Bayou Jamb: Sterlington vs. Bastrop, Friday, 8 p.m., at ULM
Not all jamborees are created equal. Bastrop coach Adrian Burnette isn't treating Friday night's Bayou Jamb as a dress rehearsal for the regular season.
Friday's 8 p.m. nightcap at ULM's Malone Stadium is believed to be the first-ever meeting on the gridiron between the two schools located roughly 15 miles apart. A Class 1A member in 2002, Sterlington High has jumped up two classifications since moving to its current campus on Highway 165.
While the Sterlington area is booming, Bastrop has seen a sharp decline in population since the International Paper mill closed a decade ago.
Once separated by four classes (Bastrop competed in 5A as last as 1996), the two schools are on the verge of becoming district rivals.
"This is really a territorial game," Burnette said. "It's the opportunity to start a new rivalry. With Sterlington being a city and community on the upswing as far as growth, they may eventually get to 4A."
Sterlington's growth can be attributed in part to an influx of Bastrop residents, which only adds fuel to the budding rivalry.
"As close as we are proximity-wise and the way these two communities are intertwined, it's a big game," Burnette said. "Winning is important in this particular jamboree. It's different than a scrimmage where you are trying to get a feel as far as where you fit at A, B, C and D."
Bastrop hasn't disguised the fact that it was approaching the matchup as a big game. Declaring the game a "White Out," the Morehouse Booster Club began selling special T-shirts in mid-summer.
While Sterlington was able to get in a full scrimmage against Cedar Creek last week, the Rams' first preseason outing was cut short at Wossman on Saturday evening due to lightning. Not that he really needed it, but Burnette was able to get a sneak peek at the Panthers on Thursday. Over the past two years, Sterlington has won the Class 2A state championship in 2016 and advanced to the quarterfinals in its inaugural voyage as a 3A school last fall. Although the personnel changes from year-to-year, the philosophy remains the same. Sterlington's success hinges on its ability to run the football out of the veer.
This year will be no different. Dominating the scrimmage against Cedar Creek, the Panthers averaged nearly 12 yardsper carry en route to piling up 383 yards on 32 attempts.
"One thing about Sterlington, they are going to be good at what they do," Burnette said. "Larry Foster is a heck of an offensive line coach, and does a great job with those guys. They lost some good linemen last year, but you can't really see a difference in them because he has them all coached up. I think he's the engine and catalyst of that offense."
Tailback C.J. Colvin, who exploded for 177 yards and four touchdowns on just six carries vs. Cedar Creek, heads a deep group of backs. Veterans Trey Rugg, Brock Risinger and Jack Anderson pave the way up front.
Bastrop will need a strong outing from its front four of Denterrius McHenry, Jordan Doaty, Olarrius Johnson and Markel Peoples, along with linebackers Robeyone Williams and Germany Powell.
"Defensively, it's going to come down to how tough we are going to be on the interior, and how disciplined we can be in reading the option — dive, toss or counter," Burnette said.
Bastrop is the polar opposite of Sterlington offensively, relying on its big-play wide receivers from the spread. Senior Quaterius Hawkins enters his third year as the Rams' starting quarterback. Christian Smith and Calvert "Big Body" Johnson head up the Rams' usual collection of dangerous receivers.
Sterlington counters with a veteran secondary, featuring the Eddins brothers (Trey and Dorian at cornerback) and safeties Cole Jones and Reece Brooks.
"I didn't see much from their secondary in the scrimmage because Cedar Creek ran the ball so much," Burnette said. "I'm anxious to see if we can throw and catch and make plays. I know it's going to be a test for us since most of their (defensive) experience is in the back half."
Both teams open the regular season at home next Friday — Bastrop vs. New Orleans Carver and Sterlington vs. West Ouachita.
BAYOU JAMB SCHEDULE
At Malone Stadium, ULM
St. Frederick vs. Jonesboro-Hodge, 6 p.m.
Sterlington vs. Bastrop, 8 p.m.
Jena vs. Ouachita Christian, 1 p.m.
Mangham vs. Oak Grove, 3 p.m.
Ouachita vs. Ruston, 5 p.m.
Neville vs. West Monroe, 7 p.m.
Note: Games consist of two 15-minute quarters.