SOUTHWEST LOUISIANA (KPLC) - We are just five weeks away from KPLC's coverage of Two-A-Days and to get ready we continue our 7-in-Seven countdown series.
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 Touchdown Live matchups this upcoming season.
7. St. Edmund at Basile (September 21)
We start the list with what will likely be the district title game for district 4-1A for the second year in a row. The Blue Jays and Bearcats opened district play up with a 28-7 St. Ed win last season. That was the only district loss for Basile in 2017.
The Bearcats return some talent with seniors quarterback Dawson Ashford and running back/linebacker Andre Reed. Ashford totaled 1,566 passing yards, 326 rushing yards, and 22 total touchdowns a season ago. Reed was a first team all-district selection on offense and defense. At linebacker, he totaled 145 tackles with two interceptions and six forced fumbles.
The Blue Jays lose a good bit of talent including back-to-back 1,000-yard rusher Luke Doucet. Quarterback and district MVP Brad Miller is back, however, and will give opposing defenses fits.
Basile came up short in this one a season ago, but I expect the Bearcats to be the best in the district in 2018.
6. DeRidder at Leesville (October 19)
Onto one of the best rivalry games not only in Southwest Louisiana but the whole state. DeRidder and Leesville will add another chapter to the Hooper Trophy history books on October 19.
Last season, Leesville rolled DeRidder en route to an undefeated district title. I would imagine this one to be much closer.
The Dragons return quarterback Lane Armer, who now has two seasons of starts under his belt. The Dragons lose the bulk of their defense, but the offense should be capable.
Leesville meanwhile is down a solid senior class that made plenty of impact on both sides of the ball. The Wampus Cats still return their second-leading rusher and receiver, plus a three-star offensive lineman in Matthew Anderson (who committed to Nebraska in June).
The Hooper Trophy should once again play a major factor in the district race.
5. Jennings at Washington-Marion (September 28)
This district matchup unlike many on the list doesn't have a ton history, having only met three times since 2009. Jennings took the meeting last season, 21-14.
But when the Bulldogs and Charging Indians meet on September 28, it could be for the district title. These two teams boast a ton of future college talent.
Jennings is hoping to build off a semifinal run and continue its trend of reaching the quarterfinal round of the playoffs. The Bulldogs have reached that plateau six times out of the last seven seasons. Jennings returns quarterback Kole Myers and running back Darrian Achane on offense and LSU target Keenan Landry and Zae'keveyon Levi on defense.
Washington-Marion meanwhile has to cope with the loss of their head coach just a little over a month from fall camp. Despite the adversity with that situation, the Charging Indians have the most Division I athletes in Southwest Louisiana. Linebacker Christian Guillory, running back/safety Carrington McClinton and defensive end Jaylon Ned all hold multiple FBS offers.
I've picked Jennings to win the district, but if Washington-Marion finds its groove this season, watch out.
4. Welsh at Jennings (October 5)
This one was a thriller last year as Welsh held off Jennings, 21-13 with both of the Bulldog touchdowns coming from sources other than offense. The Greyhounds' win over Jennings marked the first time in history a team from Jeff Davis Parish beat the Bulldogs.
That loss won't sit well with Jennings, who as we mentioned in the previous article return some top talent. The Bulldogs will host their 2A foe in front of what is sure to be a packed house. The Bulldogs big question mark will come on the defensive side of the football, having lost a chunk of its defensive backfield.
The state champion Greyhounds have to find a way to replace five all-district first teamers led by quarterback Zach Hayes. Good news for Welsh is that six first-team members return. Wide receiver Da'Ren Zeno has blown up this off-season along with defensive lineman John Daigle. The Greyhounds are lacking talent, but replacing a leader like Hayes isn't easy.
This Parish rivalry is just what the area needs to build up football. While it doesn't make the list, district rivals Iowa vs. Kinder also is great to see.
3. Church Point at Iota (October 12)
Iota's rise back to the area's elite was one of the best stories of 2017. The Bulldog fan base is one of the area's most passionate and it was well-deserved to have Iota post a strong season. Now comes building on that.
Likely, the Bulldogs' biggest game this upcoming season will be their district matchup with last season's champion, Church Point. The Bears edged Iota at home in 2017, 41-34. Church Point racked up 410 rushing yards in the win and you can guarantee Iota remembers.
The Bulldogs return a chunk of talent like quarterback Trae Rambin and cornerback Mitchell Lege. Iota also has a pair of incoming stars via transfer in Luke Doucet (St. Edmund) and Tayte Langley (Eunice). Doucet rushed for 1,606 yards and 15 touchdowns with the Blue Jays last year, while Langley is known for his high motor and the ability to rush the passer.
Church Point hopes to overpower Iota again on the ground. The Bears return running back Rodney Dupuis who ran for 212 yards in this game a season ago en route to a 1,700-yard season. Dupuis found the end zone 20 times in 2017 and Church Point will hope for a repeat performance against the Bulldogs.
This one should be another classic, but I think the Iota home field advantage will play a major factor in this game, the one I believe decides the district.
2. Kinder at Welsh (October 18)
As we mentioned a year ago, this has been the greatest head-to-head matchup of any SWLA teams over the past seven years. No other teams in the area have played for more against each other over that span. Since 2011, Welsh and Kinder have played for six district titles and one trip to the Class 2A championship.
While last year's first meeting ended up not having the same stakes as usual with both teams falling to Notre Dame, it was a classic meeting that Welsh won off a missed field goal, 20-19. The schools met again in the quarterfinal round of the playoffs, in a game the Hounds won handily.
The Yellow Jackets owned the series from 2010-2015 going 6-1 with a four-game winning streak. Since then, Welsh has won three straight to change the narrative between the rivals. Three of the last four meetings have been decided by six or fewer points.
Kinder has to replace star linebacker/slot back Jordan Cordova and offensive/defensive lineman Joey McNeely. However, the Jackets return the more experienced quarterback in Hayes Fawcett, a former sports person of the week. The Jackets have shown a tendency in recent seasons with Fawcett to let him throw. I'd expect more of the same with that in 2018.
Welsh meanwhile loses their Hayes in Zach Hayes. The two-year starting quarterback reversed Welsh's fortunes both in the series and the playoffs. Luckily for the Hounds, they return plenty of talent as mentioned above. How will the Hounds fare now that they control the series?
I expect another close physical game this season from the 2A state champions from 2017 (Welsh) and 2015 ( Kinder).
1. Barbe at Sulphur (October 5)
We round out the countdown with the Bucs and Tors yet again.
These two rivals bring the magic no matter where they've met. The schools' matchup on the gridiron, the diamond or the hardwood is always must watch sports.
Barbe currently holds a 10-game win streak over Sulphur, with only four of the games being decided by one possession (2018, 2015, 2009, 2008). But over the past three seasons, the gap between the rivals has closed. The Tors took the Bucs to overtime a season ago before Barbe won to extend the win streak.
Both the Bucs and Tors return star quarterbacks. Luke Richard started out the year on fire for Barbe and ended the season with nearly 3,000 yards and 37 touchdowns. Sulphur's Morgan Clark was also special, setting the Tors single-season passing mark with 2,243 yards and 21 touchdowns.
The Bucs have to replace some talent on both sides of the ball, but should still make waves this season. The Tors lose Houston signee Christian Trahan at tight end, but Clark still returns some strong weapons.
We once again should be treated to a high-scoring affair. With the coaching change at Acadiana and the fact they return such few starters, I believe this matchup will put the district title on the line for the third straight season.