Two of the state’s winningest programs over the past three years take the field Friday night when Sterlington visits Logansport for the season opener.
Logansport’s senior class boasts a career record of 37-2 with a Class 1A state championship, followed by a semifinal run and a quarterfinal appearance.
“They haven’t lost a regular season game since October of 2015,” Sterlington coach Lee Doty said, referring to the Tigers’ 32-game regular season winning streak.
There’s a reason Doty remembers Logansport’s last regular season loss so vividly. Doty was head coach at St. Mary’s when the visiting Tigers from Natchitoches defeated Logansport 42-12 on their way to claiming the Division IV state runner-up trophy.
Sterlington is 37-6 during the same span with a Class 2A state title, a Class 3A quarterfinal appearance and a 3A state runner-up finish last season.
Both teams celebrated state championships on the same day in 2016. Logansport came from behind to stun Haynesville 34-28 in the Class 1A finals. In the following game, the Panthers upset Madison Prep 28-27 in the Class 2A title tilt.
Adding to the intrigue of the matchup is the friendship between the two coaches.
“Kevin McGee is a good friend of mine,” Doty said. “I’m looking forward to playing them. They know how to win and we do, too. It’s going to be a heck of an atmosphere over there, and we don’t have to travel that far. It’s going to be a playoff-type game, and we’re going to treat it as such.”
Following scrimmages against Cedar Creek and Beekman and a 34-21 jamboree victory over Jena, the Panthers will get their first look at a wide open offense.
“It’s going to be a good test for us, defensively,” Doty said. “What we saw in the jamboree and scrimmages really didn’t help us as far as preparing for district. What Logansport does is exactly what we are going to see against all four of our district opponents.”
Quarterback Jake Shoalmire, junior running back Kay’Savalyn Barnes, wide receivers Christian Thomas and Patrick Mims, and slot receiver Josh Darden headline an explosive offense, which features 10 senior starters.
Right guard Felix Coleman (6-1, 260) is the pillar of an offensive line that averages 272 pounds per man.
Linebackers Matt Woods and Lacadrian Gant, nose guard Demicko Gray and end Tony Bland lead the way defensively. Cornerbacks Barnes and Thomas are among several Tigers who pull double duty.
“The key for us is to get into the middle of the third quarter and still be close,” Doty said. “Hopefully our depth will help us. They have a lot of people playing both ways. The only chance I see for us is to outlast them.”
Sterlington has a vast arsenal of offensive weapons in its own right. Quarterback Hayes Crockett, fullback Jordan Townsend, tailback Dallas Reagor and wide receiver Layton Rainbolt are all back for their senior seasons.
Reagor rushed for 109 yards on six carries to earn Player of the Game honors in the Panthers’ 34-20 Bayou Jamb victory over Jena last week. Doty says the 2018 All-State selection is running with a chip on his shoulder.
“Dallas has a lot to prove,” Doty said. “He feels like he should have had some offers by now, and I do, too. A lot of people think he’s too little. I guess 5-9, 196 is too little (said with sarcasm). I think people are dismissing him and somebody is going to come in and steal him.”
Among Sterlington’s offensive highlights against Jena was junior offensive lineman Devan Henderson’s 55-yard touchdown scamper. Whether it was off of a fumble (official’s ruling on the field), a deflected pass (media ruling) or a dropped pass (Jena’s ruling) remains up for debate. Either way, it was a heads-up play by Henderson, who will make his first regular season start at quick guard against the Tigers.
Among the Panthers’ key defenders are end Jordan Doty, linebacker Cole Jones and free safety Dorian Eddins.
Defensive tackle Luke Carmichael, who left the Bayou Jamb early, will miss the season opener. Carmichael’s injury leaves Doty, who started for Bastrop last season, as the only member of the front four with starting experience.
Sterlington will be home for its next two against Ouachita Christian (Sept. 13) and Oak Grove (Sept. 20).