There’s a reason the Jennings Bulldogs may look familiar to Sterlington fans when the two teams square off in the Class 3A state playoffs. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Friday at Jerry Simmons Stadium in Jennings.
Dell Ashley connection
When former Jennings offensive coordinator John Richardson began installing the splitback veer, the first person he turned to for advice was retired Sterlington coach and principal Dell Ashley. Richardson has since moved on to Westlake as head coach, but the Bulldogs continue to run the offense that Ashley used so successfully at Sterlington.
This is one time that Lee Doty, Sterlington’s current head coach, wishes Ashley would not have been so generous in sharing his vast knowledge of the splitback veer.
“Coach Ashley taught the veer to those guys,” Doty said. “They have the backs to run it with, and they are dad gum good at what they do.”
Sterlington’s first order of business this week is containing the thunder and lightning backfield duo of powerful sophomore Trevor Etienne and junior speedster Jalen Lewis. Etienne, who has an offer from LSU, is the brother of current Clemson running back Travis Etienne.
“He hits the hole hard and keeps his feet moving,” Doty said of the younger Etienne. “He doesn’t require much blocking.”
Quarterback Bub Willridge is one of only two senior offensive starters for the Bulldogs. Junior left guard Maverick Broussard is the stalwart of the offensive line.
Keenan Landry, a 6-3, 295-pound tackle, who has offers from LSU and Texas A&M, is the Bulldogs’ defensive enforcer. Among the others to watch are end Jayden Sonnier, linebacker Jacob Cooper and free safety Ethan Mack.
Jennings (7-5), the No. 23 seed, got off to a slow start with three straight losses to Class 4A playoff teams — Leesville (48-41), Eunice (19-7) and DeRidder (21-6). Over the past nine weeks, the Bulldogs have averaged 38 points per game. Getting into the win column, the Bulldogs defeated Cecilia (56-35) and Washington-Marion (43-16) in Weeks 4 and 5, bowed to St. Louis (41-25), defeated Iowa (35-7) and fell to 3-5 with a 45-35 loss to Lake Charles Prep. Jennings closed out the regular season with consecutive wins over South Beauregard (34-19) and Westlake (32-21).
On to the playoffs, Jennings topped No. 10 seed Carroll 34-27 in Monroe in the first round before edgingNo. 7 Church Point 14-13 last week in a mud bath. Friday night’s victory over Church Point extended the Bulldogs’ winning streak to four games.
“All of their losses were early in the year,” Doty said. “Coach (Russell) Phelps said they are a young team that is starting to mature. They have been getting better and better.”
Over the past two years, the Panthers have engaged in some memorable battles with teams from Districts 4, 5 and 6 such as Eunice, Iota, Church Point, Crowley and Kaplan. Doty expects this week’s matchup to be no different.
“There are a lot of good teams down there. I have to give credit where credit is due — all the teams from that area play extremely hard,” Doty said. “Jennings has a lot of tradition. You can tell it means a lot to them by how hard they play.”
Sterlington (11-0), the No. 2 seed, squeaked by No. 31 Crowley 37-36 in overtime in the first round before handling No. 15 Kaplan 35-24 last week.
Linebacker Colin Foy amassed a career-high 19 tackles against Kaplan to move atop the team’s tackle chart with 112. The junior also has nine tackles for loss and two sacks to his credit.
Among the Panthers’ other defensive leaders are linebacker Cole Jones (106 tackles, 27 tackles for loss, 9 sacks, 6 forced fumbles), end Jordan Doaty (48 tackles, 6 TFL, 4 FF), and safeties Harrison Womack (78 tackles, 4 interceptions) and Dorian Eddins (75 tackles, 5 INTs).
Tailback Dallas Reagor (147 carries, 1,141 yards, 10 touchdowns) and fullback Jordan Townsend (132-828-18) are the focal point of Sterlington’s offense.
Quarterback Hayes Crockett has thrown for 624 yards with seven touchdowns and four interceptions.
Layton Rainbolt (20 receptions, 315 yards, 2 TDs), Ram Foster (10-101-1) and Hixson Street (8-169-2) are Crockett’s primary targets.
Rainbolt has returned two punts for touchdowns and housed a kickoff return from 67 yards out vs. Kaplan.
Friday night’s winner advances to play the McDonogh 35-Baker winner next week in the semifinal round.
Players of the Week for the Kaplan game were Jordan Townsend and Dallas Reagor on offense, Dorian Eddins and Harrison Womack on defense, and Layton Rainbolt on special teams.
QB—C.J. Willridge III
CLASS 3A Quarterfinals
No. 24 Brusly at No. 1 St. James
No. 4 Madison Prep at No. 12 Union Parish
No. 6 McDonogh #35 at No. 30 Baker
No. 2 Sterlington at No. 23 Jennings