- Ben Mintz
High school football season starts tomorrow night with an exciting matchup between the highflying Calvary Cavs and the Byrd Yellow Jackets at 7pm at Lee Hedges Stadium. With this being week 1, today I am going to do a preview of District 1-5A teams and who to watch out for this fall.
Evangel is the defending Division 1 State Champions and returns quite possibly the greatest high school defense I have seen in my 25 years of following the sport. Led by LSU commits Davin Cotton, Micah Baskerfield and Ardarius Washington, points are going to be extremely tough to score against this ferocious group. They return everyone on defense from last year’s championship team and outscored District 1-5A opponents 330-20 in district play last year! Coach Byron Dawson and his players have a phenomenal shot of repeating as state champs this season. If there are any questions about Evangel, they are on offense where they will be breaking in a new sophomore quarterback. As always, Evangel is starting the year playing two national powers in East St. Louis (Ill) and Allen (TX) on the road. Their motto of playing anyone anywhere at any time is admirable and should have them primed for District 1-5A play. They play Parkway on Friday September 22nd in what will be billed as the biggest high school game in the area this season.
Parkway is ranked in the top 10 in 5A polls in preseason. Coach Neal May is taking over for the departed David Feaster this season and has a loaded offense. Parkway made a smart move in hiring new offensive co-ordinator Ragan Smith away from defending 1A state champions Logansport. Led by TCU commit Justin Rogers at QB and #1 nationally ranked WR Torrace Marshall Jr. at WR, this team will score a ton. What will ultimately decide how far they go in the playoffs is their defense which has been inconsistent at best the last few years. Last Friday’s 23-14 Jamboree loss to Benton was not very convincing but it could serve to wake Parkway up for the season. Parkway opens with BTW Friday night at 7pm.
The Byrd Yellow Jackets are trying to rebound from a tough 4-7 2016 season in which injuries, youth and attrition caused early season struggles. Coach Mike Suggs is entering his 20th year as head coach and is the longest tenured coach in this area. With 9 returning starters, I expect some improvement from Byrd this season but not enough to compete with Evangel and Parkway at the top of this district. Byrd is always a difficult opponent because of their unique veer option offense. They open with Calvary Thursday night at 7pm at Lee Hedges in what should be an exciting matchup.
Coach Bo Meeks is excited about the Airline Vikings this season. Junior QB Brad Fream has gained 15 pounds this offseason and looks great at 6-3 200 pounds with a big arm. Star WR Coby McGee is back from a torn ACL and could have a monster senior season. The Vikings were 6-5 last season falling to Sulphur in the 1st round of the 5A playoffs. There is a great chance for improvement especially if some of the younger guys such as the Marshall twins Brian and Brandon can fill voids at linebacker. The offense will be wide open and score a good bit, but can this defense step up and give the Vikings a shot to make a run in the 5A playoffs? Airline opens with Union Parish on Friday night at 7 in Bossier City.
Captain Shreve had a strong 4-0 start in 2016 and was the surprise team of the area in the first month of the season. QB Lucan Grubb and WR Stephen Smith return to form a dynamic combo that has Gators fans excited for the season. They defeated Byrd 12-7 in their jamboree last week. Coach Bryant Sepulvo is doing good things at a school that has struggled on football field traditionally in this tough district. Their are playoff expectations once again and they should win around 5 games once again. Shreve opens with Green Oaks Friday night.
Haughton looks to be rebuilding in Coach Jason Brotherton’s second year. They struggled in a 19-0 jamboree loss to Airline last week. This district is so deep and tough that the Buccaneers could struggle to make the playoffs this season unless some young guys emerge during the season. One name to look out for is RB/DE Lavonta Gipson who has flashed some talent in pre-season. Haughton opens with their old rival Minden Friday night in Haughton.
Finally, Southwood makes up the rear of 1-5A and was 0-7 in district play last year. While their defense put up some admirable efforts, they must find a way to score some points occasionally to have a shot to win a district game this season. Southwood opens with Pineville Friday night.