Neville 0, Sterlington 0

Neither side cold breach the other's defense as Neville and Sterlington battled to a scoreless draw Tuesday night at Panther Field.

"It was an all-out battle for 80 minutes," Sterlington coach Kyle Keyes said. "Tuesday night was a big step for our program — boys and girls."

Neville out-shot the Panthers 8-5.

"We had a gameplan, and we kept pushing harder, harder and harder," Keyes said. "Both teams were going at it full steam. Obviously we don't get to wear pads, so when you get guys running into each other full steam, you get a lot of kids banged up and beat up."

Sterlington's best opportunity came in the 70th minute when Cooper Grunsky was denied on a penalty kick.

"Cooper bent it in on a PK from 30 yards out, and their goalie made a heck of a save," Keyes said.

Neville's defensive play hardly came as a surprise to the Panthers.

"Like I told our guys, Neville is probably always going to be the best defensive team in the area," Keyes said. "They are very physical on the defensive side. You don't get many chances to get near their goal, so when you do, you better make it count."

Sterlington's defense and goalkeeper Ty Dycus was spectacular as well.

"We didn't want to let them get 20 yards in," Keyes said. "Our goal for the season is to play better defense, and our defense did a heck of a job Tuesday night."

Sterlington's defense has actually been splendid throughout the season, allowing only three goals with four shutouts in six games.

Tuesday night tie marked the Panthers' first non-losing result against the Tigers.

"Last year, in our first year of varsity, Ouachita beat us 5-0 in the first game of the season, and we beat them 2-0 this year," Keyes said. "Last year, Neville beat us 4-0, and this year it was 0-0. I think that shows a lot of progress from this team."

Sterlington stands 4-1-1 on the season.

PARISH CUP: Sterlington (2-0-1) sits atop the Parish Cup standings midway through the competition. Girls and boys teams from Neville, Ouachita, Ouachita Christian, St. Frederick, Sterlington, West Monroe and West Ouachita are involved in the inaugural round robin tournament.

"These first six games have given us a lot to build on," Keyes said. "I couldn't ask for any better against the quality of opponents we have played. We have played all of the bigger schools around minus West Monroe, and we have them in January."

UPCOMING: Saturday's home match against Pope John Paul II has been canceled due to Friday night's state championship football game in New Orleans.Sterlington continues its homestand Tuesday at 7:15 p.m. against Calvary Baptist (5-1-1). Closing out the week in the St. Frederick Tournament, Thursday-Saturday (Dec. 13-15) the Panthers are paired against West Monroe, Ouachita and Live Oak.

Sterlington 2, Tioga 1

Powered by goals from Duke Villarreal and Markail Madison in the final 16 minutes, Sterlington turned a near defeat into a 2-1 victory over Tioga in a warm, windy Saturday matinee at Panther Field.

Sterlington finally solved Tioga goalkeeper Steve Bryan on Villarreal's close range goal in the 64th minute.

Villarreal threatened again moments later when his shot from 25 yards out whizzed over the crossbar.

Back on the other end, Tioga narrowly missed an opportunity to retake the lead when Guillermo Arellano blasted a shot off the right (near) post in the 68th minute.

With under six minutes to play, Fox Bryan was taken down inside the box by Tioga's Nick Hoke on what was ruled a legal tackle.

After the change of possession, Sterlington coach Kyle Keyes received a yellow card for protesting a foul call against the Panthers.

Sterlington would get another chance, though. Maneuvering through the box after taking a pass from Jacob Dupree, Madison struck the game-winner into the net from eight yards out in the 79th minute.

Keyes attributed the Panthers' slow start to a late night. Many of the soccer players attended the football team's semifinal game in Iota, which Sterlington won 21-12. Saturday's match kicked off at noon.

"Tioga played a great game, I have to give them credit," Keyes said. "A lot of our guys went down there for the football game and didn't get home until late. We were very sluggish today. It wasn't our best performance. They always say a good team can win when they don't perform their best."

Sterlington took the game's first three shots, including Cooper Grunsky's 17-yard laser, which was batted away by Bryan.

Tioga outplayed the Panthers over the next 30 minutes. Demonde Mitchell's rebound goal in the ninth minute gave the Indians a 1-0 lead.

Tioga out-shot the Panthers 9-5 in the first half. Regrouping during the interval, Sterlington held a decisive 9-2 edge in second half shots.

"Our defense is really starting to jell and play as a unit," Keyes said of the group which consists of Sam Gilbert, Bryan, Connor Bowlin, Austin Booth, Connor White and Jonah Mulhern.

Despite playing without four American football players, the Panthers are off to a 4-1 start. Sterlington will play Eunice for the Class 3A state championship Saturday at 7 p.m. in New Orleans.

"We'll get our football players back after next week," Keyes said.