North Webster at Airline, 7
Byrd at Parkway, 7
Captain Shreve at Haughton, 7
North DeSoto at Benton, 7
Bossier at BTW, 7
Plain Dealing at Arcadia, 7
With four weeks left in the high school football football regular season, we’re about to enter the home stretch.
And it’s not too early to start thinking about the playoffs.
Right now, the Haughton Bucs are the only shoo-in to make the playoffs of the three parish Class 5A teams.
Haughton (5-1, 1-1) is No. 13 in the power rankings, according to louisianasportsline.com. In the unlikely event the Bucs lose their final four games, they would still finish in the top 32.
Haughton defeated Franklin Parish 54-30 in its final non-district game last week, scoring on every possession but one.
In one of the area’s biggest Week 7 games, the Bucs host Captain Shreve (5-1, 1-1) Thursday.
Haughton head coach Jason Brotherton’s brother, Coy, will be on the opposite sideline. The former Plain Dealing head coach is the Captain Shreve offensive coordinator.
“My mom and dad will be stressed out,” Jason Brotherton said.
Captain Shreve defeated Parkway 23-2 last week, ending an 11-game losing streak to the Panthers. The Gators are 5-1 for the first time since 2005.
Brotherton was at the Parkway-Shreve game and he also saw the Gators play one other time this season.
“They’re good,” he said. “They’re explosive on offense, score a lot of points. Both running backs are good. They’ve got big receivers. Their O-line is the biggest around here. They’re huge up front. They’re defense is pretty good. They’re the real deal. We’ll have to play well to beat them. We’re excited it’s at our place. Typically we play a little better there. So we’re hoping that if we play well it will be a good game.”
Haughton has defeated Shreve every year since moving up to District 1-5A in 2011, but there have been some close games in the series.
The Bucs obviously want to finish the season strong and remain in the top 16, which would mean a home game in the first round of the playoffs.
A win over the No. 9 Gators would be a big step in that direction.
Parkway (3-2, 1-2) is in a good position to make the playoffs at No. 26 in the power rankings. The Panthers should finish with at least five wins. Their toughest remaining games are Thursday against Byrd (5-1, 2-1) and Haughton at home in Week 9. A win over Byrd would virtually assure a playoff spot.
Parkway has been bitten by the injury bug. And last week, the Panthers played without their top rusher for an undisclosed reason.
While playing well on defense, especially in the second half, Parkway just couldn’t generate enough offense to give themselves a chance against Shreve.
The Panthers lost to Byrd 49-34 last year after beating the Jackets two years in a row. Thursday’s game will be another challenge.
Airline (1-5) plays its final non-district game Thursday at home against Class 3A North Webster. The Vikings lost to three-time defending district champion Evangel Christian 39-10 last week.
At No. 43 in the power rankings, Airline has an uphill climb to make the playoffs. But it is certainly possible.
North Webster (3-3) probably won’t be a pushover, but Airline should win. The Vikings close the regular season against Captain Shreve at Lee Hedges Stadium followed by home games against Byrd and Haughton. All three will be tough games.
It’s been a frustrating season. Change a play here or there and Airline could easily be 4-2. A strong finish resulting in a playoff berth could make up for the early close losses.
Benton (3-3, 2-1) is No. 20 in the Class 4A power rankings. The Tigers should finish with at least five wins and easily make the playoffs.
Benton’s toughest remaining opponent is North DeSoto (5-1, 2-1), No. 6 in the power rankings. The Tigers and Griffins face off Thursday at Benton. Woodlawn, which has a solid offense, could provide a challenge in Week 9.
Last week, Benton rallied from a 10-point deficit in the final five minutes to defeat Minden 27-23. It was the Tigers’ second big fourth-quarter rally in as many weeks. In Week 5, they came back from 21 down to get within one of Northwood. The Falcons won 28-27 after a two-point conversion try failed.
Sophomore quarterback Clint Lasiter and senior receiver Legend Denler both came up big against Minden. Lasiter threw for 280 yards, including 197 in the second half. Denler caught three TD passes, including two in the final 4:54. Sophomore Jackson Illingworth made the biggest play of his brief career, catching a 64-yard touchdown pass.
Jayree Anderson had a key interception to set up the game-winning TD.
The Benton-North DeSoto winner will stay in the race for the District 1-4A title. It looks like undefeated Northwood is going to run the table, though. It would take a major upset to keep that from happening.
Bossier (1-5, 0-3 1-4A) has a good chance to get its second win of the season Friday at Booker T. Washington (0-6, 0-3), which lost to Huntington 24-16 last week. The Lions have played a couple of other close games. The Bearkats, who lost to North DeSoto 45-6 last week, will have to play well to win.
Bossier is No. 46 in the Class 4A power rankings. Absent a huge turnaround, the Bearkats will miss the playoffs for the sixth straight year.
With just 32 teams in Class 1A, every team qualifies for the playoffs.
So Plain Dealing coach James Thurman doesn’t have to worry about that. But he does have to worry about whether or not he will have enough healthy players to continue once the regular season is over.
The Lions went through some turmoil after a 41-0 loss in Week 5. Thurman wasn’t pleased with the effort and attitude of some of the players during the late stages of that game. He basically told them to make a commitment to the team. If they couldn’t, then they need not be at practice the following Monday.
Seven players weren’t. Four of those quit and three failed to tell Thurman they weren’t going to be there. Those three had to sit out last Friday’s home game against Jonesboro-Hodge.
That left Thurman with 17 players, including two middle school players, available to play against perhaps the second-best team in the district.
When one player suffered an ankle injury, the Lions were down to 16.
Plain Dealing lost 50-6, but Thurman had nothing but praise for his team’s attitude and effort.
“They went out and everything was positive,” he said. “The kids played hard. They never gave up. They gave everything they had and I’m very proud of them.
“They did what I asked them to do, to not give up. Don’t be down on each other and lift each other up and don’t allow a bad play take you out of your focus and I think they did that. I was very pleased with them.”
The Lions (2-4, 1-1) visit Arcadia (1-4, 1-2) Friday. The Hornets have one of the state’s best running backs in Corey Russell.
Plain Dealing has Haynesville, Lincoln Prep and Homer after that.
While more attrition is a legitimate concern, especially with regard to player safety, Thurman is by no means ready to throw in the towel. He expects to have the three players who missed practice and another who has sat out due to a concussion back for the Arcadia game.
“We’ve still got a lot of football to play,” he said. “Four weeks, four-game stretch, anything can happen … We aren’t going around the halls begging people to come out. That’s not something we’re going to do. We’re going to play with the ones that want to be there.”
Russell Hedges is Sports Editor of the Bossier Press-Tribune. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org