We are just four weeks away from KPLC's coverage of Two-A-Days and to get ready we continue our 7-in-Seven countdown.
Countdowns will include topics from McNeese to high school football. A new countdown each week, beginning every Monday.
We continue the countdown with the top seven surprise teams this upcoming season.
7. St. Louis Saints (3-8 in 2016)
We start the list with a team who is just two years removed from an undefeated district record.
The Saint Louis Saints are coming off a 3-8 season, one that SLC suffered a rash of injuries to multiple starters.
St. Louis returns 14 starters from 2016 and eight on offense, including athletic quarterback Bailey Hardy, who's ability as a runner will be featured more this season. The Saints aim to open up the offense with a spread concept, designed to get the ball quickly to their receivers. Bailey will line up behind four returning offensive lineman, and beside workhorse running back Jaleel Goodwin.
On defense, the Saints' base 4-2-5 will be coached by head coach Charlie Cryer and their strength will come from their linebackers and safeties. The senior trio of linebacker Grant Cholley, linebacker Noah Comeaux and defensive back Seth Boullion, will lead the SLC defense heading into the season. The Saints will also aim for production from junior defensive back Carrington Guillory, along with sophomores Gabe Johnson (defensive line) and Joseph Percle (strong safety).
The Saints also possess arguably the best kicker in the area in Adam Ieyoub. The senior already holds an offer from Army.
If St. Louis can steer clear of the injury bug, it should once again be able to compete for the district title.
6. Vinton Lions (4-7 in 2016)
Vinton slides into the sixth spot thanks to what could be a dynamic offense this upcoming season. The Lions of course are led by four-star running back Tony St. Julien. The do-everything-back has blown up on the recruiting trail after posting eye-popping numbers like a 4.4 forty-yard dash time.
The offense as a whole, returns five players. The offense will show off new looks as the Lions' spread wing-t offense will utilize more shotgun formations to better accommodate Vinton's personnel. The leader for the quarterback position coming in is senior Tanner Young. He'll have multiple opportunities to lead the Lions down the field passing and handing the ball off to play-making running backs TSJ, Trevon Tillman and Jordan Janice.
Defense has been a struggle for the Lions in recent seasons, but Vinton coach Tarius Davis sees progress in the unit. The Lions have better numbers than in past years and he expects Tillman and St. Julien to contribute at defensive back. Defensive end Cale Stine and linebacker Hunter Cormier will also look to bring leadership to the defensive side of the ball. The team's x-factor however may be 6'7" defensive lineman Kendrick Tilman. The junior doesn't have much high-end experience on the football field, but if he can use his frame appropriately, his presence will be felt on defense.
If Vinton can make up for its small offensive line with quick plays and dynamic athletes, then the Lions will be in the running for its first district championship since Welsh's John Richardson led them to a three-way tie in 2006.
5. Oakdale Warriors (4-7 in 2016)
We stay in the same district with the Warriors of Oakdale. The Warriors are six years removed for their last winning season, although Oakdale has posted multiple .500 seasons in between.
The Warriors bring back 11 starters from a season ago, with six of them coming from the offensive side of the ball. Senior Slate Jordan returns at quarterback and is poised to continue in the steps of previous Oakdale greats at quarterback (including his brother Mason Jordan, who will compete for the starting QB job at Louisiana College). A trio of offensive lineman also return to give some much needed experience up front.
The Warriors see the return of five starters defensively, but have some work to do replacing seniors. The linebacking corps will be fresh for the Warriors and is their biggest question mark coming into the season. As usual, a lot of Warriors will be asked to see time on both sides of the ball.
Oakdale has an opportunity to make a splash this season in district play and will be one of the favorites to take home the title.
4. DeRidder Dragons (2-8 in 2016)
It wasn't that long ago when the Dragons ruled the roost in district 3-4A. DeRidder won back-to-back district titles in 2013 and 2014, the last two seasons the Dragons played outside of district 4-4A.
DeRidder returns to an Alexandria-based district and the results will likely be the same (although Leesville is the favorite heading into the season). The Dragons bring back a total of 11 starters (five on offense), led by quarterback Lane Armer. The junior came on late a season ago and changed the way DeRidder played. Armer played behind a young offensive line in 2016, but DeRidder returns a core of lineman and will be experienced in that area. The Dragons will also shift senior Dre Bagley over to wide receiver to add more explosion to the offense.
Head coach Brad Parmley also plans to upgrade the offensive philosophy. The Dragons hope to take advantage of their athletes in space with three wide receiver sets. DeRidder will utilize a spread hybrid offense that's based out of the shotgun designed to throw the ball more than in years past. But don't expect DeRidder to abandon the run because after all, Brad Parmley is still a Parmley.
Defensively, the Dragons will still employ their 4-2-5 base defense and will use some 4-3 principles. Linebacker Nick Sanders and cornerback D'onte Roshell have both been getting look from college scouts and will be key cogs on this defense. Parmley believes he has the capable bodies needed to stop 4A run games.
As we said in the last countdown, DeRidder and Leesville will decide the winner of this district and expect the Dragons to be one of the last teams standing.
3. Westlake Rams (2-8 in 2016)
The Westlake Rams come in at number three in the third season for Phil Fontenot and this coaching staff. Fontenot and company identified this season as the one that could turn back the tide at Westlake. The Rams come into the season 10 years removed from their trip to the Superdome.
Westlake returns six starters on offense led by star running backs Joseph January (slot back) and Brevan Ned (full back). Mark Ashworth also returns at quarterback to once again lead the Rams' wing-t offense. Westlake's development at the back end of the 2016 season allowed them to average 26.5 points over the last four games.
On defense, the Rams return five starters led by defensive back Chris Cline and linebacker Michael Harlow. Harlow is the tone setter on the defense as a junior.
Westlake enters 2017 with high spirits and an expectation to not only finish with a winning record, but compete for the district title.
2. Washington-Marion Charging Indians (3-8 in 2016)
Washington-Marion charges in to the two spot on our list thanks in part to a drop down to class 3A. The Charging Indians make their return to district 4-3A for the first time since 1998.
A sophomore dependent team a season ago, the Indians bring back 17 total starters with eight of those returning on offense. Washington-Marion is planning to run a high tempo shotgun-oriented offense that will allow them to throw the ball more. Junior quarterback Marquis Chagois will be asked to lead this unit and finds ways to get the ball into the hands of running back Gerron Duhon. Duhon will see time and touches at multiple offensive positions.
Defense is where the Indians may truly shine. Washington-Marion returns nine starters and the strength of this unit comes from chemistry they share. Harrison said he's impressed with how well the defense communicates and makes adjustments.
The Charging Indians are excited to head into a new district with an opportunity to buck their four-straight losing seasons streak. Washington-Marion should be in the running for the district championship.
1. Rosepine Eagles (0-10 in 2016)
The Rosepine Eagles top our list as the most surprising team in 2017. Former Pickering coach Johnny Cryer returns for his fourth stint as coach for Rosepine and takes over a team currently saddled with a 20-game losing streak.
Good news for the Eagles however, is that Rosepine returns 18 starters from a year ago. Quarterback Seth Ducote returns at quarterback and brings his athleticism to an offense that has success under Cryer at Pickering. The Eagles will use multiple i-formations, two back sets and spread looks this season. Rosepine also brings back 1,000-yard rusher Seth Shirley and 300-pound offensive tackle Wesley Willis. Rosepine's offensive strength will come from its size up front thanks to big running backs and an offensive line that averages 270 pounds.
Defensively, Cryer brings over defensive coordinator Danny Smith from Pickering. Smith will aim to shore up an Eagles' defense that allowed at least 42 points in eight games a season ago. The pair of coaches have a long history together including a stop at Leesville.
With a new coaching staff and more competitive district, expect Rosepine to make some noise and win more than one game for the first time since 2013.