Last year, the Parkway Panthers lost to the Evangel Christian Academy Eagles 56-21 and advanced to the semifinals of the Class 5A playoffs, losing a close game to eventual state champion Zachary.
That’s why Parkway coach David Feaster wasn’t overly concerned about his team’s 45-8 loss to Evangel Friday night in a District 1-5A opener before a large crowd at Preston Crownover Stadium.
“We’ll remind them of last year,” Feaster said. “That’s the good thing about having experience. Last year we got beat and we ended up in the semifinals so felt like we had a chance to win the state championship. So we’re just going to learn from this and try to improve on what we’re not good at and try to go back and make a run.”
Parkway, ranked No. 3 in the Louisiana Sports Writers Association Class 5A poll, dropped to 3-1 overall. The Panthers travel to Lee Hedges Stadium for a matchup with Byrd (0-4) Thursday. The Yellow Jackets lost their district opener 34-7 to Captain Shreve.
Tenth-ranked Evangel improved to 2-2. The margin of victory may have been surprising, but the fact that Evangel won was hardly shocking. The Eagles’ losses were against Allen, Texas, the No. 5 team in the USA Today Super national rankings, and Neville, the No. 1 team in the LSWA Class 4A poll.
The good news is Parkway won’t have to face Evangel, which plays in select Division I, in the playoffs.
Last year, Parkway’s problems against Evangel were mostly self-inflicted, including six turnovers. Friday, the Panthers also hurt themselves some.
Evangel took an early 14-0 lead after recovering a fumble deep inside Parkway territory. The Eagles also returned a very short punt for their final TD late in the game. Parkway had one touchdown in the first half nullified by a penalty.
But overall Evangel dominated, especially at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Parkway was simply no match for Evangel up front. For the most part, the Eagles were bigger, faster and stronger and it showed.
“Some of it was self-inflicted, but a lot of it was that their players are that good … I thought we put up a really good fight but it wasn’t good enough,” Feaster said.
Parkway has just four returning starters on offense and defense. That inexperience showed against an experienced Evangel squad loaded with talent.
“You just can’t point to one or two things,” Feaster said. “Some of the things we did we looked like we had never practiced some of the stuff before and that was very uncharacteristic of our team. A lot of it was that Evangel is just that good.
“They’ve got great running backs. They’ve got great offensive linemen. When we do stop the run, they can throw the ball so they’re obviously responsible for a lot of that. We’ve got four starters back on both sides of the ball. It’s not unusual that we’re missing blocks, that we’re missing tackles. But it is frustrating. We’ve got to get better.”
The Eagles looked like they were out to make sure All-State wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. wouldn’t beat them. They had one player on him at the line of scrimmage and one watching him about 15 yards back.
Marshall, who came into the game with 17 catches for 497 yards and six touchdowns, didn’t catch a pass.
The Eagles, led by lineman Davin Cotton, put constant pressure on junior quarterback Justin Rogers, who completed just eight of 14 passes for 87 yards.
Most of Parkway’s offense came from Rogers’ feet. Despite 32 yards in losses, he rushed for 66 yards on 19 carries and scored the Panthers’ lone touchdown on a 13-yard run on the final play of the first half. Robert McKnight’s two-point conversion run made it 24-8.
Earlier, McKnight had a 19-yard touchdown run that would’ve likely cut Evangel’s lead to 17-7 nullified by a penalty. On the next play, Evangel picked off a pass intended for Marshall deep in the end zone.
The Panthers were still very much in the game after Rogers’ touchdown run. Parkway received the second-half kickoff, but the Eagles picked off a reverse pass attempt by Marshall on fourth down and scored three plays later.
Tamauge Sloan, a speedy sophomore, led Evangel with 184 yards, according to The (Shreveport) Times. Connor Curry passed for 158 yards. According to Parkway stats, the Eagles had 449 yards total offense to Parkway’s 197.
— Russell Hedges, email@example.com