Sterlington (4-1) at Ferriday (2-3), Friday, 7 p.m.

Phase 2 of the football season gets under way Friday night as the Sterlington Panthers travel to Ferriday in the District 2-2A opener for both teams. Starting time is 7 p.m.

“Like we've been telling the kids, the season is really divided into three parts — pre-district, district and the playoffs,” Sterlington coach Jason Thompson said. “This is Week 1 of the second season.”

Off to a 4-1 start, the Panthers are regarded as one of the top contenders for the district title.

“We need to start district on the right foot,” Thompson said. “Certainly, the district championship is one of our team goals. I have a feeling we are going to have to win them all to be district champs. This week's game is the first step toward trying to accomplish one of our team goals.”

Midway through the regular season, the Panthers are No. 1 in the Louisiana High School Athletic Association's Class 2A public school unofficial power rankings. While it's an enviable position to be in, there is still a lot of football to be played.

“It means we're in a good spot for now,” Thompson said. “If we continue to play well, we can stay in a good spot. The kids are excited and the community is excited, but (being ranked No. 1) doesn't mean too much right now.”

Sterlington opened the season with wins over a pair of Class 4A schools, Benton (34-31) and West Ouachita (35-20), followed by a 16-6 loss to Ouachita Christian. Since then, the Panthers have defeated Mangham 39-37 and Homer 42-20.

Ferriday (2-3), meanwhile, is trying to snap a two-game losing streak. The Trojans opened the campaign with a 36-22 setback to Natchez (Miss.), followed by wins over Block (12-8) and Concordia Parish rival Vidalia (40-0) and losses to Richwood (41-14) and West St. Mary (21-20).

Ferriday was unable to protect a 14-0 halftime lead in last week's homecoming game against West St. Mary. A blocked punt and a fumble return for a touchdown in the third quarter led to the Trojans' downfall.

Thompson says the Trojans' speed is similar to Homer's.

“Like Homer last week, Ferriday is dangerous at the skill positions, offensively and defensively,” Thompson said. “All of their skill guys are very good and very talented. They're capable of hurting you with big plays. Just like last week, we have to stay away from the big play defensively and execute offensively. It'll be a tough challenge for us.”

Ferriday has a young squad. Left guard Kahalion Hawkins and wide receiver Jaulin Nealson are the only two senior starters on offense.

Junior wide receiver Adrian Wiggins and sophomore slotback Ronald Davis are the Trojans' go-to offensive weapons.

Tailback Jaylon Wade leads the Panthers offensively with 560 yards and seven touchdowns, followed by quarterback Devon Murphy with 215 yards and six scores.

Topping the Panthers' tackle chart are linebacker Cody McGuire (56 tackles, 7 tackles for loss), end DeMarcus Matthews (40 tackles, 4 sacks) and linebacker Calvin Clay (35 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 fumble recoveries).

On the road again next week, the Panthers journey to Winnfield.