BY MATT VINES, Journal Sports
MANY – When Many took a bye week in Week 5, it was an unwanted break because scheduling is difficult for the Class 2A power.
The Tigers (9-0) will take another seat this week, but this breather comes with a lot more excitement after Many secured the No. 1 seed in the Division III Select Bracket.
Many earned one of four first-round byes in the 28-team bracket in the reshuffle of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association playoffs that reduced the postseason classifications from nine to eight evenly distributed brackets based on school enrollment and select or non-select status.
That reorganization has also sent some traditional Class 3A squads into the Division III bracket, serving as new obstacles in the way of Many reaching its fourth straight state championship game.
Two of those Class 3A teams will battle for the right to travel to Many in the second round – No. 16 Caldwell and No. 17 Richwood.
In this new format, gone are the days where a No. 1 seed may face a tricky second-round road trip to a No. 17 seed, which by virtue of winning on the road in the first round gets the chance to host in the second round.
Now the Tigers are assured at least a second-round home game and wouldn’t have to leave Many if the higher seeds hold until the state championship in the Caesers Superdome in New Orleans.
But that path to and through the Dome is littered with new faces that will increase the degree of difficulty if Many is to win its second state title since 2020 and third since 2014.
Seeds No. 2-No. 4 are all Class 3A members as No. 2 Bogalusa, No. 3 Union Parish and No. 4 St. James haven’t been in Many’s bracket recently.
Many wouldn’t see Union Parish or Bogalusa until the state title game, but a semifinals matchup with St.
James could certainly be in the works. St. James is a Class 3A brand name that won the state title in 2019 and made a quarterfinals appearance in 2021.
Union Parish, a carbon copy of Many, handed the Tigers their last regular season loss in the 2019 opener, and Many has rattled off 18 straight regular-season victories since 42-32 loss at home.
The Farmers were the Class 3A runners up in 2021 to champion Sterlington, who checks in at No. 14 in the Division III bracket and could meet Union Parish again in the second round.
Patterson is another 3A program with a track record near Morgan City and is a tough matchup for anybody at No. 11.
Almost the rest of the top 10 are familiar Class 2A names like No. 5 Avoyelles, No. 6 Winnfield, No. 7 Amite (beat Many in the 2021 state title game), No. 8 Pine and No. 9 Rosepine – one of which is a likely quarters foe for Many.
The Tigers pulled away from Winnfield in a 42-14 regular-season win after Winnfield briefly trailed Many by just seven points early in the third quarter before Many turned on the jets.
The change did cull a handful of blue bloods from the flock as they were small enough to fit into Division IV Non-Select.
North Caddo and Mangham are the most notable smaller Class 2A members who depart for different brackets this postseason.
The Titans are classified as a select school and will head to Division III Select while Mangham, who has teetered on the brink of Class 1A and Class 2A, will move to the smaller Division IV Non-Select bracket.
Either way, Many’s path to another state title appears to be harder than years past, and the Tigers must put together their best performances.
But this is a Many team that walloped two Class 5A playoff teams (Haughton and Sam Houston), muzzled No. 1 quarterback recruit nationally in Isidore Newman’s Arch Manning and massacred its district ending with three shutouts in which they built at least a 42-point lead in the first half.
A rested Tigers bunch should be up to the challenge.
CREDIT: Kevin Shannahan/Journal Sports
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