Benton at Sterlington, Friday, 7 p.m.
Facing the first of two straight Class 4A opponents, the Sterlington Panthers kick off the regular season at home against the Benton Tigers on Friday at 7 p.m.
With two new head coaches in place, it's a highly-anticipated season opener at both schools.
Entering his first season as a head coach, former Neville defensive coordinator Jason Thompson is the new boss of the Panthers.
Reynolds Moore takes over at Benton following a stint as head coach at Alexandria Bolton.
Moore has brought an entirely different offensive philosophy to Benton. After years of grinding it out from the Wing-T, the Tigers have adapted a wide open style of play.
"They air it out about 80-85 percent of the time," Thompson said. "Offensively, they're fast-paced. It's an Oregon-style offense. They try to run two plays a minute and they're good at it."
Thompson says the Tigers' have the personnel to run the spread effectively. Quarterback Jordan Shaffer (6-1, 170, sr.) and wide receiver Kordy Stewart (6-2, 185, sr.), in particular, have caught the Panthers' attention.
"Their quarterback is an accurate passer and he's quick," Thompson said. "If there's nobody open, he can pull it down and run. He's one of those athletic quarterbacks that is hard to prepare of.
"(Stewart) is a big target with good hands. Their quarterback delivers the ball well and their receivers catch and run well."
Compared to the Panthers' three preseason foes, Benton's offense provides an entirely different look.
"This is completely different from what we've been seeing," Thompson said. "We run the veer and Oak Grove ran the veer. Cedar Creek and St. Frederick ran the spread, but they ran the ball from it. Benton runs the spread to throw it. Benton certainly presents a different challenge for us. They're going to be a handful for us. We have to play well to have a shot to win."
Benton dropped a 35-7 decision to powerful Parkway in jamboree action last week, though Thompson says the score is misleading.
"Parkway had two pick-6s at the end," Thompson said. "Benton moved the ball most of the night, it just got away from them in the end."
Sterlington won its jamboree, 15-14, over District 2-2A rival Oak Grove.
While Benton was charged with five turnovers, the Panthers played turnover free and came up with a pair of takeaways.
"I told the kids Monday that I didn't think we played well, but I thought we played hard," Thompson said. "Any time you can play hard and win the turnover battle, you have a shot. I was proud of the effort, but we still have a ways to go as far as the fundamentals of the game."
Defensive tackle Nick Naile and wide receiver Rex Spencer stood out for the Panthers in the jamboree.
"Nick Naile made some mistakes, but he's relentless," Thompson said. "If you play with a motor, you can get away with making some mistakes.
"Rex Spencer had a touchdown catch and blocked real well outside on the edge."
Right tackle Conley Harris returned to practice Monday after missing the jamboree with a shoulder injury.
Inside linebacker Cody McGuire (knee) remains out indefinitely, while outside linebacker Trent Raffray (torn labrum) is expected to return in October.
Closing out a two-game homestand, the Panthers are paired against West Ouachita on Friday, Sept. 13.
THE SERIES: This marks the fifth straight season for the Panthers and Tigers to tangle in the season opener. Sterlington won the 2010 matchup 27-7, but the Tigers have won the past three meetings — 40-13 in 2011, 34-0 in 2012 and 21-20 last year at Benton.