By Todd Black:
This past Friday Night, again, revealed a glaring flaw with this ‘trash’ playoff system. The Rummel Raiders and Episcopal Knights are two of the better teams in their respected classes. In a 16-team bracket, both received a first round BYE before playing their first playoff game. Both games were state championship caliber games with state championship caliber teams, unfortunately someone had to lose. The shame of it all is this was one of Episcopal’s most well-rounded teams to step on the field in recent memory. This is no slight to previous Episcopal teams. This 2020 team was just built different.
This year’s Episcopal team never questioned whether they were good or not; they were not cocky but confident. The Knights were physical and relentless. The defense flew to the ball and they mashed when they got there. The defense didn’t travel in one’s and two’s, they traveled in bunches; waves of dark blue helmets were always around the football. Offensively, Episcopal averaged over 44 points a game. Sure, they had explosive players, but you had to defend the entire offense from sideline to sideline. The Knight’s gave their defensive opponents fits! The offense prided themselves on execution while giving their opponents different looks and different schemes. Simply, they played together and dominated. The point differential between the Knights and their opponents loomed around 38 ppg (Offense averaged over 44 points ppg while giving up 6.6 ppg). The coaching at Episcopal, year in and year out, is second to none. Head Coach Travis Bourgeois and his staff are as solid of staff as you are going to find in this state.
After the game this past Friday Night, my cohost started discussing the Episcopal/Lafayette Christian game. His first comment was “Episcopal hung tough with Lafayette Christian; everyone expected this to be a blowout.” I took exception to his comment because, as I had told few, Episcopal had a chance if they played their game, not the other teams jersey. Saying “everyone expected this to be a blowout” is not recognizing or respecting how good this Episcopal team was. The Knight’s had the 3-time defending state champion on the rope’s but could not deliver the knockout blow. The Knights came up short but let me put things into perspective. Episcopal held Lafayette Christian to 14 points. Since 2016, Lafayette Christian has been held to 14 points or fewer only 5 times out of 64 games. In 2017, Vermillion Catholic (9 points) and Ascension Christian (10 points); in 2019, state 4A quarterfinalist, Westgate (shutout) and 5A state champion Acadiana (13 points) and in 2020, again, the #1 seed for 5A in 2020, Acadiana. It had been since December of 2017 since Lafayette Christian was held to 14 points by a team 3A or below.
My opinion has nothing to do with winning and losing but has everything to do with ‘cheapening’ the playoff experience for student-athletes who attend ‘select’ schools. These student-athletes work every bit as hard as their non-select counterparts; they are just as committed as their non-select counterparts and they are part of the LHSAA just like their non-select counterparts. The following comes from the LHSAA’s Constitution.
“The Association is vitally interested in the welfare of every boy and girl participating in its athletic contest. It is for the protection of their interests that this Association operates.”
In a 32 team bracket, Episcopal and Lafayette Christian would have matched up in the Superdome. Episcopal could have lost in the championship game as well, but at least they would have experienced everything their non-select counterparts experienced on their journey to the Dome. To the membership: keep your rings, your trophies, and your banners; every student-athlete deserves to be given the same opportunities as the next. If you cannot follow the constitution by making decisions based on what is best for every boy and girl, do us all a favor and don’t show up in January to vote.
Note: I am doing this in two parts. I wanted this to be more about Episcopal; the next part will be more of the explanation of why things are how they are with the LHSAA playoff format. I will discuss the false accusations as well as the unconstitutionality of the proposal that is being used to split the playoff format.