Sterlington and Union Parish open District 2-3A play Friday night in Farmerville in what has the makings of a marquee matchup.
Since moving up to Class 3A two years ago, the Panthers have won all three meetings with the Farmers, although both of last year’s games went down to the wire. Sterlington won the regular season meeting 31-20 and edged the Farmers 13-12 in the quarterfinals on its way to a state runner-up finish.
This one could come down to the final seconds, as well.
“Union is huge and physical,” Sterlington coach Lee Doty said. “They have always been able to line up and bully folks. The last three times we played them, our kids have been able to match their intensity and physicality. The big question is, can we do it again this week?”
Sterlington (4-0) took what turned out to be a well-timed open date last week following a 35-14 road win over North Webster.
“I have never had an open date before, and I actually ended up enjoying it,” Doty said. “We were able to work on some fundamentals instead of being pressed to put together a gameplan.”
More importantly, the bye week gave star tailback Dallas Reagor an extra week to recover after rolling an ankle in the first half vs. North Webster.
“We were able to get everybody healthy and back on the wagon,” Doty said. “A week made all the difference in the world for Dallas. We expect him to be 100 percent and ready to roll Friday night.”
Though there is less emphasis on the district championship than in years gone by, both teams are aiming to get a leg up in the conference race.
“You used to get a point (in the power rankings) for winning district, but they have taken that away,” Doty said. “Now every game is equally important. I don’t know why we have a district schedule anymore, to be honest with you. I guess it helps everybody fill out a schedule. But you still want to win district for pride.”
Besides North Webster, the Panthers own wins over Logansport (43-7), Ouachita Christian (40-19) and Oak Grove (17-14).
Sterlington averages 375.6 yards per game — 315.3 rushing; 60.3 passing.
Reagor (67 carries, 629 yards, 5 TDs) and fullback Jordan Townsend (57-320-8) form a dynamic 1-2 punch in the backfield for the Panthers.
Quarterback Hayes Crockett has passed for 241 yards and two touchdowns.
Wide receivers Layton Rainbolt (8 receptions, 83 yards, 1 TD) and Ram Foster (4-85-1) and tight end Hixson Street (4-64) are Crockett’s primary targets. Rainbolt also averages 24 yards on five punt returns, one for a touchdown.
Linebackers Cole Jones (42 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 3 forced fumbles) and Colin Foy (31 tackles, 5 TFL, 1 sack) top the Panthers’ tackle chart. Other key contributors include safeties Dorian Eddins (27 tackles, 1 interception) and end Jordan Doaty (13 tackles, 2 TFL, 3 FF).
Union (3-2) has alternated wins and losses, with both defeats coming at the hands of Class 5A opponents. The Farmers beat Many 34-18 in Week 1, bowed to Airline 36-12, trounced Rayville 47-6, fell to Ouachita 21-14 and blanked Franklin Parish 36-0 last week.
“They have played a tough schedule, and have been able to get better from it,” Doty said. “Outside of Airline, they have had their tougher games at home — Many, Ouachita and us. They have a big home field advantage over there. We are in for quite a challenge.”
Junior quarterback Trent Ginn directs a Union offense, which averages 309.4 yards per game (228.4 rushing, 81 passing).
Ginn has rushed for 436 yards and seven touchdowns while passing for 405 yards and four scores. He is also averaging 35.2 yards on 12 punts.
Freshman running back/slotback Treyvion Holly has produced 397 rushing yards and five touchdowns, including an 11-carry, 205-yard, two-touchdown effort vs. Franklin Parish. Holly is also the team’s second-leading receiver with six catches for 115 yards and a touchdown.
Dylan Harris paces the receiving corps with eight receptions for 104 yards and a pair of scores.
Left guard Dalton Hogan, a 6’-2,” 310-pound senior, anchors an offensive line with four first-year starters.
“They have some young guys on the offensive line,” Doty said. “They are starting to come into their own."
Union is coming off of a dominant defensive effort after holding FPHS to six first downs and 125 yards of total offense.
End Jason Hausley paces the Farmers with 44 tackles, nine tackles for loss, three sacks and a forced fumble. Among the other key defenders to watch are linebackers Hayden Edwards (41 tackles, 6 TFL, 1 sack, 1 interception) and Desmond Edmonds (28 tackles, 9 TFL, 3 sacks), and safety Jedonte Loggins (25 tackles, 1 TFL).
POWs: Sterlington’s Week 4 Players of the Week for the North Webster game were Townsend and Street on offense, and Eddins and Womack on defense.
NEXT: Both teams continue District 2-3A play at home next Friday — Wossman vs. Sterlington; Richwood vs. Union.