Editor’s Note: As we wait for sports to resume locally, we’ll take a look back at the Top 10 high school football games since 2015. Every week will feature a look back at the top games played amongst our parish teams.
No. 1: Sterlington vs. Madison Prep (2016)
Upsets are a natural occurrence in high school football, though they may seem few and far between at times.
Just look at last football season. No, 7 Destrehan upset No. 2 West Monroe in the quarterfinals and No. 5 Ouachita Christian upset No. 4 Calvary Baptist.
As shocking as those two upsets might have been at the time, I’d argue they could never hold a candle to what took place in 2016 inside the Superdome for the Class 2A State Championship Game. Heading into that matchup between Sterlington and Madison Prep, the No. 4 Panthers won its previous two matchups by a combined 10 points.
Meanwhile, the No. 2 Chargers advanced to the finals following back-to-back double-digit victories.
Madison Prep was the juggernaut on paper. And if you fail to remember how talented that team was, all you need to know is a jaw-dropping 13 Charger players signed with colleges during the 2017 National Signing Day. Troy James signed with Oklahoma, Bryan Jones gave Houston his signature and several other teammates went all across the country to continue their football careers. So compared to Madison Prep, Sterlington was that little ol’ engine that could.
If you’re looking for flash, you’re in the wrong place. Sterlington, after gritting their way through the two previous rounds, entered the Superdome as a team focused with its eyes centered on the prize. Madison Prep, however, danced along the sidelines, as they in many ways looked a little too loose before the biggest game of the year.
That didn’t seem to matter in the early goings, as Madison Prep’s offensive line that came in at an average of 6’2” 310 pounds pushed Sterlington off the ball. The start of the game saw No. 2 (14-1) Madison Prep run through and around the Panthers on a 13-play drive that ended in a James 4-yard score.
Sterlington didn’t tie the game until the second quarter when Tyler Muse found paydirt on a short score, however, Sterlington began generating success with its fullback dive with Muse in the opening quarter. Sterlington ran that ol' reliable veer to perfection, which might've surprised Madison Prep coaches after claims were made before the game that they'd never watched any of Sterlington on film.
That inside running game continued long drives, and it forced Madison Prep to pinch inside and account for Muse, which opened up the option game for quarterback Carson Clowers and running back Devante Douglas.
“We’ve morphed more into a throwing team in the last six weeks, and Tyler wasn’t used as much,” Sterlington head coach Jason Thompson told The Ouachita Citizen after the game. “Sitting with the offensive staff Monday, (offensive coaches) felt this would be a good game for Tyler. They felt not many teams ran it right at (Madison Prep). Tyler certainly stepped up and had a good game.”
Madison Prep answered Muse’s touchdown run with a 5-yard Walker score. Walker finished the game with 230 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns for the Chargers, but three Charger fumbles and an interception by Sterlington’s Darren Istre kept Madison Prep from capitalizing on its rushing success.
Madison Prep head coach Mike Roach said those mistakes was what ultimately cost his team against a turnover-less Sterlington squad.
“We turned the ball over, and that’s something we haven’t done all year,” Roach said. “In the championship game, that’s something you can ill afford to do. I take my hat off to Sterlington. This is what championship games are all about. It came down to the wire, but we just came up on the short end.”
For the most part, Sterlington took advantage of those turnovers, and after a 16-yard Clowers' score on an option keeper, Sterlington and Madison Prep entered halftime tied at 14.
With the first possession of the second half, Sterlington made a statement with a seven-play, 67-yard drive that ended in a 10-yard touchdown run by Clowers. Thompson and his staff leaned on the offensive linemen, as they have for most of the year. Clowers tipped his hat to his blockers after Sterlington’s victory.
“All of the credit goes to the offensive line,” Clowers said. “(Madison Prep) are some big guys, and they’re bigger when you get close to them.”
A 33-yard run from Ty Walker tied the game 21-21 late in the third quarter. Sterlington regained the lead in the fourth when a 10-play drive ended in a 4-yard touchdown run by Clowers with less than seven minutes to go. That gave the Panthers a 28-21 advantage, but Madison Prep was one score away from striking midnight on Sterlington’s magical Cinderella story.
Behind Sterlington’s bench, a sea of blue unified and chanted “STP” (something to prove) as a Walker 5-yard touchdown reduced the Panthers’ lead to 28-27 with 44 seconds remaining. No doubt about it — the Chargers were going for the win, and the Panthers weren’t caught by surprise.
“We kind of thought they would,” Thompson said. “We felt they would because they were tired. Of course, we were tired too, but those guys were huffing and puffing.”
At the snap, defensive lineman Noah Weatherly led a surge and several Panthers followed to stop running back James short of the goal line. A recovered onside kick and two victory formations later, Sterlington’s three-game run of dramatic nail-biters culminated in a 2A state title.
It was those tight contests against No. 5 Kinder and No. 1 Many that helped prepare No. 4 Sterlington for such a moment in New Orleans’ Superdome, Thompson said.
“We knew if we could get the game into the third and quarter, we didn’t think they played in too many games deep,” Thompson said. “We’ve played a lot of four-quarter (games) and then some. We went to three overtimes last week.”
Clowers finished the game with 57 yards and three rushing touchdowns on 10 carries, while Sterlington pounded it with Muse 23 times for 98 yards and a score.
Cody Seward, who had six tackles in the victory and wore No. 48 to honor Franklin Parish's late Tyrell Cameron, collapsed near midfield during Sterlington’s celebration.
Emotional, he was embraced by coaches and other players, as his senior season reached the best possible ending.
“Senior year, the best way to go out is a state championship,” Seward said. “This is the last time I get to represent this number, and I think this is the best way that I could ever honor this number because I’ll probably never play football again. I’m 140 pounds. This is it for me.”
Here is the full countdown of the greatest games in the parish since 2015:
10. Ouachita vs. Ruston (2018)
9. OCS vs. Southern Lab (2018)
8. Neville vs. Ouachita (2019)
7. OCS vs. St. Frederick (2018)
6. Sterlington vs. Union (2019)
5. West Monroe vs. Zachary (2018)
4. Sterlington vs. Many (2016)
3. OCS vs. Calvary (2019)
2. West Monroe vs. McGill-Toolen (2018)
1. Sterlington vs. Madison Prep (2016)