudy about whether the district had ever had four teams ranked, but he’s a big believer in downplaying the importance of polls.
“I know it’s fun for the parents and fans, but I don’t like the kids talking about it because being ranked doesn’t give you an advantage. You still have to line up and play the game on Friday night,” Suggs said. “I think the playoff wins our teams have had has had an effect. Haughton won last year and had a chance to get another one and Parkway would have won a lot. It goes to show how good football is in this area.”
Airline has the best chance to move up to the top spot in the poll if coach Bo Meeks’ club continues winning. But the Vikings’ schedule is loaded heavy at the end of the district race.
“It’s nice to be the highest ranked, but we know what lies ahead over the last four weeks of the regular season,” Meeks said. “It’s what happens on Friday nights that makes the difference.”
The Vikings get a major test Friday when they visit Haughton, a club that was undefeated and ranked until the Bucs met Byrd last Friday night. But Parkway won big after losing to Evangel and Byrd won big last week after falling to Parkway. Haughton has that kind of incentive this week.
“With the matchups to come, the poll will change,” Meeks said. “But the good thing is there are some teams that could go very deep in the playoffs.”
The last three weeks of the regular season will feature some ticklish matchups with Airline facing Evangel, Byrd and Parkway to close out the race. Byrd and Evangel will face off in week 10. Haughton (5-1) could be back in the top 10 if the Bucs beat Airline, Parkway and Evangel in successive weeks.
Dawson said playing great teams week in and week out makes your team stronger and even though rankings aren’t openly discussed on Broadacres Road, people are aware.
“It shows that competition breeds success,” Dawson said. “If you keep playing great teams, you will step up your game. Iron sharpens iron, as the Bible says.”
At any rate, a repeat of what happened in 2011 could be in the offing when the state playoffs begin in a month. That year Parkway, Haughton, Byrd and Airline all won opening round playoff contests. Evangel won its opener also, but the Eagles were in Class 2A at the time.
“We were all texting each other congratulations because we all won,” Feaster said. “That was a fun night. All of us being ranked – that’s something we can take pride in.”