Why ASH, Pineville will remain in Monroe-based District 2-5A | Marcase

John Marcase
Special to The Town Talk

You might think each year’s legislative session at the State Capitol in Baton Rouge is where the most politicking in Louisiana happens.

You would be wrong.

More back-room deals take place every other year when the Louisiana High School Athletic Association holds its three reclassification meetings.

RECLASSIFICATION:How Alexandria area high schools, districts will be affected by 2022-24 reclassification

PROPOSED DISTRICTS:LHSAA releases proposed districts for 2022-23 and 2023-24 high school sports seasons

LHSAA PLAYOFFS:What to know about Alexandria area in LHSAA football playoffs: Hot takes, top storylines

The LHSAA holds this process to ensure schools with similar enrollment numbers remain grouped together. As you would expect, enrollment numbers fluctuate due to numerous factors, such as hurricanes, plant closings, school consolidation, etc.

The LHSAA is currently in the middle of this process. The first reclassification meeting was held Nov. 3. This first meeting is when schools certify their enrollment numbers. For some schools, it is also when they notify the LHSAA they intend to play up in class, that is to compete in a higher class than their enrollment numbers would mandate. In years gone by, the schools in the upper class would have to approve of the move.

Peabody has played up a few times to remain as part of the local 4A district. The most notable school to play up in enrollment has been John Curtis Christian School, although its petition has been rejected in the past when the private vs. public school debate was beginning to dominate all things concerning the LHSAA.

ASH linebacker Jermaine McNeal (29) tackles West Monroe running back Derome Williams (20) during ASH's 33-17 win in the Class 5A semifinals Friday, Dec. 18, 2020 at J.L. "Butch" Stoker Memorial Stadium. The Trojans advance to the Class 5A State Championship game against Acadiana High School set for 6 p.m. Dec. 30 in Natchitoches. ASH will be seeking their first state championship title in football.

Last week, the LHSAA released its proposed districts for 2022-24. Not much changed on a local basis, with Alexandria Senior High and Pineville remaining Rapides Parish’s lone 5A schools. The LHSAA had them in District 2-5A, where they’ve resided in recent years along with West Monroe, Ruston, Ouachita and West Ouachita.

Representatives from both ASH and Pineville told me if they had their wish, they would prefer a move to a Lake Charles-based district.

This would actually be a return to what happened in the late 1980s when ASH and Pineville both moved up to 4A, which was then the highest classification. ASH had been a 4A school at times, but in the fall of 1985, Pineville joined ASH in the top class for the first time. Both schools were put in a district with Leesville, DeRidder, Barbe, LaGrange and Sulphur.

Monday, the LHSAA held its second reclass meeting, during which schools could request a different district.

Momentum that might have been building for a district with ASH, Pineville, Sulphur, Sam Houston and Barbe all but ended.

Pineville High School principal Karl Carpenter (right) introduces Tioga High School defensive coordinator Bryan Bell (left) as the new Rebels head football coach.

“The Lake Charles schools didn’t want to leave the Lafayette schools,” confirmed Pineville principal Karl Carpenter, a member of the LHSAA’s executive committee.

A week earlier, one coach in Southwest Louisiana told me he and the other coaches in Lake Charles would be in favor of breaking away from the Lafayette schools and welcoming ASH and Pineville.

The main reason had to do with the fact District 3-5A now has nine teams with Carencro moving back up to Class 5A. That leaves those schools with just two non-district opponents in football.

Unfortunately, it appears ASH and Pineville don’t have much leeway when it comes to which district they must play in.

Of the 68 Class 5A schools for the 2022-24 school years, just three reside in the center of the state – Natchitoches Central, ASH and Pineville. The other 65 are along the I-20 corridor in north Louisiana, or in south Louisiana.

“We put our two cents in, but where we are located, it’s tough,” admitted Carpenter.

The cutoff for Class 5A was Edna Karr of New Orleans with 1,099 students. ASH has 1,355 students and Pineville 1,341. Dutchtown in suburban Baton Rouge remains the largest 5A school in the state with more than 2,500 students. No other school in Rapides Parish or neighboring parishes is close to reaching the 5A threshold.

Until that changes, ASH and Pineville likely will remain in District 2-5A, and NCHS in District 1-5A with seven Shreveport-based schools.

“We will play wherever they tell us to play,” said Thomas Bachman, ASH football coach and athletic director. “Being in the Monroe district has been good for us. It has had to make us be better. It is an uphill battle to compete and you have to embrace that challenge.”

John Marcase is a former assistant managing editor and sports editor of The Town Talk. He writes a weekly column.