Senior RB Hezekiah Randolph is among the top prospects on the current roster. In last week's 21-0 jamboree win over Dunham, Randolph burst for a 75-yard TD on the first play from scrimmage. RB Conner Hodgeson tallied another TD on a short run. Other key Eagles include CB Manny Mukes, athlete Tee Sparrow, OL Thomas Carter (6-3, 270) and QB Brennan Bozeman.
Bozeman (5-11, 175, SR) gained 144 yards rushing with two long touchdown runs (50, 69 yards) in a victory over Port Allen in last year's quarterfinals. The Eagles led St. Charles Catholic in the semis before falling, 24-21.
Parkview lost three of its first four contests last season before going on a tear the rest of the way. They'll miss DT Tom Bove, LB Brody Burkhalter, OL Morgan Rushing, DB Adam Smith, DE Joshua Perkins and K Neil Scott.
Preseason ranking in 2011: No. 3; entered the playoffs as an 11th seed.
2. LORANGER (2011 Record: 10-2) Four-star LSU commit Jeryl Brazil moves to quarterback, where he'll look often to junior WR Jake Ingraffia. Brazil is projected as a corner and return specialist in college, but don't be shocked if he also get reps at wide receiver in Baton Rouge. The senior was brilliant at WR during LSU's July camp.
The best 2012 matchup of in-state teams might take place in week two with Loranger facing Class 2A state title contender University Lab. The Wolves replaced Class A Country Day on the schedule with U-High, which will debut at No. 2 in 2A on our list.
Loranger's ground game should be effective with Brazil, who has 4.3 speed, handing off to a trio of transfer RBs when he doesn't keep the ball himself.
Last week, 5A Ponchatoula held an early 7-0 advantage before the Wolves stormed back to prevail, 25-7. Loranger's first score came on an 85-yard kick return by Luke Ingraffia. RB Breland Dillon, a transfer from St. Thomas Aquinas, recovered a fumble on defense and reached the end zone on offense too. Brazil (pictured below) broke free for a 37-yard TD, according to LorangerHighSchool.net.
Independence transfer RB Miquel Toefield also got into the act with a 51-yard jaunt to paydirt. Head coach Sam Messina's squad entered the 2011 playoffs as the No. 3 seed.
2011 preseason ranking: No. 7
3. PORT ALLEN (2011 record: 10-3) Head coach Guy Blanchard's Pelicans soar behind QB/LB Darian Claiborne, a four-star Texas A&M commit. Claiborne says he will take as many snaps as possible on both sides of the ball. He did it well last year. His long run vs. Loranger sparked a comeback 14-13 win in the second round of the playoffs. The future Aggie will throw to cousin Kyle Moore (6-2, 170), a 2014 prospect Claiborne describes as having "world-class speed."
Port Allen will be phenomenal at inside linebacker with Claiborne joining transfer Jestin Kelly (Redemptorist) in the middle. "It's a great opportunity," Claiborne said of playing with Kelly. "I plan to take advantage of it." Other players to watch include "lockdown" corner Caleb Johnson (5-11, 175, SR), Redemptorist transfer OL/DL Blake Carr and all-district defensive tackle Earl Bridgewater (5-10, 215).
FUN FACT: Port Allen was involved in six games last year that were decided by seven points or less. The Pels won five of those close contests with the sole setback (28-27) coming against Brusly.
Preseason ranking in 2011: Not Rated (NR). The West Baton Rouge Parish program entered the playoffs as the 14th seed. Last week, Caleb Johnson blocked a field goal as time expired to preserve an 8-6 win over Live Oak. Claiborne connected with Moore on a 28-yard touchdown toss.
4. ST. CHARLES CATHOLIC (2011 record: 15-0) The Comets captured their first state title last year by edging Amite, 9-8. DT Taylor Cochran, a 300-pounder with tremendous physical strength, returns for his senior season, as does LB/Tulane commit Luke Jackson (6-3, 210).
Veteran head coach Frank Monica lost DB Jeffrey Hall (Colorado), LB/DE La'Jaylin Smith (North Texas), RB Lazedrick Thompson (Tulane), QB Donnie Savoie and RB Marcus Hall to graduation. SCC scored a minimum of 30 points in each of 13 games while surrendering only six points per outing.
Tied local 5A public school East Saint John in jamboree, 6-6. Senior LB Dante Scarpero (5-9, 180), the team leader in tackles, helps anchor the defense. SCC was ranked 2nd in the 2011 preseason. The LaPlace-based program nabbed a No. 2 playoff seed (behind Farmerville, which was ousted in the second round).
5. PATTERSON (2011 record: 10-1) The Lumberjacks -- always talent-rich -- were the preseason No. 1 last year and only lost to St. Charles Catholic. Two years ago, Tommy Minton's group reached the finals and lost a tight game to Parkview Baptist.
Coastal school graduated a ton of talent, but there's a lot to be excited about on the 2012 roster, starting with TE Deondre Skinner, an Arkansas commit. A 6-3, 230-pound senior, Skinner landed an LSU offer after camping with the Tigers in July. LSU has two TEs committed and wants to make Skinner the third. Has former teammates recruiting him for LSU (Kenny Hilliard and Lorenzo Phillips).
Patterson lost Phillips, a four-star OLB, to graduation from last year's team, and there were several other key performers who are gone to the college ranks. For example, three-star prospects Trevon Stewart (Houston) and Jaydrick Declouet (Louisiana Tech) both enjoyed wildly-successful prep careers.
QB Justice Jones (Texas Southern) yields the starting job to junior Denzel Johnson, a big (6-3, 225) strong player who was at DE last year. Sophomore WR Daylon Charlot had an incredible camp at LSU and is on the early roster of the 2013 Louisiana Bootleggers Elite 7v7 team. Two freshmen - Mykel Jones and Nehemiah Augustus - are projected to start in the secondary, which will miss corners Kiyan Jones (Arkansas-Monticello) and Stewart.
Skinner, pictured below, said of Charlot: "He's around 6-0, 180; explodes off the ball and has real good hands." In regard to the two frosh DBs, Skinner had this to say: "Those two and Charlot are all about the same size: around 6-0 and 180-to-190 pounds. They've all been playing together in hoops for a long time. All three can jump and have a little size on them for freshmen."
The Jacks must also replace ILB Tremaine Lightfoot, who signed with the in-state Ragin' Cajuns. There's talk that Patterson's week eight opponent, 2A Jeanerette, could be replaced with 2A defending state champ/nationally-ranked John Curtis Christian.
Initially it was reported that Jeanerette -- drilled by Patterson 61-0 in 2011 -- wanted to withdraw due to low numbers on the roster. However, there's recent word that Jeanerette has changed its stance and will play Patterson.
6. AMITE (2011 Record: 12-2) The Warriors, preseason No. 6 last year, finished as state runner-up to St. Charles Catholic. Defense pitched five shutouts and held three more opponents to single digits. Lost last week in jamboree tune-up to the Class 1A state-ranked Kentwood Kangaroos, 18-0.
Amite's offense struggled against Kentwood (never crossed KHS 30), according to Matt Sullivan with the Baton Rouge Advocate. The Louisiana Sportswriters Association preseason poll lists Amite at No. 4 (behind, in order, St. Charles Catholic, Parkview Baptist and Notre Dame). Only one starter returns on defense for head coach Alden Foster.
On offense, senior RB James Oden (5-9, 190) has good speed and the ability to catch the football. Keep an eye on 6-4, 320-pound junior OL Devon Johnson. Sophomore DT Fred Torrence (6-2, 310) will be difficult to move off the line of scrimmage. The offense could get a shot in the arm from 6-5 WR Jervenski Johnson, an Arkansas commit who was at Ponchatoula in 2011.
The departures of QB Reginald Porter (Utah), LB Juwaan Rogers and RB Jermaine Jolla leave a gaping hole when it comes to talent and leadership. Amite opens the season this week vs. St. Helena Central, where Foster enjoyed tremendous success turning the Hawks from a cellar dweller to a playoff team.
7. NOTRE DAME (2011 record: 8-4) The Pioneers, guided by legendary head coach Lewis Cook, graced the No. 5 preseason spot last year. Notre Dame began the year 2-3 prior to reeling off six straight wins. The Pios were perfect in district and entered the playoffs as the 6th seed (lost to Parkview Baptist in second round).
Coach Cook is excited about Texas transfer WR Marcus Garrett (6-3, 185, SR). Running back Luke Broussard should have a big year. Additional standouts include FB Austin Thibodeaux, LB Kipp Credeur, FS Gavin Bourgeois, LB Hunter Stelly and OL Andrew Breaux.
Pioneers shut down 4A Northside last Friday at Cajun Field (26-0 final). Broussard plunged across the goal-line from a yard out, and Bourgeois brought back a pick-six. Stelly captured the state title in the javelin earlier this year.
8. WESTLAKE (2011 record: 7-5) Rams transition to a much more wide-open offensive philosophy under first-year head coach Shawn Demerrit, who takes over following the retirement of longtime head coach Max Caldarera.
Westlake was ranked No. 10 entering 2011. The Lake Charles-area school was run-first last year with senior RB Devin Eaglin grinding out the yardage.
Junior Tyler Johnson moves to the QB position (from receiver). Johnson and Tim Hamilton split reps under center in last week's 27-16 win over 5A Sulphur. Their fave target will be 6-5, 225-pound junior Jacory Washington, a TE/WR hybrid with offers from LSU, Alabama, Texas A&M, Arkansas and more.
Washington (pictured, bottom) hauled in a 13-yard TD reception vs. Sulphur. Last year, the 20th-seeded Rams upset No. 13 Richwood in the playoff opener.
9. RAYNE (2011 record: 7-6) The Wolves were streaky, winning their first five, losing the next five and then notching two playoff upsets before encountering St. Charles Catholic in the quarters (52-24 loss).
Senior RB Jalen Williams gashed Crowley for 217 yards and three TDs on 10 carries as Rayne outscored the Gents last week, 41-34. You can count on Williams (5-9, 190) to get plenty of work in head coach Curt Ware's Wing-T.
10. EUNICE (2011 record: 9-3) Head coach Paul Trosclair doesn't get enough credit for his long-term success at the helm of Eunice (and Oakdale).
Bobcats made a second round playoff appearance (lost to Jennings, 35-16).
Senior WR Derek Denton (6-3, 185, 4.5) sparked last week's 17-0 shutout of 4A Beau Chene. Denton had four catches for 60 yards and accounted for both of his team's touchdowns. The starting QB is Trenton Trosclair, son of the head coach.
Want defense? Eunice kept Beau Chene senior speedster Jamal Chevis (34 yards) under wraps.
ON THE BUBBLE (random order)