From Neville/Ruston to OCS/Oak Grove to Sterlington/Mangham, the first couple of weeks of high school football action have given us monstrous matchups from the “opening bell.”

And fortunately, Week 3 has a few big-time matchups for us to further sink our teeth into.

You might’ve noticed the graphic on our front page of the sports section the last two weeks where we have highlighted the Top 5 matchups for the upcoming weekend. I figured this would be a great week to expand upon those:

1. Catholic at West Monroe

Call it a two-week build.

No, West Monroe fans didn’t get to see the Rebels against Brother Martin, or any other team for that matter, last week, but in some ways that adds more hype to this matchup.

Sam Houston is clearly rebuilding after having to cancel the 2020 football season, so it’s hard to take much away from a victory where West Monroe led 30-0 in the first quarter. 

In some ways, it was similar to the shiner the Rebels gave Evangel last year. That wasn’t your daddy’s Evangel, I promise you.

So there is a certain buzz about West Monroe’s potential and ceiling. Can the Rebels go blow-for-blow with one of the best teams in the state?

Catholic enters this game 2-0 following an impressive 20-0 win against an Acadiana team that entered last week No. 1 in the Louisiana Sports Writers Association Class 5A poll. 

So in other words, Catholic took out the top dog in the state.

West Monroe fans are anxious to see where exactly this team is in terms of the pecking order in the state. This game should tell us all a lot about the Rebels.

2. Oak Grove at Sterlington

Oak Grove is playing all the hits to start the season.

The Tigers opened with Mangham, squared off with their rival OCS and now face another big challenge in Sterlington. 

So don’t be fooled by that 0-2 record the Tigers bring into this matchup.

The Panthers enter this heavily anticipated contest with a 2-0 record, and I would argue Sterlington looks like a state championship contender two weeks in. 

I’m sure head coach Lee Doty wants to take no part in that conversation.

The goal for him is to continue to get better, limit the turnovers and play error-free ball against an Oak Grove team that is still one of the favorites to win a state championship in Class 1A.

Expect another slugfest between these two.

3. Neville at Jena 

This pairing feels odd, random and awesome all at the same time.

Those of you who follow the prep scene on a state level understand that Jena has been one of the better Class 3A teams the last few years under Jay Roark, and I’m going to fully take it for granted that you understand the prowess of Neville.

So that makes for a fun road trip for the Tigers against a 3A power that is capable of giving the Tigers fits.

Neville is still favored, and though the Tigers have started the season with a 2-0 record and entertained fans with some incredible A.J. Allen runs along with some stingy defense, 

Neville has yet to get that passing game going. Will this be the week Brett Batteford and his receivers start to make more plays through the air?

4. Carroll at Ouachita

Look, I thought the Carroll Bulldogs would “Billy strut” (Conor McGregor’s billionaire walk) into this matchup with a 2-0 record.

Boy, was I wrong? Avoyelles hung 80-plus on the Bulldogs last week.

So Carroll annihilates Green Oaks in Week 1 and gets outscored by 52 points in Week 2. It’s going to be hard to predict which Carroll shows up in Week 3, but this game is more about Ouachita.

I was amazed at the crowd the Lions brought to Bill Ruple Stadium last Friday night against Neville. 

It’s the biggest Ouachita crowd I’ve seen for a football game since I got here in 2015, and chatting with Neville principal Mickey McCarty on the sideline, he told me that was the biggest crowd he’d seen against Neville when he was head coach.

So here’s an open challenge to Ouachita fans. Keep it up. It’s a heck of a lot more fun seeing you at games, and those kids deserve that support.

5. West Ouachita at Natchitoches Central

Consider this one a fork-in-the-road game for West Ouachita.  

The Chiefs suffered a disappointing 41-20 loss to Jonesboro-Hodge last week, and now will travel to Natchitoches Central to face a 2-0 Chiefs team that didn’t win a single game last season. Just like that, this game looks tougher on paper, which could heavily factor into whether or not the West Ouachita Chiefs make the playoffs.

West Ouachita enters this matchup with a 1-1 record, and an already difficult District 2-5A looks even tougher with Ouachita making early strides and Alexandria looking stout after beating St. Thomas More, 59-35, last Friday night. Pineville even recorded an impressive 28-7 victory against Menard in Week 2.  

In other words, the wins down the stretch are going to be harder to come by, so it’s imperative for the Chiefs to stack them on the front end. 

This is as close to a must-win game as you could get in Week 3.

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