Sterlington (1-0) at Ouachita Christian (1-0), Friday, 7 p.m.
As is typically the case in rivalry games, anything can happen when Sterlington and Ouachita Christian clash on the gridiron. OCS hosts the 38th meeting between the neighboring schools on Highway 165 at 7 p.m. Friday.
The last two meetings have been duds, starting with the Eagles' 35-0 shellacking of Sterlington in 2016. Regrouping from the embarrassing loss, the Panthers went on to win the first state championship in program history.
Sterlington returned the favor last season with an identical 35-0 victory at Panther Field.
Winners of five of the past seven matchups, OCS leads the all-time series 22-15. Sterlington hasn't put together back-to-back victories over the Eagles since winning nine straight from 2002-2010.
Although Sterlington coach Lee Doty has only been involved in two of the 37 contests, he grasps the unpredictability of the rivalry.
"It's been a weird series of events the last two years," Doty said. "It seems like the team that didn't play well the week before has had the upper hand in this thing. We are going to try to reverse that curse."
Both teams won their season openers last week.
Trailing West Ouachita 21-7 in the third quarter, the Panthers came to life after Layton Rainbolt's 85-yard kickoff return.
While Rainbolt's kick return was the momentum-changer, senior linebacker Willie Holloway's interception was the dagger to the heart. Holloway's interception put the Panthers in business at the West Ouachita 9. Dallas Reagor took it in from there on the next snap, expanding the lead to 35-21 with 5:53 to play.
"Willie made a heck of a play," Doty said. "They ran the same play earlier and got a pretty good chunk of yardage. We really expect Willie to make those type of plays. He hasn't always been a full-time starter, but he's been in the program four years and played a lot. Those are the type of plays you have to make."
Despite playing the entire second half without tailback C.J. Colvin and quarterback Hayes Crockett, the Panthers rushed for 213 yards on 34 attempts. Clearing the way up front were Trey Rugg, Brock Risinger, Braden Bruscato, Tyler Hitt and Jack Anderson. Malik Davis (20 carries, 151 yards, 2 TDs) and Reagor (10-54-2) accounted for the bulk of the damage.
Sterlington got off to a slow start in a game that was tied 7-7 at the break.
"We lost our starting running back and our starting quarterback in the first half," Doty said. "We had some situations we didn't take advantage of that put us in a bind going in halftime."
Doty announced Brody Green as the starting quarterback for Friday night. Though not a proponent of the two quarterback system, Doty expects Green and Crockett to continue to split reps.
"One has one skill set, one has another," Doty said. "We're fortunate to have two guys that can play. Hopefully, over the next couple of weeks, people will have to spend more time gameplanning for us."
Sterlington held a slight edge in total offense, 230-211. Like the Panthers, the Chiefs were run heavy with 196 yards on the ground.
West Ouachita opened the second half with an eight-play, 71-yard drive and recovered a blocked punt at the Sterlington 3 en route to grabbing a 21-7 third quarter lead.
The Chiefs managed only two more first downs the rest of the way.
"We gave up 200 yards of offense to a big, physical 4A team," Doty said. "If we tackle a little better, those numbers are a lot lower. I really think we'll be better defensively this week."
Safety Cole Jones led the way defensively with 10 stops. Holloway had eight tackles and two stops in the backfield to go with the big pick. End Justin Fuller recorded seven tackles, three for negative yardage, and the team's only sack. Cornerback Trey Eddins matched Fuller with seven tackles, followed by end Bryce Still and Colby Rivera with six apiece.
Sterlington's defense is tasked with stopping a more diverse offense this week against OCS, a 63-32 Week 1 winner over Arcadia.
As usual, the Eagles line up in variety of formations.
Quarterback Turner Carr directs the attack with veteran tackles Cole Hathaway and Carter Autin paving the way up front.
Safety Will Fitzhugh, who sees double duty at running back, leads the Eagles defensively.
Both teams are on the road next Friday — Sterlington at Oak Grove, OCS at Delhi Charter.