Sterlington 31, Madison Parish 6
Though far from a masterpiece, Sterlington's 31-6 homecoming victory over Madison Parish could have been worse.
"Half the teams in Louisiana lost tonight, and we weren't one of them," Sterlington coach Lee Doty said.
A game that most expected to be over by halftime was hanging in the balance after Kevin Jones' 5-yard touchdown pass to Hosea Hicks capped a 20-play, 75-yard drive, which took 9:12 off the clock.
Trailing just 10-6 at halftime, the Jaguars regained possession with an opportunity to take the lead when the Panthers fumbled on the third play of the second half.
Taking over at their own 48, the Jaguars moved to the Sterlington 40 on Jones' 10-yard run. But the drive soon fizzled as a pair of false starts and a tackle in the backfield by Chandler Moncrief led to fourth-and-18.
Setting up at their own 14, the Panthers were on the board three plays later as quarterback Carson Clowers broke away for a 70-yard touchdown sprint. Landon Green's extra point upped the Panthers' lead to 17-6 with 6:46 to play in the third period.
Starting its next series from its own 35 after another Madison punt, the Panthers needed just one play to get back on the board as Austin Dupree burst through a wide open middle to give Sterlington a 24-6 lead. Dupree's 65-yard TD scamper highlighted a 17-carry, 258-yard effort.
Trevor Jones stopped a first down running play for a loss of three to help disrupt the Jaguars' next possession.
Moments later, Jones' 12-yard punt return, with an additional 15 yards stepped off for a dead ball foul, put the Panthers in business at the Madison 33.
Dupree's 28-yard gain set up Jordan Townsend's 4-yard touchdown run, which widened the margin to 31-6 with 9:35 remaining.
Despite a lethargic first half, the Panthers (8-0, 3-0) had extended their school record winning streak to 17.
"Everybody would like to score 50 points every game, but it's just not realistic," Doty said. "A lot of young guys got to play tonight. I saw some good things out of our young kids."
Linebacker Dawson Snell, the undisputed leader of the defense, viewed the game in street clothes. Junior Tyler Kaffenberger drew the starting assignment.
"Dawson was so banged up and bruised up, we decided to hold him out," Doty said. "Sometimes you have to make sacrifices now for the bigger picture."
The first four-plus minutes went according to script.
Upon receiving the opening kickoff the Jaguars went three plays and out.
Starting from their own 36 after the punt, the Panthers promptly drove 64 yards on eight plays. Clowers found an unguarded tight end Brooks Rushworth for an easy 20-yard TD toss as Sterlington grabbed a 7-0 lead with 7:42 to play in the first quarter.
Hicks returned the ensuing kickoff 54 yards before Chris Parker made a touchdown-saving tackle at the 25.
Two plays later, Justin Fuller's fumble recovery ended the threat at the 13.
Dupree's 36-yard run helped the Panthers advance to the 5 before fumbling the ball away at the 3 for three first of three turnovers.
"We moved the ball all night," Doty said. "It was turnovers that killed us."
Madison moved out to the 31 before Chase Carter's seven-yard sack brought up a punting situation.
"I thought Chase Carter played well tonight," Doty said.
Jones' 46-yard punt rolled dead at the Sterlington 30.
From there, the Panthers marched to the 4 before Green's 21-yard field goal opened up a 10-0 spread with 9:24 remaining before the homecoming court took center stage.
Sterlington would take only one offensive snap for the remainder of the half as the Jaguars methodically plodded 75 yards on 20 plays to draw within 10-6.
As for the bigger picture Doty referred to earlier, the Panthers end the regular season with two games over a grueling six-day stretch. Sterlington hosts Union Parish on Friday before traveling to Richwood for the regular season finale on Thursday, Nov. 2.
"I think you'll see a different team. We'll be ready," Doty said of the upcoming game with The U. "Our kids will be excited about playing them, and their kids will be excited about playing us. It should be a heck of a ballgame."
Notes: Sterlington linebacker Bailyn McKoin left the game in the second quarter with a knee injury and watched the second half on crutches The extent of his injury was not immediately known. ... Sterlington churned out 472 rushing yards on just 35 carries while finishing with 495 yards of total offense. ... Jones rushed 34 times for 185 yards, had a 104-yard fourth quarter pick-6 negated by a penalty and punted five times for a 31-yard average. His brilliant performance did not go unnoticed by the Sterlington coaching staff. "No. 6 is a heck of a player," Doty said. ... In a game marred by penalties, the Jaguars were flagged 23 times for a whopping 185 yards while the Panthers incurred 10 flags for 85.