Carroll and Sterlington collide Thursday night at Panther Field with the District 2-3A title on the line. Senior Night ceremonies will precede the 7 p.m. kickoff.

Just because district championships are overshadowed by power rankings nowadays, don’t be misled. Winning district still matters.

“Try telling Carroll the district championship doesn’t matter,” Sterlington coach Lee Doty said. “Win, lose or draw, this is a great way to finish out the regular season, and get you fired up for the playoffs. Hopefully, we can use this game to get better for Round 1, but Job 1 is to take care of business against Carroll.”

“We’re going to be up for the task,” Carroll coach Alex Washington said. “The district championship is on the line. Our kids will rise to the occasion.”

Power rankings matter, too, as the Bulldogs (6-2, 3-0) come in at No. 8, while the Panthers (8-0, 3-0) are listed at No. 2. Playoff pairings will be released Sunday.

Since making the jump to Class 3A three years ago, the Panthers are 13-0 in regular season district games. Carroll is seeking its first conference championship since 2016.

“Nobody expected us to be in this situation,” Washington said. “The pressure’s on them. We’re just gong to come out and play our game.”

Washington is right about the Bulldogs exceeding expectations. The consensus preseason picks had Sterlington, Union and Wossman finishing in the upper echelon of the standings with Carroll and Richwood in the lower tier. 

Coming off of a 2-8 2018 campaign, the Bulldogs have done an about face in Washington’s second year as head coach. Carroll’s turnaround actually started at the end of last season. Rather than taking a break while other teams were preparing for playoff games in Week 11, the Bulldogs hit the weight room, and even worked out over the Christmas holidays. 

Besides the offseason program, Washington has placed an emphasis on the intangibles. Taking care of the little things has added up to a big season for the Bulldogs.

“We’re always talking about trying to do things the right way here,” Washington said. “We’re not perfect. Sometimes a kid might fall out of line, sometimes a coach might fall out of line. When it happens, we have to get them back in line.”

Off to a 3-1 start, the Bulldogs took a step backward after a Week 5 open date. Returning to action in Week 6, Carroll overcame a sluggish performance in a 25-14 district opening win over Richwood before dropping a 20-7 non-district decision to Caldwell. 

Since then, the Bulldogs have put together back-to-back wins over Wossman (29-8) and Union (21-13).

“The bye week hurt us a little, but we’re getting back close to the swing of things,” Washington said. “Our kids are playing at a high level right now.”

Sterlington coach Lee Doty agrees.

“Carroll is a very well-coached, well-prepared football team,” Doty said. “They’re a senior heavy team. We have our work cut out for us this week. Our kids have to understand the challenge that is coming.”

Louisiana Tech commit Cedric Woods, who doubles at wide receiver and cornerback, has taken his game to another level in recent weeks. Woods scored the first two touchdowns against Wossman on a 74-yard pick-6 and a dazzling 54-yard reception and run. Last week, he caught five passes for 121 yards. Although it did not factor into the scoring, Woods made a highlight-reel caliber 42-yard catch on the final play of the first half.

“The catch he made just before the half was spectacular,” Doty said. “He just jumped up and grabbed it between two defenders. You can’t teach that.”

A key offseason move has begun to pay dividends for the Bulldogs. Antonio Hollins has made considerable progress at quarterback since being handed the keys to the offense. With Hollins settling in, the Bulldogs have been able to get the ball to Woods in space.

Running back Montrelle Jones and Jacoby Brown are also big-play threats for the Bulldogs.

Ends Jackie Wallace and Ryan DeBurr, linebackers Derrick Conner and free safety Donald Nabors lead the Bulldogs defensively.

“They play with a lot of effort, and they run really well,” Doty said. “When you play with effort and you can run, it makes for a dangerous team. That’s kind of what we have done all year, so we understand that philosophy.”

Fullback Jordan Townsend and tailback Dallas Reagor headline a Sterlington rushing attack, which averages 300.4 yards per game and 6.7 yards per carry.

Layton Rainbolt caught a touchdown pass and returned a punt for another in last week’s 46-6 win at Franklin Parish.

Ends Jordan Doaty and Parker Coley, and linebacker Colin Farrar pace the Panthers defensively.

POWs: Players of the Week for the Franklin Parish game were Jordan Townsend (Offense); Cole Jones (Defense) and Layton Rainbolt (Special Teams).

_________________________________________________________

STARTING LINEUPS

Carroll Offense

LT—Isaiah Taylor

LG—Kelvin Hamilton

C—Char’Tavion Arrington

RG—Darrell Gilbert

RT—Malik Long

WR—Emontae Brown

WR—Jacoby Brown

WR—Armiyel “T” Bell

WR—Cedric Woods

QB—Antonio Hollins

RB—Montrelle Jones

K—Jackie Wallace

Carroll Defense

DE—Jackie Wallace

DE—Ryan DeBurr

DT—Andrea Hill

DT—Jy Brown

LB—Pokyrie Goins

LB—Derrick Conner

LB—Bobby Williams

BANDIT—Jacoby Brown

CB—Ladarius Goldsberry

CB—Cedric Woods

FS—Donald Nabors

P—Jackie Wallace

Sterlington Offense

TE—Hixson Street

TE—Zach Jones

ST—Braden Bruscato

SG—Brock Risinger

C—Cameron Rivera

QG—Joby Guthrie

QT—Matthew Husser

WR—Layton Rainbolt

WR—Ram Foster

QB—Hayes Crockett

FB—Jordan Townsend

TB—Dallas Reagor

K—Jacob Green

Sterlington Defense

DE—Parker Coley

DE—Jordan Doaty

DT—Caleb Andrews

DT—Edmun Williams

LB—Cole Jones

LB—Colin Foy

LB—Seth Temple

CB—Cole Thompson

CB—Jaden Davis

S—Harrison Womack

FS—Dorian Eddins

P—Parker Coley

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