The old belief is that championships aren’t always won by the best teams. Rather it’s the team that peaks at just the right time takes the crown.
Part of that philosophy is about playing their best football. Another, arguably more important, facet is being healthy at the end of the year.
In that regard, Central and Live Oak might not be the best teams in District 4-5A, but they are the last ones standing in a year marred by COVID-19 related chaos.
Going into the final week of the regular season, the Wildcats and Eagles will play the only district matchup on Friday night when Central hosts Live Oak at 7 p.m. Because of schedule changes and cancellations the only other two district teams playing this weekend, Denham Springs and Walker, are both playing nondistrict games, while Zachary and Scotlandville are not playing.
That leaves all eyes on the two district rivals.
“You just never know when the last game is going to come,” Live Oak coach Blane Westmoreland said. “So enjoy it, give me everything you’ve got and play like it’s the last one. The kids have do an outstanding job with it.”
Despite both teams tied with a 2-1 district record, they cannot secure a district title this year. Coaches opted not to crown a champion in 2019 because of the aforementioned cancellations and uncertainties surrounding the season. Even so, Scotlandville is 3-0 in district play with no more games scheduled.
However, unlike most years, the promise of district titles has not been the primary motivator the past few months. Coaches instead preached things like pride and bragging rights.
And if that didn’t work, there’s also the promise of more favorable seeds in the postseason.
The latest power ratings report released by the LHSAA on Wednesday has Central (6-1) as the No. 10 team in Class 5A while Live Oak (5-2) sits at No. 20. Only No. 3 Zachary sits higher in the non-select ratings among district opponents.
“We’ve been preaching to play with a grateful heart that we even get to play,” Central coach Sid Edwards said. “We just feel fortunate that we’re getting to play football. And then, Lord willing, the playoffs go off like we all want them to and now we’re playing for seeding purposes and standings.”
For Central, Friday promises a chance at improving the team’s winning percentage for the fourth consecutive year. It would also be the best win percentage for the Wildcats since 2013.
Edwards spoke about how Central was expected at the beginning of the year to finish near the bottom of the district and has overcome those expectations.
“That’s a big motivation for our kids that, ‘Hey, we were picked last,’ ” Edwards said. “They use that as motivation.”
In order to do that, though, Central will have to stop a dynamic Live Oak offense that leans heavily on running back Tiras MaGee to push the Wing-T system.
“It gives our kids that we have at Live Oak the chance to be most successful,” Westmoreland said. “We exploit what we have. We have a number of backs in the backfield. … So far it really exceeded my expectations of the offense in Year 1.”