Coaches see positives in scrimmages; jamboree up next for parish teams

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As is usually the case, last week’s scrimmages were a mixed bag for Bossier Parish high school football teams.
The coaches of the parish’s six teams saw much to praise but cautioned that there was plenty of kinks to work out before season openers Sept. 4.
They’ll have a chance to work some of those out Friday during the 62nd annual Bossier Lions Club Jamboree at Airline Stadium. The Bossier Bearkats and the Plain Dealing Lions start things off at 6 p.m. The Haughton Bucs face the Benton Tigers in the second “game” and the Airline Vikings meet the Parkway Panthers in the nightcap.
Airline coach Bo Meeks liked most of what he saw in the Vikings’ scrimmage against Benton.
The Vikings scored on some big plays and also drove the ball consistently. Airline’s first-team offense scored five touchdowns and the defense limited the Tigers to one.
Shuncee Thomas, Brian Fielding and Javarious “JuJu” Jones all scored on long runs. Thomas McKain threw touchdown passes to KJ Bilbo and Cameron Howell.
“I was really pleased,” Airline coach Bo Meeks said. “The thing that we wanted to do was come out and play fast and physical and we felt like we accomplished those two things. We’ve got a lot of things to clean up, but I was really pleased with the overall effort.”
Meeks said one area the Vikings have put emphasis on is improvement in the running game.
“We were able to run the ball pretty efficiently,” he said. “We did have some big plays in the running game. But we have to be a little more consistent there. That’s an area I think we can continue to improve. That’s going to be critical to our success.”
Meeks said his defense had a strong scrimmage.
“We did a really great job all night defensively,” he said. “I was really proud of how fast we played running to the ball, and we did a really good job of tackling.”
Airline is looking toward its season opener against Union Parish, but Meeks said his team needs to continue to compete well in the jamboree..
Airline and Parkway faced off was in the regular-season finale last year with the Vikings on the short end of a 41-28 score that wasn’t really that close.
“It’s another opportunity to improve where the actual score doesn’t count,” Meeks said. “But always playing a parish rival, the score may not count but it matters. We’re working to improve for Week 1 but we’re going to prepare to have the best chance of winning Friday night.”
Benton coach Reynolds Moore, who has had to fill some big holes on defense, thought his team competed well.
“I think that’s probably the biggest defense we’re going to see all year, and probably the biggest offense and defensive lines,” he said. “So it was a good test for us, kind of helps us out to see where we stack up.
“I thought our defense, especially up front, played really well the entire night, and I thought we did some really good things. I liked the fact just like any other scrimmage you get stuff on film against someone in a different color jersey. It helps out a whole bunch.”
The Tigers had two starting offensive linemen out because of injury. Moore said the jamboree should give him an even better idea of what kind of team he might have this season.
“We’ll know more (Friday) not necessarily because it’s Haughton or anything else — just what mistakes we made (during the scrimmage) that we’ll correct for this week,” he said. “We’ll see what kind of potential this team has to grow from week to week.”
Parkway put on an offense show against perennial power West Monroe in its scrimmage at Preston Crownover Stadium. Senior quarterback Keondre Wudtee threw touchdown passes to CJ Morgan, Harrison Hopkins and Terrace Marshall. Robert McKnight made several good runs and scored on a short one.
Morgan, a Mississippi State commit, made several big plays in his debut as a full-time receiver.
The defense gave up some yards to West Monroe’s option offense but also made some big stops that the offense took advantage of.
“We were pleased with it,” Parkway coach David Feaster said. “We heard West Monroe was going to be pretty good. We didn’t spent a lot of time preparing for them specifically so we just wanted to kind of line up and give them a chance to expose our weaknesses.
“And they did. We saw some things that we definitely need to work on but overall we were pleased.”
Feaster is expecting his defense to get another test in the jamboree against Airline.
“It look like Airline is running the ball a little bit more this season which is good for us too because I think that’s where our defense needs to be tested a little bit,” he said. “Our defense needs someone to pound it right at us and see if we can hold our own. It’s a slightly different type of test, but Airline from what I’ve seen so far looks very good.”
Haughton’s first-team defense held North DeSoto out of the end zone in their scrimmage in Stonewall. The Bucs held the Griffins, who shared the District 1-4A title last season, to just one first down on their second series of plays.
The Bucs’ first team offense scored once on a pass from new quarterback Darius Brooks to Josh Lister, who raced down the sideline after catching a short pass.
The main concern for the Bucs was turnovers. Haughton turned it over four times on its first series.
“We played pretty well I thought,” Haughton head coach Rodney Guin said. “We didn’t give up any scores on defense so that was a bright spot. That’s what I thought was going to be our strength early in the year.
“Offensively, we’ve got a lot of new starters — four new offensive linemen and a new quarterback. It’s just going to take us some game experience for them to get playing better. We did some good stuff. We had some good running plays that we broke. The passing game isn’t where it needs to be. He’s a brand-new quarterback. It’s going to take a few weeks, I think.”
Bossier coach Michael Concilio said he saw some “small signs of the old Bossier” in his team’s scrimmage against Red River.
Bossier’s first-team offense scored one touchdown and moved the ball. Red River scored twice, but the second one came on the scrimmage’s final play.
Bossier is coming off a winless season and has won only once in the last two season. Concilio said Red River, a Class 2A school which won six games last season, had about 60 players dressed out.
“I was fairly pleased,” Concilio said. “I saw some signs of the old Bossier and by that I mean playing with enthusiasm, flying to the football, some physical play we haven’t seen in awhile here. They were very, very enthusiastic and looked like they’re wanting to be part of something fresh here.”
Concilio said he has about eight or nine juniors playing and he liked what he saw out of them.
Class 1A Plain Dealing more than held its own against Class 4A Fair Park in their scrimmage, new Lions coach James Thurman said.
Neither team scored, but Plain Dealing sustained some drives.
“Going in playing a 4A team we were kind of worried about them having more depth than us,” Thurman said. “But really at the end of the day both teams had all they wanted or what have you. I was proud of our kids. They played hard.
“Defensively, their quarterback is pretty elusive. He kind of got free a couple of times and completed one or two passes down the field, but for the most part we held our own.”
On one 10-play series, the Lions drove to the Fair Park 20 but a pass into the end zone fell complete on the last play.
“I was pleased with it,” Thurman said. “We had a lot of young kids who stepped up. We were able to see kids that we had questions about that actually produced a little bit for us. Some kids earned starting positions so that was a very bright spot for us.”
Thurman said he just wants to see continued improvement against Bossier in the jamboree and for the Lions to stay injury-free.
“I tell my kids this all the time,” he said. “I don’t ask a whole lot of you. Just be better today than you were yesterday in some aspect of the game. That’s going to be our whole theme going into Friday. Just be better this Friday than we were last Friday.”

— Russell Hedges, rhedges@bossierpress.com