Much has been made of Parkway’s “Big Three” offensive players and for good reason.
The Panthers have three of the best in the state in quarterback Justin Rogers, receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. and running back/receiver Robert McKnight.
But Parkway isn’t the only Bossier Parish team with multiple players putting up impressive numbers this season.
Junior quarterback Garrett Hable, junior running back Jermaine Newton, junior receiver Doyle Adams Jr. and senior receiver John Westmoreland are all having outstanding seasons for the Benton Tigers.
Just call them the Tigers’ “Fantastic Four.” The foursome has helped Benton average 35.9 points per game.
Benton improved to 6-1 with an 31-0 victory over the Fair Park Indians last week. The Tigers face Woodlawn (6-1) on Friday at Independence Stadium in a key District 1-4A game.
The success of Hable, Newton, Adams and Westmoreland is hardly a surprise. They were all key players on last season’s 10-2 District 1-4A championship team.
“Those four are really special,” Benton coach Reynolds Moore said. “It’s really exciting for us and me that three of them are juniors and we’ll have them back next year.”
Hable’s success goes all the way back to the second half of the 2014 season when he came off the bench as a freshman and rallied the Tigers to a dramatic win over Fair Park.
Through seven games, he has accounted for 1,733 yards, an average of 247.6 (213.2 passing, 34.4 rushing)
“He does a good job and gets in this rhythm,” Moore said. “When he really gets going, everybody around him just feeds off of him. He’s that cog in the engine that just makes everything go and he’s a catalyst for our whole team.”
Over the past three years, Hable and Moore have developed a strong relationship.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever trusted anyone on the field more than I trust him to make the right decision and to give me feedback,” Moore said.
Moore said Hable has earned the right to let him know when something doesn’t feel right on the field with his intelligent play.
He said the two talked about it a little during practice before the Fair Park game.
“I thought he knew this, but I wanted to make sure that he knew, hey, if you don’t feel good about a play, you’ve earned the right for me to trust you in that. Just let me know and we’ll move on to something else,” Moore said.
Moore does have the final word, of course.
“I told him, ‘Look, I may tell you to shut up and run the play anyway’ “ Moore said with a laugh, “but I do value your input. I do trust you in that regard.’ “
Hable has been an effective player since he stepped on the field for the first time, but Moore has seen him develop in a complete quarterback over the years.
“He’s really ramped up his throws,” he said. “He’s got oomph behind that ball. He’s really driving it in there and making some good throws.”
Newton started his career as a linebacker on the freshman team. But that changed quickly after Moore saw him run the ball a few times.
Newton rushed for more than 1,000 yards in 2015. This season, he has averaged 85.9 per game on the ground and 102.9 total.
Moore said Newton is such an integral part of the offense that with teams keying on him it opens up things up for other players.
Patience is one of his biggest strengths, Moore said.
“He’s got this delayed move, this delayed sidestep he uses that gets him extra yards,” Moore said. “He just has that knack for knowing how to make people miss. He reminds me of a college back. He’s not big in that way but he reminds me of that with how he sets up his run. He’s a lot of fun to watch in that regard.”
Adams and Westmoreland may both be receivers, but their roles differ.
“They’re two really incredible weapons to have out there who kind of bring two different things to the table,” Moore said.
Westmoreland is 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds. He has caught 36 passes for 491 yards, an average of 13.6 yards per catch and 70.1 per game.
“He gives us a really big target on the outside,” Moore said. “He’s not the fastest kid in the world but he’s fast enough. He gets the job done and gets open and sets up his routes really well.”
Moore said Westmoreland absorbs coaching well and is the ultimate team player. He was a ball boy during varsity games his freshman year.
“He just wanted to be around the team,” Moore said. “He was always up here running routes, catching balls and seeing if he could get a quarterback to throw to him, doing whatever he could to get better.”
Westmoreland has learned to use his strength and size to better effect this season, Moore said.
“He’s just kind of that guy that if I’ve got to have a play I feel comfortable going to him every time we need to,” Moore said. “The same could really be said about Junior (Adams), to be honest.”
Adams leads the Tigers with nine touchdowns through seven weeks. He has 49 catches for 475 yards. In two games, he had 10-plus catches.
Like Newton, Adams doesn’t have great size. But he does have big hands which he uses to his advantage.
“It’s unbelievable what he can do, how big his hands are,” Moore said. “He’s a guy we like to get ball to in space. He’s really, really grasped the concept of a lot of our plays.”
Moore said Adams and Hable are almost always on the same page. Adams’ job is to find the “green,” or open spot, Moore said, and Hable’s is to get him the ball.
“He and Garrett have done a real good job of working together and learning where that green is and seeing the same thing that I see and seeing the same thing that the other one sees out there,” Moore said.
One thing Adams has improved on over last season is hanging on to the ball. While he made some spectacular catches, he also had some drops.
“He’s really minimized his drops,” Moore said. “I don’t think he’s got but one or two.”
Adams is also a weapon as a kick return specialist. He’s returned punts for touchdowns and set up other scores with returns.
“He’s just very smart football-wise,” Moore said. “He’s one of those kids that has got some unique abilities and special abilities.”
That could sum up all of the Tigers’ “Fantastic Four.”
NOTE: For information on every parish team pick up a copy of Wednesday’s Press-Tribune. You’ll find the four-page Friday Night Mix inside.
— Russell Hedges, firstname.lastname@example.org