The back-and-forth dramatic battles between Sterlington and Richwood in 2017 felt like it transpired ages ago when Sterlington pounded Richwood, 39-14, in Mackie Freeze Stadium Thursday night.
Richwood made mistakes one might expect from a team attempting to rebuild under second-year head coach Marcus Yanez. And it was those costly mistakes, more specifically penalties, that aided a Sterlington Panther team that has yet to lose a game in District 2-3A.
The drive that best encapsulates those mistakes came at the end of the half. Sterlington led 23-0 with less than three minutes to play, but Richwood gained momentum after stuffing senior fullback Zach Crain on a 4th-and-1 attempt. Richwood senior quarterback Michael Sherman hit junior receiver Devin Hampton, who high pointed the ball on a 36-yard gain.
Two plays later Hampton bobbled and secured a 31-yard touchdown to breathe new life into the Rams. Only problem was the ol’ familiar yellow flag laying on the turf. An ineligible receiver downfield erased the touchdown off the board and the drive culminated in a Ram Foster interception that went the other way.
Foster returned the pick deep into Richwood territory before Jacob Green put the Panthers up 26-0 with five seconds to go in the half.
For Sterlington, the victory proved to be a nice tune-up before one of the most anticipated games of the year. Sterlington will host undefeated Union next Friday.
“(Yanez) is building a program here, and they’re only going to get better,” Doty said. “I was disappointed we left some points on the field and had a turnover down here to start the second half drive. We’re not going to beat Union Parish doing that.”
Richwood, by the way, had a major penalty on every drive of the first half. From holding to a chop block to the ineligible receiver downfield calls, the Rams struggled to get out of their own way.
Sterlington gladly accepted the free yards, though the Panthers were doing just fine without ‘em. Junior tailback J’Keldrick Miller rushed for 109 yards and three scores in the first two quarters alone. Miller even had a successful 2-point conversion, as he pushed his way into the end zone. Miller ended his night with 129 yards on 17 carries.
“I felt like I was going to have a pretty good game,” Miller said. “I’ve been telling my team (Union) is all I’ve been thinking about. I’ve been watching film on them all week. I know it’s a big game.”
The Panthers also had a safety in the first half and a pick six by Luke Handy in the second half.
Handy’s interception tilted all the momentum back in favor of the Panthers.
Senior Fred Hymes made his presence felt in the third quarter when he sacked Sherman on third-and-long and covered up the Rams punter to set Sterlington’s offense up at the 5-yard line. Three plays later Crain punched his way through the line on a fullback dive to give the Panthers a 39-0 advantage late in the third quarter.
“Richwood has some big looking kids, and we were able to move them and hit our fullback for some big gains,” Doty said. “Hey, you have to be happy when you win a football game, and I’m ecstatic.”
The Rams had zero rushing yards at the half, but Richwood finished with 124 rushing yards, as Richwood mounted a few late scoring drives against the Panthers.
Hampton led both teams with 83 yards on five receptions. He also had a 28-yard touchdown run for the Rams.
The Rams will host Carroll next Friday.