Sterlington coach Lee Doty is thankful that Friday night’s matchup against Crowley is a football game and not a track meet. Seeded No. 2 in the Class 3A bracket, the Panthers (9-0) are home for the first round of the playoffs against the No. 31 Gents (5-5).
It didn’t take long for Doty to pinpoint Crowley’s strength.
“Speed. As soon as I turned the film on, all I could see was speed. They have track stars all over the place,” Doty said. “When I talk to other coaches about them, the first thing out of their mouth is how fast they are.”
Crowley started the season 1-2 with a loss to St. Louis (41-38), a win over Westlake (26-20) and a loss to Cecilia (34-16) before winning its next four against Northwest (34-18), Marksville (62-38), Washington-Marion (44-38) and Abbeville (41-15) in the District 6-3A opener. Ending the season on a three-game skid, the Gents closed out conference play with losses to Kaplan (30-14), Erath (40-36) and St. Martinville (37-32).
“They don’t mind getting in a shootout with you,” Doty said. “They’ve given up some points, but they’ve also scored a lot. We have to slow down the big plays, and make them earn their points. We can’t give up big play after big play after big play.”
Sterlington, meanwhile, completed an undefeated regular and captured its third straight District 2-3A championship Thursday night with a 28-0 triumph over Carroll.
Records, however, are meaningless now.
“It’s win or go home. One bad night will end the season for you,” Doty said. “We have to be very focused. We can’t look ahead, and we can’t look back. Nothing else matters but this game. It’s a brand new year.”
Quarterback Marquis Garrett directs a Crowley offense with quick-strike capabilities.
“Their quarterback is 6-4, 190. He’s a big kid with a great arm, and throws well on the run,” Doty said. “We have to figure out a way to contain him. He can run, too. He’s probably the most complete package at quarterback we have faced so far.”
Running back Obadiah Butler and wide receiver Tyler Carrier also figure prominently into the attack.
“They remind me an awful lot of North Webster,” Doty said, referring to Sterlington’s Week 4 opponent. “North Webster had a bunch of track guys, and kept finding ways to get open against us.”
Ideally, the best way to counter Crowley’s speed is by shortening the game with time-consuming drives.
“We can’t have a bunch of empty possessions,” Doty said. “We have to score when we have the ball.”
Nose guard Camron Dugar, tackles Josh Richard and Kendall Harmon, and linebacker Rodney Goodley are the key defensive players on a unit that has flip-flopped between a three-man and a five-man front.
Dallas Reagor (115 carries, 963 yards, 8 touchdowns), Jordan Townsend (111-649-16) and Zach Crain (59-370-3) head up a rushing attack, which averages 288.8 yards per game and 6.5 yards per carry.
Quarterback Hayes Crockett has passed for 451 yards and six scores.
Layton Rainbolt tops the receiving corps with 16 catches for 195 yards and two touchdowns, and has also returned 10 punts for a 24.5-yard average.
Jacob Green has made 30-of-34 PATs and 6-of-10 field goals with a long of 43.
Among the Panthers’ defensive mainstays are ends Jordan Doaty (32 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 3 forced fumbles) and Parker Coley (36 tackles, 6 TFL), and safety Harrison Womack (58 tackles, 1 interception).
WEEKLY AWARDS: Sterlington’s Players of the Week for the Carroll game were strong guard Brock Risinger on offense, linebacker Cole Jones on defense and Cole Thompson on special teams.
SECOND ROUND: The Crowley-Sterlington victor advances to play the winner between No. 18 Bossier and No. 15 Kaplan.