Parish high school football teams reach another milestone in the march toward the regular season Thursday and Friday.
All six will compete in controlled scrimmages.
Airline and Benton will go head-to-head Friday at Byrd’s practice field, weather permitting. It was moved to Byrd, which has artificial turf, because the recent heavy rain. Also Friday, Parkway travels to West Monroe in a battle of teams expected to be among the contenders for the Class 5A state championship, and Bossier hosts Red River.
Thursday, Haughton visits North DeSoto and Plain Dealing takes on North Caddo and Fair Park at Fair Park.
The Haughton-North DeSoto scrimmage was originally scheduled for Haughton, but because of the rain it was moved to North DeSoto because the school has an artificial playing surface.
Scrimmages usually consist of a couple of series of plays pitting first and second teams followed by a regulation 12-minute quarter although formats vary.
Coaches can be on the field and even in the huddle or stay on the sideline as in a real game.
No score is kept, but you better believe the players and coaches come away knowing which teams had the upper hand.
Airline coach Bo Meeks generally treats the week like a regular-season game week to start getting his players used to the routine.
While teams are focused on their regular-season openers, there is usually some preparation during practice for scrimmage opponents.
Mostly, though, the scrimmages provide an opportunity for coaches to evaluate their teams and see what issues there are that can be corrected before the regular-season openers.
The Aug. 26 jamboree will provide one more opportunity for that before it starts getting real.
The players, of course, finally get a chance to go against someone other than their own teammates.
Most teams will have almost three full weeks of practice under their belts.
Benton didn’t go through spring practice so under a new LHSAA rule the Tigers were allowed to put on the pads Aug. 1.
The other parish schools’ official first day of practice was Aug. 8, but most practiced in shorts, t-shirts and helmets the week before.
Because Benton didn’t have spring practice, the Tigers didn’t have a scrimmage.
This will be coach Reynolds Moore’s first opportunity to see his team in action since a loss to McDonogh 35 in the second round of the Class 4A playoffs last season.
Airline scrimmaged Northwood in the spring, so Meeks has had a chance to do some evaluation of his team, which includes a whole new set of starters on offense.
The matchup between Benton’s first-team offense and Airline’s first-team defense should be interesting.
Benton returns nine starters, including junior quarterback Garrett Hable, back from a team that went 10-2 and won its second consecutive District 1-4A championship.
The Tigers averaged almost 40 points per game last season.
Airline returns eight starters off last season’s 7-4 squad, including All-Parish linebacker Josh James.
It’ll be a different story when Airline’s first-team offense and Benton’s first team defense face off.
Benton does have a few returning starters, but like Airline, the Tigers have a lot of new faces.
New Airline quarterback Brad Fream and most of the Benton players know each other well.
Fream played at Benton Middle School and spent his freshman season at Benton High before transferring to Airline.
A lot of eyes across the state will be on the Parkway-West Monroe matchup.
MaxPreps recently released its preseason Class 5A select school rankings. Parkway is No. 1. West Monroe is No. 4.
West Monroe, of course, is a traditional state powerhouse, having won eight state championships in the state’s highest class.
The Rebels were the No. 1 seed in the 5A playoffs last season, but they were upset by No. 17 Ponchatoula 28-21 in the second round.
Sixth-seeded Parkway reached the semifinals, losing to eventual state champion Zachary 41-27.
Parkway returns two of the top offensive players in the state in running back/receiver Robert McKnight and wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. New quarterback Justin Rogers also has the potential to be one of the best.
But coach David Feaster has several newcomers on both sides of the ball.
West Monroe features 6-foot-3, 250-pound defensive end Dennis Collins and 6-4, 190-pound quarterback Robert Scott Foust.
North DeSoto and Haughton have been scrimmage partners for several years. The Griffins are among the favorites to win the District 1-4A title and should provide a good test for new head coach Jason Brotherton’s Bucs.
North DeSoto senior Delmonte Hall is one of the area’s top returning running backs.
Russell Hedges is Sports Editor of the Bossier Press-Tribune. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Airline vs. Benton, 6 p.m., at Byrd
Parkway at West Monroe, 6
Red River at Bossier, 6