West Ouachita at Sterlington, Friday, 7 p.m.
Nine months of lifting, conditioning, drills, summer practices in the searing heat and two preseason outings served a purpose. Lining up in a game that counts for the first time since the day after Thanksgiving, the Sterlington Panthers entertain the West Ouachita Chiefs on Friday at 7 p.m.
"It will be a good cross-parish rivalry game," Sterlington coach Lee Doty predicted. "You have two coaches who are buddies and have a lot of respect for each other. I'm sure a lot of the kids know each other. They'll bring a big crowd, and we'll have a big crowd. I think it will be a heck of a Friday night."
Expect a fast-paced game from the two option-based teams.
"I don't know how much passing will be done, but I'm sure it will be considerably less than last week at the Bayou Jamb," said Doty, whose team faced an air-oriented Bastrop squad last Friday.
Sterlington won last year's matchup 45-13 in Cadeville, but the victory came at a cost. Tailbacks C.J. Colvin and Malik Davis both suffered anchor injuries. Both will be back in the lineup Friday night, with Colvin at tailback and Davis at fullback.
West Ouachita is coming off of a 3-7 campaign, but Doty says the Chiefs are a totally different team under second-year head coach Matt Middleton.
"They are definitely getting better with Matt," Doty said. "You can see the improvement. Their scheme really fits their personnel. They handled Winnfield pretty good in the jamboree."
Junior quarterback Tobias Owens leads the way offensively for the Chiefs, who beat Winnfield 27-14 in jamboree action.
Right guard Noah Powell (6-3, 270) and right tackle Dustin Deville (6-5, 277) create matchup problems for the Panthers.
"We are going to have our hands full with them simply because of how big they are," Doty said.
Coming off of a 29-13 Bayou Jamb loss to Bastrop, the Panthers remain unsettled on a starting quarterback. Brody Green and Hayes Crockett each played a 12-minute half in the jamboree, and both will again take snaps Friday night.
"Now is a good time to play us," Doty said. "We still don't know exactly who our quarterback is. I thought that hurt us last week in the Bayou Jamb, not settling on a quarterback. I don't like a two quarterback system. Somebody is going to have to step up and earn that spot."
Colvin and Dallas Reagor scored the Panthers' two touchdowns against Bastrop, both from 31 yards out.
Sterlington managed just 141 yards (123 rushing, 18 passing), while committing three turnovers (2 fumbles, 1 interception).
Bastrop did most of its damage through the air as quarterback Quaterius Hawkins completed 15-of-23 passes for 190 yards and a pair of scores.
End Justin Fuller was a bright spot defensively for the Panthers, intercepting a screen pass to set up Colvin's first half touchdown run. Fuller and Hawkins were recognized as MVPs of their respective teams during a brief postgame ceremony.
Sterlington will be without starting free safety Reece Brooks due to a broken collarbone. Brooks, who was injured early in the first half vs. Bastrop, is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.
NEXT: Sterlington is on the road for its next two against Ouachita Christian (Sept. 7) and Oak Grove (Sept. 14).
PVA CONNECTION: Sterlington quarterback Hayes Crockett and wide receiver/kick returner Layton Rainbolt played for West Ouachita coach Matt Middleton at Prairie View. The trio helped the Spartans win back-to-back district titles for the first time in school history en route to advancing to the MAIS Class 2A quarterfinals in 2015 and 2016.
Crockett and Rainbolt both joined the Panthers over the summer.
RADIO: If you can't make it to the game, tune in. The veteran crew of Jimmy Guthrie, William Handy and Chris Sturdivant will once again serve as voices of the Panthers, home and away, on Power FM 92.7.