Third downs doom Flyers in jamboree

WHITEOUT: The Loyola defense put a wall around Natchitoches Central’s Zion Thompson (Photo by JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports)


NATCHITOCHES – Jamborees are strange creatures. Everyone looks forward to them, but nobody can hardly remember anything about them when they are over. You see all the machinations you might see in a regular season game – flexing defensive linemen after a sack, finger-waving receivers after a catch – for an event that really doesn’t matter.

The winners celebrate it; the losers try to forget about it by the time the bus gets put into gear.

Loyola coach Mike Greene wasn’t as much concerned about the result of Friday night’s Natchitoches Regional Medical Center Jamboree as he was about how his team played. The Flyers came out on the short end of a 14-0 result against Natchitoches Central at Turpin Stadium and it was as if Greene hardly even noticed the scoreboard.

“We are playing a (Class) 5A school and we’ve got a lot of new faces out there,” said the veteran coach, now in his 28th year as a head coach. “We just got to tweak a few things. We didn’t show much and just did our basic stuff. Next week is what counts and I was pleased with our effort.”

The Class 2A Flyers had two decisive issues against the Chiefs and both involved third down. The offense had trouble converting them and the defense couldn’t get Natchitoches Central off the field. Time and time again, the Chiefs were able to pick up a first down and looked like they might wear out the Flyer defense.

But the Loyola defensive backs would have none of it.

After Natchitoches Central had taken a 7-0 lead on a 19-yard swing pass from Calvary Baptist transfer Owen Smith to Cam Davis on the opening drive, Loyola strong safety Rowan Guthikonda stopped the next Chiefs’ long march with an end zone interception.

On the final play of the half, free safety Reagan Coyle stripped away another potential Chiefs touchdown pass in the end zone. In the second half, cornerback Carter Ward had an interception to stop the Chiefs’ first drive.

Natchitoches Central was able to get back on the board later on a 2-yard run by Smith with 6:56 remaining in the second 15-minute period.

Loyola used two quarterbacks – junior Colby Hamilton and freshman Bryce Restovich – but could not pick up a first down until a roughing the passer penalty with 6:03 left.

On the next play, sophomore Mason Drake picked up a 14-yard game set up the Flyers with their deepest penetration of the night, but a fourth down pass in the end zone fell incomplete.

Natchitoches Central, with former Parkway OC Jeff Harper running the Chiefs’ offense for new head coach Jess Curtis, did not punt until three minutes remained in the game.

“What was frustrating about that was that we were there to make the tackle and just didn’t do it,” Greene said. “That hurts because those are tackles we have to make.”

The Flyers will open the season Thursday night at Independence Stadium against Captain Shreve.

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