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High school football: Teams set for district play

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Two Bossier Parish teams remain undefeated going into district play Friday.
The Parkway Panthers pulled off a stunner last week, knocking off Arkansas power Pulaski Academy 30-22 at home. The Panthers (2-0) open District 1-5A play at two-time defending champion Evangel Christian, which is off to a surprising 0-3 start after falling to Duncanville, Texas, 46-18.
The Haughton Buccaneers won a 43-34 shootout over Woodlawn at home to improve to 3-0. The Bucs play another undefeated team, Byrd, in their 1-5A opener at Lee Hedges Stadium. The Yellow Jackets (3-0) downed Sulphur 16-13 in Week Three.
Benton was the only other parish team that won last week. The Tigers knocked off previously undefeated Tioga 27-17 on the road for their first victory of the season. Benton (1-2) begins defense of its District 1-4A title at Bossier (1-2), which fell to Class 1A power Logansport 41-0 at home.
The Airline Vikings lost to Ruston 36-19 at home. Airline (0-3) hosts Southwood (1-2), which lost to Natchitoches Central 44-6, in its 1-5A opener.
The Plain Dealing Lions dropped a 43-0 decision to Northwood, ranked No. 5 in Class 4A, on the road. The Lions open District 1-1A play at home against Ringgold (0-3), which lost to Tensas 44-6.
Evangel has lost just one district game since moving up to 1-5A in 2015. The Eagles have dominated the district the last two seasons. But that just might change this year.
The Eagles lost to Bishop Dunne of Dallas 23-14 in their season opener. A week later, Byrd defeated Bishop Dunne 17-14 in the Battle on the Border.
But until somebody beats Evangel, the Eagles still have to be considered the favorite. The Eagles simply have too much talent to stay down for long.
Parkway obviously cannot afford to have a letdown after the win over Pulaski, which has to be considered one of the biggest in the regular season in school history.
Pulaski, a Little Rock private school, has won four straight Arkansas state championships. The Bruins lost only two games during that span.
The bad news is the Panthers will be without senior quarterback Amani Larry, who suffered a spiral fracture of his right fibula in the third quarter. He was replaced by his younger brother Gabe, a sophomore who performed well in a pressure situation.
Parkway lost to Pulaski 62-21 in Little Rock last year in a game broadcast on national TV. Parkway coach Neil May said that’s one thing the Panthers used as motivation during the offseason.
Parkway will be looking for more redemption Friday. Last year, the Eagles won 52-0.
Even though Pulaski had more than 400 yards total offense, the defense made the plays it took to win. None bigger was an interception return for a TD by Kentravious Morris that gave the Panthers a 30-14 lead with about three minutes left in the game.
If Parkway can continue to play solid defense and the offense adjusts well without Amani Larry, Friday’s game could be a very good one.
Byrd has had back-to-back so-so seasons, but the Yellow Jackets appear to again have what it takes to make a run at the district title.
Haughton’s defense struggled against Woodlawn in the first half, and the Bucs will be challenged by coach Mike Suggs’ run-oriented option offense.
The Haughton offense was impressive against Woodlawn. Sophomore quarterback Peyton Stovall has run the offense like a veteran. Junior receiver CJ McWilliams has, as expected, proven to be a big-time playmaker. Junior running back Keyshawn Davis has rushed for more than 100 yards in all three games. Junior receiver Tristan Sweeney is also capable of making gamechanging plays. Matthew Whitten has also contributed to the Bucs’ success.
The Yellow Jackets will be Haughton’s toughest opponent so far. They will also be looking for revenge after last year’s 44-19 loss, Haughton’s first win over Byrd since moving up to Class 5A in 2011.
Haughton will likely need to play better on defense to win, but the Bucs are certainly capable of it. This one could go down to the wire.
Airline hasn’t started the season with three straight losses in a dozen years, but the Vikings may be the best 0-3 team in the state. Airline has had second-half leads in all three games.
The Vikings led Ruston 19-16 in the third quarter. But the Bearcats, a team capable of making a deep playoff run, scored 20 unanswered points.
Southwood appears to be a better team than last year’s 0-10 squad. But Airline is hungry for a win and shouldn’t have much trouble getting it.
And don’t count out the Vikings in the race for the district title, either.
Northwood was the District 1-4A favorite going into the season and the Falcons have done nothing to disprove that, rolling to a 3-0 record. Coach Jim Gatlin’s team travels to North DeSoto (3-0) for its district opener, and there are those that believe the game could very well decide the championship.
But any team that overlooks Benton does so at its own peril. The Tigers look to be on the verge of turning things around after the 0-2 start. Coach Reynolds Moore has a young team that took a step toward maturing against Tioga.
Sophomore quarterback Clint Lasiter had a solid performance. Running back Keldric Moody (205 yards, three TDs) and receiver Bubba Osby both had big games.
The defense made some big stops in the red zone.
Benton is a heavy favorite against Bossier. The Tigers get their shot at Northwood in Week Five.
As it has in the past few seasons, Bossier is fighting a losing battle in the numbers game. Coach Michael Concilio has some very good athletes just not enough to provide the depth necessary to compete on a consistent basis in tough District 1-4A. Don’t expect the Bearkats to go down without a fight against Benton, though.
Plain Dealing coach James Thurman also has a numbers problem. The Lions were simply outmanned by a talented Northwood team with at least five times as many players. Plain Dealing started the season with about 20 players which is a small roster even for a Class 1A team
The Lions should get back in the win column this week, though, against a struggling Ringgold squad. As stated above, the Redskins fell to Tensas 44-6 last week. Plain Dealing defeated Tensas 36-0 in Week One.

NOTE: A correction has been made to the original version reflecting Evangel moved up to District 1-5A in 2015.

Russell Hedges is Sports Editor of the Bossier Press-Tribune. He may be reached at rhedges@bossierpress.com