By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports
The Parkway Panthers are the only member of District 1-5A without a loss this season. They are tied atop the district standings and the mission isn’t just to corral a league championship this year, but claim a spot among the list of perennial contenders.
Byrd, one of those programs, stands in the way tonight. Although the Yellow Jackets (4-2, 1-2 District 1-5A) are coming off back-to-back 1-5A losses, this is still a game the Panthers (6-0, 3-0) must win to help push themselves into the elite category.
“Not only that, but this is the only team (our seniors) haven’t beaten. That’s pretty big for us,” Parkway head coach Coy Brotherton said. “This is one that’s been talked about in our circle for a while.”
Although Byrd has two blemishes on its record already, the Panthers are going to see a much different squad than the Yellow Jackets ran out there during most of the losses to Haughton and Benton.
Quarterback Lake Lambert returns after his injury two weeks ago and is joined by 5-foot-10, 178-pound running back Josh Allen, who has been absent all season due to a broken collarbone.
“Anytime your starting quarterback returns, that’s always a plus,” Byrd head coach Stacy Ballew said. “And Josh Allen brings a lot of athleticism back, plus he’s a senior – so you get a lot of experience back.”
Brotherton admitted coaches always wonder how attendance at practice will look during fall break, but the Byrd game has long been circled on the calendar.
“Luckily for us, all our kids have been locked in and focused,” Brotherton said.
Ballew is impressed with the Panthers’ athleticism on both sides of the ball.
“They have one of the fastest kids in the state at running back (Jaylan White),” Ballew said. “They aren’t missing anybody on defense. They have 11 guys who run to the ball and they are aggressive. They are big and they can all run.”
Even though there will be a plethora of talent at the skills positions, the matchup provides an unusual element – especially at the high school level.
Byrd (Abram Murray) and Parkway (Aeron Burrell) boast two of best kickers in the nation.
“After kickoffs, we will probably have to go 80 yards to try to score,” Brotherton said regarding the ease in which both kickers find the end zone (and beyond) on kickoffs. “If the game comes down to special teams, it’s almost going to come down who can get past midfield in the fourth quarter.”
Said Ballew: “It’s interesting to have two kickers that are so good. The game may come down to field position or field goals. In high school, I don’t normally want to count on field goals to win, but when you have a kicker like we do and they do, that puts a new facet into the game. When you can make a team drive 80, that helps.”
Contact Roy at email@example.com
Byrd (4-2, 1-2) at Parkway (6-0, 3-0)
Where: Bobby Marlow Field at Preston Crownover Stadium
Series: Byrd 22-16
Last year: Byrd 35-24
Last week: Byrd lost to Haughton 23-14; Parkway beat Southwood 55-6
Rankings: Byrd is No. 5 in Shreveport-Bossier Journal Top 10 poll; Parkway is No. 1 in SBJ, 7th in Class 5A LSWA Top 10 poll
LHSAA Power Ratings: Byrd is 7th in Division I Select; Parkway is No. 6 in Division I Non-Select
Radio: Byrd (The Tiger 1130 AM, 103.3 FM)
Notables: This will be 39th meeting between Byrd and Parkway. The series dates back to 1970 and 28-12 Byrd win. The Yellow Jackets have won four of the last five games. Since Parkway moved into 5A, Byrd holds a one-game advantage (6-5) . . . in the first three games, Byrd had only two turnovers. In their last three games, the Yellow Jackets have turned the ball over 10 times (8 fumbles, 2 interceptions). Opponents have scored six touchdowns off of Byrd from 12 turnovers this season. Last year, the Jackets only turned the ball over seven times in 11 games with opponents only scoring 12 points off of the seven turnovers . . . the game will feature two of the best Class of 2024 kickers in the nation in Byrd’s Abram Murray, who committed to the University of Miami earlier this year, and Parkway’s Aeron Burrell, who kicked a Bossier Parish record 52-yard field goal in the Panthers’ Week 2 win over Red River and a game-winning 50-yarder against Haughton.
Parkway has won just one of the past four matchups with Byrd, a 14-13 victory in 2019. The Panthers had won four of the five meetings before that (2012-2016) . . . the Panthers have won 10 of their last 11 games . . . running back Jaylan White surpassed 1,000 yards from scrimmage in last week’s win vs. Southwood . . . Byrd defensive coordinator Jason Pope was an All-District player at Parkway in 1990.
Natchitoches Central (2-4, 1-2) vs. Captain Shreve (3-3, 0-3)
Where: Lee Hedges Stadium
Series: Captain Shreve
Last year: Captain Shreve 31-20
Last week: Natchitoches Central lost to Benton 62-15; Captain Shreve lost to Airline 42-14
Rankings: Shreve is tied for 8th in the Journal’s Top 10 poll
LHSAA Power Ratings: Natchitoches is 39th in Division I Non-Select; Captain Shreve is No. 10 in Division I Select
Radio: Natchitoches (95.9 FM Kix Classic Country; http://220.127.116.11:8192/kixstl); CS (KLKL.fm, 95.7 FM)
Notables: Shreve coach Adam Kirby knows first-hand how tough District 1-5A is, as the Gators have lost their first three district games. “It’s always tough,” Kirby said. “Every season is a dogfight where you have to be ready to go week-to-week. The coaching and talent in this district is really what sets it apart from others around the state. Each week, you’re going to see tremendous talent, and the coaching in this district is phenomenal”. . . there have been teaching moments the last three weeks. “The lessons (the players) are learning now are ones that will help them become better husbands, fathers, employees, and bosses one day. Life is going to be a lot tougher than a 0-3 record in district. But, we can use this disappointment to teach them how to overcome adversity and believe in what we’re doing” . . . there’s no sugarcoating what the Gators have to do to beat Natchitoches-Central. “We’ve got to play better on offense,” Kirby said. “At every position.”