Prairie View at Union Christian, Friday, 7 p.m.
Prairie View opens regular season play in Farmerville for the second straight year Friday night when it travels to Union Christian for a 7 p.m. contest.
Last year's encounter was a blowout with the visitors notching a 38-0 victory in a game that was disrupted by a lengthy lightning delay.
Bo Barton wasn't around for last year's game, but the Spartans' first-year coach expects the Lions to put up more resistance Friday night.
"Every coach I have talked to that has scrimmaged or played them says the same thing — they are leaps and bounds ahead of where they were last year," Barton said.
With both teams playing in Saturday night's Jam at the Grove at ULM, Barton was able to get a first-hand look at the Lions.
"They are fast, big and have a good offensive and defensive scheme," Barton said. "They have a lot of team speed. We are going to have to play a good game to beat them."
In particular, running back Nick Evans caught Barton's attention as the Lions split their two games with a win over Glenbrook and a loss to Riverfield.
"Their running back, No. 33, had 200 yards on three totes," Barton said. "He went 80 yards against Riverfield and 70 yards against Glenbrook. Everybody says he gets tired real easy. If you run 80 yards for a touchdown, even in the pros, they get you out of there for a couple of plays. He probably had 300 yards in two jamboree games, so I know he can play."
Defensively, the Spartans have focused on avoiding the big play.
"We have to slow him down," Barton said. "He's going to break one — that's just the way it is. We have to get some helmets on him. Once he gets his shoulders square, he's hard to deal with."
Prairie View swept its two games, edging Riverfield 8-6 and blanking Glenbrook 14-0.
"I think our kids were pleased to actually get out there and beat and bang on somebody other than each other," Barton said. "I thought we played at a hard, fast level."
After three early turnovers against Riverfield, the Spartans played sound football for the remainder of the evening.
"In the first game, we were a little jittery," Barton said. "I wouldn't say we were nervous, but I thought we were overly-excited. We turned the ball over three times, and two of those were after big gains.
"In the second time, we took it to Glenbrook — we just did. I was concerned about us being tired in the second game, but I thought we played harder and faster in the second game than we did in the first game."
Barton expects conditioning to be a factor Friday night, as well, with both teams being short on numbers.
"It's going to come down to which team is in better shape, which team wants it the most and which team is willing to leave it all out there," Barton said. "I will say this after coaching them for a year in baseball — there is no back up in the kids from Prairie View. These boys hate to lose, and I love that about them."
Barton was pleasantly surprised by the Spartans' line play on both sides of the field Saturday night.
"Tyler Peters and Kolton Farrar both played well defensively up front," Barton said.
An inexperienced offensive line exceeded Barton's expectations.
"I was pleased with Caleb Christmas, Mason King, Caleb Tanksley, Gage Riles and Austin Harper, who was playing cornerback last year," Barton said. "We knew what we had in Cole Kinnaird, who was our only returning starting lineman. Those kids held their own. They're coming around. They're not that big, but they're feisty and will get after you. I think by the time Week 7 and Week 8 gets here — if we can stay healthy — we're going to be solid up front.
"Lucas Crockett, Layton Rainbolt, Tanner Caldwell, Blake Ray — you expect those guys to do well — but the surprise was our linemen. Defensively and offensively, our line play was probably what I was most pleased with."
Next Friday, the Spartans make their first home appearance against Baton Rouge CHEF.