Playing on Saturday

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Parkway will face off against Marshall this weekend

Top high school football players go on to play on Saturdays.

Parkway senior quarterback Brandon Harris will get that opportunity a year early this weekend, along with his teammates, when the Panthers take on Marshall (Texas) High School at the Landers Dodge Battle on the Border at Shreveport’s Independence Stadium.

Now in its third year, the Landers Dodge Battle on the Border has established itself as the top high school football event in Louisiana other than the state championship games held in the Superdome. This year, the field has been expanded to ten teams and a two-day format.

This year’s field features powerhouse teams from Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi. Friday, the event kicks off with St. Thomas More High School (Lafayette, La.) taking on Shreveport’s Calvary Baptist Academy at 6 p.m. Bastrop (La.) High School faces C.E. Byrd High School (Shreveport) at 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, Acadiana High School (Lafayette, La.) faces Neville High School (Monroe, La.) at 2 p.m. Parkway takes on Marshall at 5 p.m., and Longview (Texas) High School plays Olive Branch (Miss.) High School at 7:30 p.m.

Five of the 10 teams in this year’s event have either won a state championship or appeared in a state championship game since 2006. The remaining teams, for the most part, have established a reputation over the years as among the perennial upper echelon teams in their state.

Parkway, the first Bossier Parish participant in the Battle on the Border, is a rising power in Louisiana high school football. Parkway’s opponent, Marshall, is a storied program trying to regain its past glory.

Going just by their records, the 1-0 Panthers would seem to be the overwhelming favorite over 0-2 Mavericks. But, Parkway Coach David Feaster knows records and statistics can be deceiving. Both of Marshall’s losses have come against perennial powers Kilgore (42-7) and last week against Longview (26-14).

“They’re putting it all together,” Feaster said at the event press conference earlier this week. “I just don’t want it to be against us.”

Harris, who has verbally committed to LSU and had offers from Alabama and Ohio State among others, is ranked among the top dual-threat quarterbacks nationally. The Panthers moved up to No. 5 in the Class 4A poll after a 55-13 win against Calvary Baptist Academy, which at the time was the top-ranked Class 2A team in Louisiana.

Harris completed 16 of 28 passes in that game for 239 yards and three touchdowns. He also had four rushes for 28 yards.

“He’s as good or better than any quarterback I’ve had,” said Marshall Coach Clint Harper, who has had some past quarterbacks play collegiately. “We’ll have our hands full trying to contain their offense.”

Marshall is quarterbacked by sophomore Justin Hart, who has completed 24 of 43 passes for 293 yards and has had three interceptions. His top receivers have been Merek Reyes, 10 receptions for 108 yards, and Mitchell Leonard, four receptions for 92 yards. Against tough teams, the Mavericks have had a rough time running the ball, gaining 76 yards on 59 attempts while scoring three rushing touchdowns. Top rushers are Nolan Allen (11 carries for 58 yards and one touchdown, 5.27 yards per carry) and Jacque Kuykendall (17 carries for 27 yards while scoring two touchdowns).

Parkway, Calvary Baptist Academy and C.E.Byrd High School provide a lot of local interest to this year’s Battle on the Border, but the Panthers are the only local team playing on Saturday in what for many players could be the biggest stage in their careers short of a state championship game.

It’s an opportunity Feaster doesn’t want to waste.

A decade ago, Parkway wasn’t the quality of team that would have been invited to a big event like Battle on the Border. The team has gone from being on underdog to having a bullseye on them, particularly during Feaster’s tenure that includes a 20-5 record in two 5A seasons at the school, capped with playing in the quarterfinals last season.

What Feaster wants to do this weekend is to parlay the team’s strong home field advantage at its regular stadium into a home field advantage on the bigger stage of a showcase event at Independence Stadium.

“Our team feeds off that fan base,” Feaster said.