Sterlington (2-0) at Oak Grove (2-0), Friday, 7 p.m.
Both off to 2-0 starts, Sterlington and Oak Grove square off Friday at 7 p.m. in West Carroll Parish.
Neither of the Panthers' two wins have come easy. In Week 1, Sterlington trailed West Ouachita 21-7 in the second quarter before rallying for a 35-21 victory. Last week, the Panthers squandered a 19-7 lead before Landon Green's 30-yard field goal with 3:09 remaining secured a 22-20 victory at Ouachita Christian.
"It's a lot better to be 2-0 than 0-2," Sterlington coach Lee Doty said. "You have to win the close ones."
Doty is expecting another close one Friday night.
"We've had two humdingers, and this one is probably going to be just like them," Doty said. "I don't know if we'll see three bigger defensive linemen than they have — I sure hope not."
Kenean Caldwell (6-3, 293), Wendell Brown (6-4, 280) and Bert Hale (6-4, 315) man the Tigers' defensive interior.
"With Oak Grove, not only are they big on the defensive line, their other eight guys can really run," Doty said. "Offensively it's the same way. They have big linemen and speed at the skill positions, which makes them dangerous."
Playing up two classifications, the Class 1A Tigers are seeking their second straight victory against a District 2-3A foe after knocking off Wossman 34-19 last week.
Otis Moore rushed for 134 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries for the Tigers, who outscored Wossman 21-6 in the second half.
In all, the Tigers racked up 341 yards rushing against the Wildcats.
Oak Grove's other victory came at the expense of Delhi Charter, 49-0.
Moore has 205 yards and two touchdowns on the season. Fullback Wyatt Rawls (18 carries, 114 yards, 4 TDs) is also a threat as is quarterback Kameron Holloway.
Left guard Nick Sciera is the cornerstone of the offensive line, which has helped the Tigers average 9.8 yards per carry.
Through the first two weeks, Oak Grove has generated 568 yards rushing and 107 passing.
Sterlington's season numbers are similar with 523 yards rushing and 57 passing.
Against OCS, the Panthers dominated the stat sheet, out-gaining the Eagles 343 (304 rushing, 39 receiving) - 167 (84 rushing, 83 passing).
"We doubled them in yardage. If you look at the stats, you would think we won by more than two points," Doty said. "That's why stats are overrated."
Stepping in for the injured C.J. Colvin, tailback Dallas Reagor rushed for 226 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries against OCS.
"Dallas had a heck of a night," Doty said. "The good thing is he still has room for improvement. He needs to work on his conditioning so he can finish and score instead of getting tackled inside the 5, and there is still a ball-security issue there. He has a chance to be really, really good."
Doty is hopeful that Colvin, who suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 1 last season, will return at some point.
"We are going to try to rehab him and brace him, and see what he can do," Doty said.
Doty said there is no time table for Colvin's return.
"I would like to have him by district, but it's all according to how his rehab goes," Doty said.
Fullback Malik Davis (34 carries, 224 yards, 2 TDs) complements Reagor in the backfield.
Cole Jones (15 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 interception) tops the Panthers' tackle chart, followed by end Justin Fuller (13 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 sack), cornerback Trey Eddins (12 tackles), nose tackle Colby Rivera (10 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack) and tackle Luke Carmichael (10 tackles, 1 sack). Carmichael was the team's leading tackler vs. OCS with a career-high seven stops.
Sterlington held OCS in check for the most part, but a pick-6 late in the third quarter swung the momentum in the Eagles' favor.
Featuring a trio of first-year starters — Willie Holloway (13 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 1 INT), Seth Temple (9 tackles) and Tyler Kaffenberger (8 tackles)— along with backups Jordan Townsend and Ram Foster, the linebacker corps has progressed faster than expected.
"Our linebackers have been playing really well, but they face a different challenge this week," Doty said. "They have to be the best they've been this year for us to have a chance."
Special teams have been the difference between starting the season 2-0 as opposed to 0-2.
Landon Green's three field goals tilted the OCS game in the Panthers' favor, and Layton Rainbolt's 85-yard kickoff return changed the complexion of the West Ouachita game.
Landon Green has converted all eight kicks (5-of-5 PATs; 3-of-3 FGs). Rainbolt is averaging 33 yards on six kickoff returns.
However, the punting team remains a concern.
"As bad as we have been on punt team, we have been pretty good on special teams, and basically rode them to victory," Doty said. "The first week it was blocking issues (with the punting team) and the second week it was snapping issues. The thing is that's something we practice every day."
Sterlington has been banged up since preseason camp. Other than Colvin and free safety Reece Brooks (collarbone), Doty says the Panthers are finally starting to get healthy.
"Outside of C.J. and Reece, this is as healthy as we have been since the first day of practice," Doty said Tuesday before quickly adding, "as of right now."
POW HONORS: Players of the Week for the OCS game were Landon Green (special teams), Reagor (offense) and Jones (defense).
WEEK 4: Returning to Panther Field from a two-game road swing, Sterlington is paired against Loyola next Friday. Oak Grove, meanwhile, takes on Delta Charter in Ferriday.