With three weeks left, the high school football regular season is in the home stretch.
Two weeks ago, at the halfway point, I wrote that five of the six parish teams were on track to make the playoffs. Nothing’s happened since to change that.
Parkway, Airline, Benton and Plain Dealing are virtual locks. Haughton may need one more win. Even Bossier has an outside shot with a couple of more wins.
Of course, every team wants to do more than just make the playoffs. There are still district championships to be decided. And every win helps when it comes to power rankings that determine playoff seeds and home-field advantage.
Airline, Parkway and Benton have the most realistic chances of winning a district title.
The Vikings (6-1, 3-0) host Evangel Christian (5-2, 3-0) in a showdown for the District 1-5A lead Friday. The Eagles, who have won five straight by an average margin of 41.4 points, are big favorites. They haven’t allowed a point since Week 4 in a 45-8 victory over Parkway, still the Panthers’ lone loss.
Airline is coming off a big 35-17 victory over parish rival Haughton. Sophomore Brad Fream threw four second-half TD passes as the Vikings rallied from a 17-7 halftime deficit.
Airline had its streak of three straight shutouts ended, but the Vikings shut the Bucs down and forced some big turnovers in the second half.
The Vikings defense is good enough to keep Airline in any game. But Evangel’s offense will be its biggest challenge. The offense will have to find a way to have some success against the Eagles’ stingy defense.
If Airline’s defense is constantly on the field, it will be a long night for the Vikings.
The good news is it looks like the Vikings are healthier than at any time since the season opener. Both running back Brian Fielding and receiver Coby McGee, who have missed significant time because of injuries, played last week.
With the support of its home crowd and large student section, Airline has a chance to pull the upset. But it will take a monumental effort to do so.
Haughton (4-3, 1-2) has a tough stretch the next two weeks with Parkway (6-1, 2-1) at home Friday and Evangel on the road in Week 9.
The Bucs didn’t have leading rusher Lavonta Gipson (dislocated knee) against Airline and likely won’t have him Friday. Gipson is also a starter at linebacker.
Receiver Josh Lister also missed the Airline game. Under LHSAA rules, he was forced to sit out after being ejected early in the Week 6 loss to Byrd.
The Bucs will need him against Parkway, which has been on a roll since the loss to Evangel. To have a shot at a share of the district title, Parkway needs to win out and have someone upset Evangel.
The Panthers have Southwood in Week 9 and then close the regular season against Airline.
Despite missing Lister and Gipson, Haughton played very well in the first half against Airline. The Bucs will have to put four quarters of good football together to have a chance against Parkway.
Before the season, it looked like the District 1-4A title would be a three-way battle among Benton, Minden and North DeSoto. Well, it still looks like a three-way battle, just sub in Woodlawn for North DeSoto.
Benton (6-1, 3-1) takes on the Knights (6-1, 4-0) Friday night at Independence Stadium. Woodlawn is tied for the lead with Minden (7-0, 4-0). The Crimson Tide still has Woodlawn and North DeSoto (4-3, 2-2) left.
Benton used a strong defensive effort to defeat Fair Park 31-0 last week. The Tigers will need another one Friday against a Woodlawn team that has some of the top offensive threats in the area.
Bossier (3-4, 1-2), which lost to Minden 39-9 last week, has a realistic shot at a .500 season. The Bearkats host Fair Park (1-6, 1-3) Friday and Huntington (1-6, 0-4) in Week 9 before closing at Benton.
I would go so far as to make Bossier the favorite in the next two games.
Plain Dealing (4-3, 2-1) has three challenging District 1-1A games remaining, starting with Friday’s home game against Cedar Creek (4-3, 2-1). The Lions host D’Arbonne Woods (4-3, 2-1) in Week 9 and visit Arcadia (5-2, 2-1) in Week 10.
Plain Dealing has the talent to win all three, but the Lions will have to be at their best. Cedar Creek played a competitive game against perennial power Haynesville last week, falling 33-18.
Haynesville (7-0, 4-0) won’t be challenged in its final two district games, but second place is up for grabs.
Russell Hedges is Sports Editor of the Bossier Press-Tribune. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org