For fans, Friday night’s 65th annual Bossier Lions Club Jamboree will be a chance to get a preview of the parish’s six high school football teams.
For coaches, it’s a final opportunity to see the progress their teams have made since the beginning of preseason practice.
For players, it’s a chance to fine-tune things with season openers a week away.
The jamboree kicks off at 5:45 p.m. Friday at M.D. Ray Field at Airline Stadium.
Benton faces Airline in the first “game” followed by Bossier vs. Plain Dealing at 7:15 and Parkway vs. Haughton at 8:45.
Each “game” will consist of 12-minute halves.
For most of the players, the crowd at Airline Stadium will be the largest they’ll play in front of this season.
Of course, the event is about more than just football. Each school has a jamboree queen. Cheerleaders are on the sidelines.
Bossier’s Michael Concilio, going into his 12th season as head coach, has participated in the jamboree as a head coach, assistant coach and player.
“Seems like the jamboree is always very inspiring, gets the season started and gets it going,” he said at Monday’s jamboree coaches dinner at Airline Baptist Church.
Concilio said he always had a few butterflies going into it as a player and even during his days as an assistant coach.
Whenever Bossier Parish teams go head-to-head, the competition is intense. That will be the case Friday night.
But after the jamboree, every team will still be 0-0, and coaches will be thankful if their teams come away from it with no serious injuries.
Five of the six head coaches got a chance to get some video of their teams in action for the first time since preseason practice began last week in scrimmages.
The exception was Airline’s Bo Meeks. The Vikings’ scrimmage against Ouachita Parish in Monroe was cancelled because of severe weather and heavy rain.
Most of the coaches were pleased with what they saw.
That included Haughton’s Jason Brotherton. The Bucs’ first-team offense scored four touchdowns.
Junior CJ McWilliams scored three, two on passes from sophomore Peyton Stovall and one on a 99-yard kickoff return.
“When we get him the ball in space, he’s hard to tackle,” Brotherton said. “He’s smart. He’s one of the best players in the city that I don’t think people know about.”
Stovall, who sat out spring practice because of an injury, was impressive running the Bucs’ offense. Receiver Matthew Whitten also made some big catches.
“I was pleased,” Brotherton said. “I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t happy. Our quarterback played well. We were worried about that. He didn’t participate in spring ball so that was the first game he’s played in since he was a freshman.
“He showed good poise and led the offense and did the things that we asked him to do. We feel like we found our quarterback so we’re excited about that.”
North DeSoto’s first-team offense only scored once. Aubrey Scott, one of the area’s top returning offensive players, turned a short pass into a long TD.
“We played well,” Brotherton said. “A few times we didn’t tackle well but that’s kind of expected early in the year. We feel like that’ll get better. We gave up the one big play. In that play I think we missed three tackles. He’s a good player and when he gets in space he’s faster than everybody else.
“For the most part, we’re playing with a lot of kids who have never played so I was pleased with the effort and overall performance.”
Benton’s first-team offense scored a couple of touchdowns in a scrimmage against North Webster at Benton. But that wasn’t the most important thing for coach Reynolds Moore.
“I think it’s always good to get work in against somebody else for a change,” he said. “It’s the time of year when you’ve been beating up on each other for awhile.
“I saw some really good things. I saw a lot of things we’ve got to improve on. I think certain areas like the offensive line we played a little bit better than we would’ve thought, but we’re not where we need to be.”
The Tigers have had to replace several veteran starters, including four-year starting quarterback Garrett Hable.
“The good thing is we got it on film against somebody else now,” Moore said.
That will give him and his assistants the opportunity to evaluate the players and correct mistakes.
“Obviously we want to do well at the jamboree, but we want to focus on Week 1 against Wossman and that when it counts we’re cleaned up and ready to go,” Moore said.
Moore liked the way junior quarterback Ken Gay handled the offense his first time out.
“Ken did OK,” he said. “When he had time to throw he made some good throws. Had a pretty strong wind out there for a while so the wind caught a couple of them. He was under pressure a good bit. For his first time as a starter with that kind of pressure on him I was pleased. Great starting point for him to build off of for the rest of the season.”
Parkway’s varsity scrimmage against Pineville at Bobby Marlow Field at Preston Crownover Stadium was delayed an hour because of lightning. The Panthers were obviously ready to play when it finally got started.
Parkway’s first-team offense scored four touchdowns and the defense allowed none. The Panthers’ running game was impressive. Jamall Asberry, Alijah Bennett and Caleb Shearin all ran the ball well. Sweeps were especially effective. The offensive line opened some big holes.
Senior quarterback Amani Larry, a returning starter, ran the offense well, mixing in some passes for nice gains. One of those went for a TD to Kobe Gill.
“I thought our kids played real well,” coach Neil May said. “A lot of kids were able to score the ball and Amani did a great job managing the offense, and our defense is improved from last year. We’ve got a lot of kids running fast to the football and they want to tackle so that’s a good thing.
“Our outside receivers, Chase Turner and Kobe Gill, really caught the ball well and Amani did a good job getting it to them.”
May had high praise for the offensive line.
“Probably the most important of all is our veteran offensive line,” he said. “Four of the five are seniors and they’re returning starters from last year. They’ve all gotten stronger and they’re real confident in what we’re doing. It all starts with them.”
Plain Dealing scrimmaged District 1-1A foe Ringgold on the road. The Lions dominated, scoring five touchdowns and allowing none.
“We did pretty well,” coach James Thurman said. “We were a little sloppy. That was only our fourth day in pads. We still have a lot of improvement to do but I think overall the kids came out and executed well.”
Trey O’Neal scored on a 10-yard run and Ladarious O’Neal caught a 50-yard pass from Artavious Washington Carper in the first series involving first-team players.
In the second series, Cedarius Johnson and Ladarious O’Neal both scored on runs of about 60 yards.
The teams also practiced goalline situations. Ladavious Scott and Dez Player ran for TDs.
Thurman’s goal is the same as other coaches going into the jamboree.
“Just to get things cleaned up,” he said. “Looking back at the film from the scrimmage, there was a couple times where they stopped us for no gain or a loss and we saw maybe there was one guy who didn’t do his assignment. Stuff like that we’ve got to clean up, getting all 11 guys hitting on the same play just right.”
Bossier also was on the road, traveling to Coushatta for a scrimmage against Red River. The Bearkats will be looking for improvement against Plain Dealing Friday.
Red River kept Bossier’s first team out of the end zone and scored three times.
“We came out and realized how much work we have to do,” Concilio said during the coaches dinner. “We were prepared for that and after looking at the film we have a lot more work than we thought.
65th annual Bossier Lions Club Jamboree
At Airline Stadium
Airline vs. Benton, 5:45
Bossier vs. Plain Dealing, 7:15
Haughton vs. Parkway, 8:45
— Russell Hedges, email@example.com