Late in the third quarter Friday night, the Byrd side of Preston Crownover Stadium was rocking.
The Yellow Jackets led the battle of unbeatens 29-26 over the Parkway Panthers and had the ball at the Parkway 33 after recovering a fumble.
Byrd had rallied from a 26-15 halftime deficit to take the lead.
The Byrd fans could sense it. The Jackets were about to go in for the kill.
It didn’t happen.
Two plays later, the Yellow Jackets fumbled at the 21 and Parkway recovered.
Now it was the Panthers fans turn to get on their feet.
Parkway quarterback Brandon Harris led the Panthers to a first down at the Byrd 47. Three plays later, on fourth-and-6, William McKnight made one of the biggest plays in a game of big plays.
With his back to the end zone, McKnight hauled in a 36-yard pass from Harris at the Byrd 13. A play later, Demetrius McAtee took it in for the score. Avery Shoebridge’s PAT gave the Panthers a 33-29 lead with 10:15 left in the game.
One play after the ensuing kickoff, Marquis King returned an interception 24 yards for a touchdown.
An avalanche of Byrd turnovers after that made the final score Parkway 52, Byrd 29.
The Panthers, ranked No. 2 in Class 5A, improved to 7-0 overall and 3-0 in District 1-5A. Fourth-ranked Byrd fell to 7-1 and 2-1.
An overflow crowd of about 5,500 made for a college-type atmosphere at Preston Crownover. It was one of those rare games that actually lived up to the hype.
The Parkway defense played a key role in the victory.
Byrd, which lost top rusher Louis Mills to an injury on its first series, rushed for 278 yards. But the Panthers forced seven turnovers.
In addition to his big fumble recovery, Walker returned an interception 18 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. King also had an interception late in the first half deep in Parkway territory.
“They played with tremendous emotion,” Parkway coach David Feaster said of his team. “We made a lot of mistakes and all that, but the emotion was there, the effort was there. Again, a lot of that was crowd-driven. Our crowd continues to make a difference.”
Harris and the Parkway offense certainly did their part. Harris, who took a big helmet-to-helmet hit in the third quarter, rushed 16 times for 166 yards and scored two touchdowns.
Some of that was on designed plays. Other times, Harris scrambled for big gains when he couldn’t find an open receiver.
He also threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Austin Roth.
McKnight scored two rushing touchdowns and Demetrius McAtee scored one. Kei’Untre Normandin had a big run that set up a score.
Dante Williams, King and Walker were in on 12 tackles apiece. Hunter Huckaby and Austin Averitt were in on 10. Huckaby and King also recovered fumbles.
Russell Hedges is the sports editor of the Bossier Press-Tribune. You can contact him by e-mail at rhedges@bossierpress. com