Expect another barnburner when Ouachita Christian visits Sterlington Friday night, but then again, maybe not. Truthfully, you never know what’s going to happen when the Highway 165 neighbors get together.
Landon Green’s 30-yard field with 3:09 remaining was the difference last year as the Panthers edged the Eagles 22-20.
OCS nipped the Panthers 21-19 in 2015 before shutting out a Sterlington team, which went on to win the 2016 Class 2A state championship 35-0. Sterlington repaid the Eagles in 2017 with an identical 35-0 thrashing in 2017.
On paper, at least, this year’s encounter has the makings of another close one (2015, 2018) as opposed to a 35-0 blowout (2016, 2017).
“It’s going to be a battle,” OCS coach Steven Fitzhugh predicted. “They are the No. 1 team in 3A. It’s going to come down to who makes the fewest mistakes — who has the fewest mistakes and the fewest missed tackles. That’s what ballgames come down to. Both teams are going to play hard. It’s going to come down to who eliminates their mistakes.”
OCS holds a 22-16 edge in the series, which dates back to 1977. This marks the 25th consecutive year for the two teams to meet. Now in his 26th year at OCS, including his 22nd as head coach, Fitzhugh is a veteran of the rivalry. While Sterlington coach Lee Doty is a relative newcomer to the area, he is well-versed in what the game means to both schools.
“This was a heck of a rivalry a long time before I became involved in it,” said Doty, who is in his third year as head coach and fourth season overall with the Panthers. “This game means a lot to a lot of folks around here. For a lot of our fans, this is the game of the year. For a lot of other folks, Oak Grove is the game of the year.”
Both teams opened the season with convincing victories last week — OCS over Arcadia 49-14, and Sterlington over Logansport 43-7.
Though differing in philosophy — the Eagles are typically more diverse than the run-oriented Panthers — both sides feature explosive offenses.
“Layton Rainbolt is a very talented receiver, Dallas Reagor may be the best running back in the area in any classification, (quarterback) Hayes Crockett is a ULM commit, and they have a very solid offensive line,” Fitzhugh said of the Panthers’ offense.
“OCS uses a lot of formations and runs a lot of different stuff,” Doty said. “We have to make sure we line up right.”
Doty is impressed by the Eagles’ offensive interior of Grant Mashaw, Jacob Ogden, Avery Pilgreen, James David Miller and Garrett Folds.
“OCS has a great offensive line. Those guys can block,” Doty said. “They have a couple of kids back that were hurt last year — an offensive lineman (Folds) and a running back (Dillon Dougan). Those guys are difference-makers.”
Sterlington played well in all three phases last week at Logansport.
“We made plays when we had to,” Doty said. “We stopped them on third-and-long and third-and-short, and we were able to convert on third-and-long.
“We didn’t play anybody both ways, and they had eight people going both ways, so we were able to wear them down.”
POWs: Sterlington’s Week 1 Players of the Week were Rainbolt on offense, Cole Jones on defense and Jacob Green on special teams.
NEXT: OCS will face its second straight Class 3A foe when it hosts Jena on Friday, Sept. 20. Meanwhile, the homestanding Panthers are paired against a Class 1A power for the second straight week vs. Oak Grove.