WATSON - The big three sports at Live Oak High School – football, basketball and baseball – have been a part of the state’s top classification in 5A for quite some time.
Beginning this fall, they’re going to have some company when volleyball, wrestling and girls soccer will all move to Division I (from Division II) status.
The wrestling program is experiencing the biggest change among the three sports.
The program’s founder and head coach Chris Collier recently stepped aside to spend more time with his family and remained an assistant in football with Chris Godso named as his successor.
But Godso doesn’t intend on rocking the boat very much regardless of the move up in division, choosing to build upon the foundation established by Collier.
“Nothing changes really, I’m not going to lie,” Godso said. “The goals still stay the same…moving up from Division II to Division I doesn’t really faze me and at the same time I don’t think it will faze the kids just because we wrestle them all year. It’s just another part of the game.”
Girls’ soccer will move up to Division I, but the boys’ side will remain Division II because of a formula the LHSAA employs to have an equitable number of teams per classification.
Second-year LOHS girls coach Kraig Zeller, who guided the Lady Eagles to a state quarterfinal berth in 2018-19, was of the mindset that he was going to have a demanding schedule this season regardless of classification.
“I made the schedule harder,” Zeller said. “I did that on purpose because I have control over that. I scheduled a lot of teams that last year were Top 5-15 teams. I’ve upped the ante and I have a tough schedule.
“Last year I said I hope we can win 10 games and we ended up winning 18-19 games,” he said. “This year I think if I can get 10-12, I can be really proud of this group. And I’m hoping we can get into the top 15 of Division I. That’s what I want to do, that’s what I think we can do. But it’s going to be tough.”
Zeller’s biggest concern about the transition is numbers.
A year ago, the Lady Eagles fielded a team with relatively low roster numbers, sometimes having only one or two players available on the bench.
This year they will have slightly increased numbers, but will find themselves competing against larger schools.
“I have more players this year,” Zeller said. “I’ve jumped up from 14 to 17, but the incoming class of freshmen have a way to go. I have a lot of development I have to do there. But we just don’t have the quality numbers. We’re in the growing pains right now.”
Zeller remains optimistic that the experience gained in the first year will pay off when his current group of underclassmen compete in the state’s top division.
“That’d be fantastic,” Zeller said. “They’re basically thrown into the lion’s den. Last year I was able to substitute but my consistent 11 were on the field most of the time. This year there’s going to be a lot more substitutions, so these kids are going to be thrown into games against quality opponents and they’re going to have to grow up really quick.”
Volleyball coach Chastity Sims believes her team will eventually adapt to their new environment due to the familiarity with the programs they’ll face in district, namely parish foe Walker. They’ll also compete in district against the Ascension Parish trio of Dutchtown, East Ascension and St. Amant.
“We’ve played East Ascension and we’ve played Dutchtown,” said Sims, whose team lost in the second round of the Division II state playoffs last season at Teurlings Catholic.
“They know what to expect…really I think change in general is just a challenge,” Sims said. “I feel like there’s challenging teams in Division II and Division I. It’s a challenge, but not much changes because we’re still going to be playing great teams.”