Bastrop at G.W. Carver, Friday, 7 p.m.
Bastrop knows what to expect when it opens the season Friday night in New Orleans against the George Washington Carver Rams. Starting time is 7 p.m. at Joe Brown Stadium, located on Reed Boulevard in east New Orleans. The game will be broadcast on 92.3 FM.
"They throw the ball all day, every day," Bastrop coach Adrian Burnette said.
Fortunately for Bastrop, the secondary will be at full strength with C.J. Mullens and Phillip Jackson returning to the lineup after sitting out the jamboree with injuries.
Burnette, who is making his debut as the Bastrop Rams' head coach, and Carver offensive coordinator Lynarise Elpheage Sr. were college roommates and teammates at Tulane. Another longtime friend of Burnette's, Ricky Williams, is an assistant at Carver.
Besides playing college ball in the Crescent City, Burnette coached at New Orleans St. Augustine before returning to northeast Louisiana. Burnette needed his New Orleans connections to fill out Bastrop's non-conference schedule, which includes New Orleans Brother Martin, Bossier City Airline, Shreveport Calvary Baptist, Alexandria Menard and Richwood.
Burnette would prefer to play more area schools.
"I reached out to Carroll, Wossman, Sterlington, Union Parish and Ouachita, and wasn't able to get either one of the to bite," Burnette said. "I would rather play those schools because you can play them in several different sports, build rivalries, save on travel costs and draw bigger crowds."
On the flip side, playing Carver could benefit Bastrop in the long run.
"I have a theory, and I know I am brand new as a head coach, so my theory may be jacked up," Burnette said. "But there are certain teams you know are going to be in the playoffs every year. The Karrs, the Warren Eastons, the McDonough 35s are always going to be there. From coaching down there, the way they play, it's the same team.
"The good thing about a game like this is that if we get into a situation where we have to travel in the playoffs, they will have seen this type of team before. It won't be such a shock to them. Even if you go down there in Week 1 and lose, it's a sacrifice for the big picture."
Part of the bigger picture is gaining travel experience.
"We have some kids who may have traveled for AAU (basketball), but it's a different type of atmosphere for football, Burnette said. "We are tying to teach them to be responsible and to say, 'yes sir,' and 'no sir,' and how to go into public places. A lot of times we take for granted that they already know those things, and we shouldn't."
As for the game itself, the two teams appear to be evenly-matched. Like Bastrop, the New Orleans Rams were eliminated in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs last season. Bastrop, the No. 12 seed bowed to Livonia, while Carter, the No. 17 seed, lost to Assumption 21-0.
Both teams return a strong core after relying heavily on youth in 2016.
"They have four or five highly-recruited kids that we are truly going to have to be prepared for," Burnette said.
Quarterback Izea Hurst and Gary Young head up an extensive list of talented players at the skill positions. Young caught 59 passes for 1,173 yards — tops among New Orleans area receivers — and 11 touchdowns last season. Ranked as the No. 13 receiver in the New Orleans metro area by the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Young's best game in 2016 was a 10-catch, 279-yard, 5-TD effort vs. St. Thomas Aquinas.
Freshman Lynarise Elpheage Jr. complements the 5-7, 175-pound Young in the receiving corps.
Jimmy Cooley, Gary Young and Quincy Curry are threats in the running game.
Carver lost a 7-0 jamboree decision to defending Class 5A state champion Landry-Walker last week.
Meanwhile, Bastrop encountered minimal resistance in a 38-0 Bastrop Jamboree win over Delhi Charter.
Like Carver, Bastrop has the capability to air it out. Junior Quaterious Hawkins returns to direct the offense, along with All-State wide receiver Christian Smith.
Linebackers T.J. Blanch and Robeyone Williams head up the defense.
With Mullens and Jackson back, the Rams are at full strength except for defensive end Torian Morgan (shoulder).
Next up for the Rams is a two-game homestand with matchups against Airline (Sept. 8) and Calvary Baptist (Sept. 15).