Sterlington isn’t used to hitting the road as the lower seed this early into playoffs, but the No. 12 Panthers will travel Friday night to play No. 5 St. James.
The (7-2) Wildcats are coming off of a 43-10 opening round victory against Abbeville, and hardcore high school football fans are fully aware of what St. James brings to the table. After all, this team is just one year removed from a perfect 15-0 season.
The defending 3A State Champions defeated Jennings, 51-14, in last year’s state championship game, which is all Sterlington head coach Lee Doty has to tell his own club.
“It’s no doubt we’re the underdog, but that’s our fault,” Doty said. “We had an opportunity to win another game this year, and we didn’t get it done. So we put ourselves in this hole. Now it’s time for us to claw our way out.”
Doty said he talked with St. James about potentially scheduling a game earlier this year, but it didn’t work out. Win, lose or draw, Doty believes this opportunity will benefit his club.
“You can’t buy this experience,” Doty said. “For our young guys to get to ride on a bus for a playoff game against the defending state champs, it’s great.”
The No. 12 Sterlington Panthers had a competitive first quarter against the No. 21 West Feliciana Saints, but the next three quarters were all Panthers in a 59-27 opening round victory Friday night.
The Panthers actually trailed 6-0 before quarterback Grant Mangrum tied the score with a 15-yard touchdown run.
Mangrum would also break the tie with a 71-yard touchdown pass to a streaking John Barr. Mangrum, who recently signed to play baseball for LSU-E, has gotten it done on the gridiron this year.
“There’s only two or three baseball players in this school that doesn’t play football,” Doty said. “Having the baseball coach on your staff is a big help there, and he also happens to be a great football coach (Mark Sims). Grant is always competing. If he’s not playing football, he’s playing baseball somewhere. He’s just a winner. He paid his dues. He was pretty sharp in our jamboree this year, and this was the sharpest I’ve seen him since.”
Mangrum was 6-for-11 for 173 yards in the victory.
It was all Panthers after that. The Panthers added a 2-yard run from J’Keldrick Miller and a 25-yard field goal from Jacob Green to take a 24-6 advantage into halftime.
Sterlington continued to muscle the Saints around in the trenches
Zach Crain got in on the end zone party to start the second half. His 2-yard run put the Panthers up by 25 points, while Miller’s 9-yard run that followed expanded Sterlington’s lead to 38-6 late in the third quarter.
Mangrum tossed a 10-yard touchdown pass to fellow senior Brandon Brewer, and Matthew Miers scored two touchdowns on the ground in the fourth quarter in the lopsided victory.
Miller rushed for 213 yards on 28 carries in the victory, while Crain added 98 on 17 carries. The Panthers rushed for 383 yards in the win.