Loyola (3-0) at Sterlington (2-1), Friday, 7 p.m.
Trying to regroup from its first regular season loss since 2016, Sterlington returns home from a two-game road swing to take on the Loyola College Prep Flyers on Friday at 7 p.m. Sterlington is ranked No. 5 (down from No. 2) in this week's Louisiana Sports Writers Association Class 3A statewide poll, while the Flyers check in at No. 8.
Sterlington (2-1) had its 16-game regular season winning streak snapped last week in a 20-14 loss to Oak Grove.
"There are two ways we can handle it: We can feel sorry for ourselves and let Oak Grove beat us again this week or we can get up off the mat, fight back and start another streak," Sterlington coach Lee Doty said.
Next up for the Panthers is a recent nemesis. Loyola won its previous trip to Panther Field in convincing fashion, 45-28, in Week 5 of the 2016 season. A week later, the Panthers lost at Ouachita Christian before embarking on a school-record 21 game winning streak, which included the Class 2A state championship game.
"Loyola is 3-0 and playing really good," Doty said. "They always give us fits. Two years ago — the year we won the state championship — they beat us by three touchdowns."
Sterlington won last year's meeting 43-13in Shreveport, and eventually advanced to the quarterfinals in its first year in Class 3A.
With the majority of their key players back, the Flyers have the edge in experience this time around.
"They have all of their skill people back," Doty said. "They have a great scheme and do a good job of running it."
Quarterback Jacob Allen and slot receiver John Williams are among seven returning offensive starters.
"(Allen and Williams) are at least three-year starters," said Doty, who is in his third season at Sterlington and second as head coach. "They are both good players."
For the second straight week, the Panthers will have to deal with a big offensive front. Left tackle Thomas Murphy (6-1, 275) and right tackle Cameron Myles (6-1, 325) anchor the O-line.
Myles, who sees double duty on the defensive line, and free safety Donnie Scott are among the Flyers' top defenders.
"They run a four-man front, mainly," Doty said. "They do a lot of diving at your legs and barrel rolling. They do some things I haven't see in a while, but they do what they have to do to stop you."
Loyola owns wins over Cedar Creek (42-14), West Ouachita (33-21) and defeated longtime rival St. Frederick 41-23 last week for the Bishop's Cup.
Sterlington collected victories over West Ouachita (35-21) and OCS (21-19) prior to last week's setback at Oak Grove.
Leading 6-0 at halftime, the Tigers put together scoring drives of 14 and 16 plays on back-to-back possessions to grind out the victory.
"Our kids were still fighting hard at the end, but we were worn out," Doty said. "Our (defensive) kids are used to playing 50 snaps a game, and they played 70. A lot of it was just not being able to get off the field on third and fourth down.
"I have to take my hat off to the kids, especially the defensive players. Those guys were on the field so much, yet they were able to keep us close at the end."
Sterlington's injury list continues to grow as kicker/defensive back Landon Green (knee) is out for at least another week. There is some good news on the injury front as cornerback Dorian Eddins, who missed the second half of the Oak Grove game, returned to practice Monday. Free safety Reece Brooks, who hasn't played since the Bayou Jamb, has also resumed light workouts.
"As bad as it's been — believe it or not — we are getting healthier," Doty said. "Of course, losing Landon was crippling for us. Reece is back practicing and running. We hope to have him back in a couple of weeks."
Doty, understandably, is ready for some relief from the rash of injuries.
"It would be nice to get through a Friday night without losing someone," he said.
Junior Oren Keller has assumed the kicking duties during Landon Green's absence.
Hayes Crockett threw touchdown passes of 68 yards to Clay Vaughn and 19 yards to Layton Rainbolt against Oak Grove.
Rainbolt leads the team in receiving with five catches for 55 yards.
Dallas Reagor (46 carries, 317 yards, 3 TDs) and Malik Davis (40-232-2) lead the infantry.
Linebacker Willie Holloway and free safety Cole Jones both recorded career-highs in tackles vs. Oak Grove. Holloway had 14 stops, including four for negative yardage, and forced a fumble. Jones contributed 12 tackles and a fumble recovery. The two now share the team lead with 27 tackles. Linebacker Tyler Kaffenberger added seven stops and caused a fumble vs. The Grove.
Rounding out the tackle chart leaders are end Justin Fuller (19 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 sack), cornerback Trey Eddins (18 tackles, 1 TFL), Kaffenberger (15 tackles) and tackle Luke Carmichael (15 tackles, 1 sack).
WEEKLY AWARDS: Players of the Week for the Oak Grove game were Clay Vaughn (offense), Willie Holloway (defense) and Cole Jones (special teams).
NEXT: Hosting a Shreveport foe for the second straight week, the Panthers close out pre-district play vs. Calvary Baptist on Friday, Sept. 28.