Sterlington (9-0, 4-0) at Richwood (7-2, 4-0), Thursday, 7 p.m.
Sterlington and Richwood take the field Thursday at 7 p.m. with the District 2-3A title at stake in the area's marquee matchup.
Winners of 18 straight, the Panthers (9-0, 4-0) are ranked No. 1 in the LHSAA's power ratings. Richwood (7-2, 4-0) brings a five-game winning streak and a No. 7 power rating into the encounter.
"This is the game everybody is talking about," Sterlington coach Lee Doty said. "We have a lot to play for this week — an undefeated season, a district championship and a top seed. But with all that being said, this game is not a defining moment for us. There is still work to be done regardless of what happens Thursday night."
Trailing at halftime for the first time time all season, the Panthers outscored Union Parish 27-0 on their way to a 43-15 Senior Night victory last week.
"Union Parish came in here with a really good football team," Doty said. "I thought the way our kids rose up in the second half was outstanding. We felt good when we came out on the field (after halftime). We felt like we had taken their best punch and were still right there with them.
"Our kids are not going to panic. If we can get to halftime, and it's a close game, we like our chances."
Sterlington is led defensively by linebacker Dawson Snell (86 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 2 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles), tackle Chandler Moncrief (51 tackles, 5 TFL, 3 sacks), safety Trevor Jones (46 tackles, 2 FF) and end Tanner Coley (42 tackles, 2 TFL, 3.5 sacks).
Tailback Austin Dupree (113 carries, 1,073 yards, 13 touchdowns) has eclipsed the 100-yard mark six times this season while averaging 9.5 yards per carry. Quarterback Carson Clowers (50-596-8, 11.9 ypc), fullback Luke Denman (102-498-8) and tailbacks Dallas Reagor (59-454-4) and Malik Davis (21-137-3) round out a deep running game.
Clowers has completed 48-of-89 passes for 634 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions, with tight end Brooks Rushworth (20 receptions, 332 yards, 5 TDs) and wide receiver Davis Johnson (10-149-1) as the primary targets.
Kicker Landon Green is quietly having an exceptional season for the Panthers. Virtually automatic on PATs, the junior has converted 42-of-44 attempts while hitting 4-of-7 field goal tries with a long of 40.
"Landon is having a heck of a year because he worked so hard over the summer," Doty said. "He works hard and that's why he continues to get better, better and better."
Sterlington's punting game has also been solid as Rushworth averages 41.5 yards on 15 kicks, with a long of 69. Nine of his punts have forced the opposition to start from inside their own 20.
Richwood's only blemishes were administered by Class 5A Ouachita (42-6) in Week 1 and Class 4A Bastrop (38-17) in Week 4. Coach Robert Arvie's Rams own wins over Shreveport Northwood (33-32), Franklin Parish (27-12), Red River (12-6), Union Parish (14-6), Carroll (20-0), Wossman (41-0) and Madison Parish (50-8).
A stout defense, which has allowed only 20 points while pitching two shutouts over the past five weeks, has been the key to the Rams' winning streak.
"They do a good job over there," Doty said. "They definitely present a challenge for us."
Linemen Quanderrius Johnson, Richard Goodin and Jarviar Wade spearhead the unit along with linebackers Jacorius Lenard and twins Deione and Deivone Reed.
Featuring nine senior starters, the Rams' veteran offense averages 269 pounds across the front. Wide receiver Hidari Ceasar and 6-5, 220-pound slot receiver Geo'quarius Spivey have verbally committed to TCU and Mississippi State, respectively.
"Richwood is probably unlike any opponent we have faced all year," Doty said. "They line up with a TCU commit on one side and a Mississippi State commit on the other side."
Senior quarterback Joseph Smith is a threat to go vertical.
"The keys for us are to not turn the ball over and to limit the deep ball," Doty said.
POWs: Sterlington's Players of the Week for the Union game were Carson Clowers (offense), safety Chris Parker (defense) and Willie Holloway (special teams).
Scout Team honorees were Idris Enoch (offense) and Lane Atwell (defense).
NEXT: Playoff brackets will be released by the LHSAA on Sunday.