Carroll (2-3) at Sterlington (5-0), Friday, 7 p.m.
Though only separated by a few miles, Carroll and Sterlington have never met on the gridiron. That will change Friday night when the Bulldogs visit the Panthers in the District 2-3A opener for both teams.
With Sterlington moving up from Class 2A this season, the Panthers and Bulldogs will be seeing a lot of each other in all sports.
"It's a big challenge for us to open up district play against the two-time defending district champions," Sterlington coach Lee Doty said. "It's pretty exciting. I know our fans are excited to be at home. It's our first time playing an opponent from right down the road. I look for Carroll to bring a big crowd. It should be a great crowd and a great atmosphere for a district opener."
Carroll (2-3) has been up and down, thus far, losing to Shreveport Woodlawn 44-14 in Week 1, followed by consecutive wins over Mansfield (26-18) and Lincoln Prep (27) and consecutive setbacks to Neville (53-7) and Many (47-12).
"They have some good-looking athletes," Doty said. "They can score from anywhere on the field with the speed they have."
Quarterback Cedric Woods, running back Fantoryian Pendleton and wide receivers Sirtimothy Hollins and DaKorrion Jackson provide the C-Dogs with a wide range of quick-strike potential. However, the Carroll player that has really caught Doty's attention is 6-3, 320-pound left tackle Isaac Ellis, who has verbally committed to Memphis.
"Number 74 is the best offensive lineman I have seen this year," Doty said. "He's good."
Carroll's defensive standouts are end Jacari Hamilton, linebacker Derrick Longwood and strong safety Michael Cameron.
Continuing its momentum after winning the 2A state championship last season, the Panthers (5-0) reeled off pre-district victories against West Ouachita (45-13), Ouachita Christian (35-0), Oak Grove (34-6), Loyola (43-13) and Calvary Baptist (38-20).
Despite being ravished by injuries at the tailback position, the Panthers' running game has continued to flourish.
Sophomore Dallas Reagor, who was playing linebacker just three weeks ago, stepped in and rushed for 178 yards and two touchdown on 25 carries against Calvary. Reagor was pressed into his first varsity start when Austin Dupree rolled his ankle in Wednesday's practice.
Dupree, who began the season at fullback, joined tailbacks C.J. Colvin and Malik Davis on the injury list.
"When I look at our running backs, I see a backup quarterback (starting fullback Luke Denman), a freshman (Zach Crain), two guys who used to be linebackers (Reagor and Idris Enoch) and a guy who didn't even play last year (Jordan Townsend)," Doty said. "As long as our offensive line keeps blocking the way it is, I'll feel good about whoever is running the ball."
Colvin, who is out for the season, and Davis have both sidelined since in Week 1. When Dupree was injured, Doty noticed a sense of despair.
"When Dupree went down, our moral went down,," Doty said, giving a thumbs down, "but we had to fight through it. I talked with the kids about it. I talked with the offensive line about. I told them, 'Dallas is going to be as good as you let him be.'"
Which turned out to be beyond good.
"It took a couple of carries for him to get comfortable, but once he got comfortable, he was fine," Doty said of Reagor. "I told our offensive linemen, 'You are going to have to block harder than you ever have.' They played a heck of a game, and Dallas got after it."
Doty, understandably, was holding his breath when he announced Reagor and Crain as the 1-2 tailbacks for the Carroll game following Tuesday's practice.
"If we get to that situation, we'll be fine with Zach," Doty said of the Panthers' latest emergency plans.
If all goes according to plan, Dupree and Davis, who is rehabbing a fractured ankle, will be available for next Friday's game at Wossman.
Sterlington's myriad running backs have had the luxury of running behind the interior of Trey Rugg, Whit Buffington, Landon Jinks, Brock Risinger, Chandler Jones and Jack Anderson, along with tight ends Tucker Allen and Brooks Rushworth. Sterlington averages 300.8 yards per game rushing (6.5 yards per carry) and 98 ypg passing.
Dupree (57 carries, 592 yards, 6 TDs), Denman (70-274-5), quarterback Carson Clowers (26-193-2) and Reagor (28-185-2) top the rushing chart.
Clowers has completed 36-of-68 passes for 473 yards and 4 TDs with only one interception through five games.
Rushworth (14 receptions, 247 yards, 3 TDs) and Spencer Davis (10-149-1) are Clowers' primary targets.
Linebacker Dawson Snell (48 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 INT, 2 forced fumbles) continues to lead the team in tackles, followed by safety Trevor Jones (27 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT), end Tanner Coley (24 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 8 quarterback hurries) and tackle Chandler Moncrief (23 tackles, 2 TFL).
WEEKLY AWARDS: Week 5 Players of the Week were Reagor on offense, Snell on defense and kicker Landon Green on special teams.
Snell recorded a team-high 12 tackles with one TFL, an interception and a forced fumble.
Green made all five extra point attempts and a 34-yard field goal. For the season, he has converted 24-of-26 PATs and 3-of-6 field goals with a long of 40.