Prairie View Preview
Prairie View will undoubtedly line up in some new formations this year. A year after advancing to the MAIS Class 2A semifinals, the Spartans have dropped down to 8-man.
Bo Barton, the Spartans' second-year head coach, is familiar with the 8-man format, having guided Tallulah to the 2015 state championship.
Offensively, 8-man rules require the use of three interior linemen. Junior center Mason King is joined on the starting front by senior guard Gage Riles and freshman guard Caleb Christmas. Freshman Gage Sistrunk and eighth-grader Jael Akers are the backups.
With 21 players on the roster, the Spartans have gone from being a razor-thin 11-man squad to a deep 8-man side.
"Jael Akers came in and played five or six plays in the jamboree," Barton said. "We have some young kids who are going to have to play 5-8 plays a game. That's going to be their role. If you can come out of the game and rest three or four minutes without the team becoming dysfunctional, it really helps.
"Gage Sistrunk, Jack Clement, Jael Akers, Sully Edwards and Cade Murphy — all of those kids are eighth and ninth-graders. Their role is to come in and spell people and keep us fresh. It's a huge role and they all played well Saturday.
"To me, Cade Murphy is a starter. He can play quarterback, wide receiver, defensive back and running back. He plays everywhere and knows all the positions. Those five kids are going to be extremely important. Of course we have to stay healthy, but how those kids progress between now and Week 11 is going to be extremely important for us."
Depth was the deciding factor Saturday as the Spartans won both of their jamboree games over Franklin Academy (14-0) and Tensas (14-12).
"Jacob Farrar, Layton Woodard, Greg Tatum and Cade Murphy were all out for a seven-minute stretch Saturday, and we still won the game," Barton said. "I don't know if anybody else in the jamboree could have survived that kind of loss. I'm not glad we had kids hurt, but it enabled us to take a look at what some kids could do early."
Junior Jacob Farrar and senior Luke Denman both spent time at quarterback in the jamboree.
Denman recently transferred from Sterlington where he was the backup quarterback for the Panthers' 2016 Class 2A state championship team. Moving to fullback last season, he rushed for 527 yards and 9 TD on 112 carries while helping the Panthers advance to the Class 3A quarterfinals.
Denman is also part of a running back committee which includes senior Austin Carroll, freshman Cade Murphy and junior Ahem Brown.
Seniors Layton Woodard and senior Beekman transfer Greg Tatum are the wide receivers with junior Hunter Little at tight end. Woodard hauled in 21 receptions for 400 yards and a pair of touchdowns last fall, and caught two TD passes Saturday. Little also showed promise in the jamboree.
"Hunter Little was probably our most consistent player Saturday," Barton said. "He did an extremely good job of blocking on the perimeter, and made some really good tackles at cornerback. I was really pleased with his performance."
Defensively, the Spartans will line up in a 3-3-2.
Senior Tyler Peters (28 tackles, 1 sack) and Brown are the ends with Christmas as the backup.
Riles (47 tackles, 7 TFL), Mason King and Sistrunk will rotate at nose guard.
Carroll, Tatum, Farrar and Denman are the linebacker/strong safeties.
Carroll was the team's leading tackler last season with 138 stops, 8 tackles for loss, a sack, a pair of interceptions and 3 forced fumbles. Farrar earned All-State accolades at strong safety after logging 71 tackles, 7 TFL, 3 sacks and a pair of interceptions.
Little, Woodard (26 tackles, 1 INT), Tatum and Murphy comprise the secondary rotation.
Also available are freshmen Jacob Sramek and Nolan Parrott, and seventh-graders Maddox King, Hayden Philley and Scout Hogan.
KICKING GAME: Carroll and Farrar will do the kicking.
One rule difference in the 8-man game is that onside kickoffs must travel 15 yards rather than 10. With most schools playing on a regulation 11-man field (100 x 53 1/3 yards), onside kicks are the norm.
"Unless you can kick it in the end zone, it's either a squib kick, a sky kick or an onside kick," Barton said.
Barton is a proponent of the 15-yard rule for onside kicks.
"I don't think is would be a bad idea for all leagues for safety reasons," Barton said.
A regulation 8-man field is 40 yards wide. However, Barton says Tensas and Briarfield are the only two schools to have converted their fields to 8-man standards. Prairie View plays both of those teams at home, leaving all of its regular season games on regular-sized fields.
Barton says he has no intentions of switching to a shorter grid as long as the state championship game is played on a 100-yard field.
RE-ALIGNMENT: With Prairie View and Wilkinson County Christian moving to 8-man, there are now 22 football-playing schools in Class 1A.
The 22 schools were originally split into two 11-team districts, but have since been divided into four. Prairie View is now paired with Briarfield, Tallulah, Claiborne, Riverdale and Franklin in an all-Louisiana district. Tensas was placed in a separate league, joining Mississippi schools WCCA, Christian Collegiate, Rebul and Prentiss Christian.
Eight teams (four district champions, four wildcards) advance to the playoffs.
Other than the number of district games, Prairie View's schedule remains unchanged.
PRAIRIE VIEW FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
Aug. 17 at Wilkinson Christian
Aug. 24 at Franklin Academy*
Aug. 31 Tallulah*
Sept. 7 Tensas Academy
Sept. 21 at Rebul
Sept. 28 at Christian Collegiate
Oct. 5 at Riverdale*
Oct. 12 Prentiss Christian
Oct. 19 Briarfield*
Oct. 26 Claiborne*
All game times 7 p.m.