Bearkats bounced back for stirring opening victory

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

Down but not out.

That’s Bossier Bearkats football – last Friday night, and moving forward under new coach Gary Smith with his three decades of experience.

An 11-game losing skid ended with the Bearkats’ comeback 46-38 homefield triumph over North Caddo Friday night. Not only for the outcome, and its notable impact, but for the incredible rally, Bossier is the Shreveport-Bossier Journal’s Team of the Week.

The game had a worst-case start for the ‘Kats. North Caddo scored on a big play on the Titans’ first series, then added to the lead with an interception return TD, and followed with a long scoring drive. Last season opened badly for Bossier — North Caddo roared to a 49-0 halftime lead in a game halted then by bad weather.

“These kids could have said, here we go again, but they didn’t,” said Smith.

“I’m thinking, this could get out of hand, quick,” he admitted. “We had talked about in a 48-minute game, a lot of bad things can happen. You’ve just got to not let it get to you, overcome it, deal with adversity and they did a great job doing that.

“The thing I was most proud of was rebounding like they did. They fought back and got back into the game, and at halftime, we were still down, but it didn’t really bother them. They just kept chugging away.”

The tone changed when two-way standout senior Keyshun Johnson, part of the Bearkats’ state champion basketball team, made a steal and slam. Johnson intercepted a pass near one sideline, snaked through Titans and looped far right, then evaded possible tackles and raced into the end zone on a long interception return.

“It was a huge momentum changer. We got another score, and were still down at halftime, but I thought we had the momentum coming out to the third quarter,” said Smith. “It was just realizing that, with nothing special being said, ‘we’re back in it. Let’s get the ball and go down and score,’ and starting the third quarter, we did.”

Although Bossier opened a two-score lead coming down the stretch, the outcome wasn’t secure until the final horn.

“We never had it in hand. We knocked down a pass from the 5 going in with 4 seconds left, that could have let them tie it up (on a two-point conversion). We were up 14 with 3-4 minutes left, and of course I never feel good until that clock runs out,” said Smith. “Sure enough, they scored and got an onside kick. Hats off to them, they also could have laid down, and they fought back and had a chance to win.”

The moments after the game went final – the hours after, and the weekend – have been refreshing.

“It was a huge relief, like a monkey off our back. It was great for these kids, for the school,” he said. “We had a student section in the stands, real excited, and it was a great atmosphere.”

Despite taking over a program coming off a winless season, Smith didn’t find negativity this spring.

“It was never a bad situation. They were very receptive to the changes the staff made. It was a real positive transition. We had a good summer,” he said.

Anchors for the Bearkats, not just on Friday night, include Johnson, junior quarterback Quan Scott, and another senior two-way player, Lebrandon Davis.

Scott is “a strong leader who does a good job at QB,” Smith said. Johnson didn’t sit down Friday night and “never got a cramp. I was impressed with the way he played, and the shape that he’s in.” Davis “has done a good job in a leadership role, and ran the ball very well” against the Titans.

Bossier’s offensive coordinator is former Mississippi State defensive back C.J. Morgan, who starred both ways at Parkway. “He asked about running (former Parkway, Minden, and Glenbrook coach David) Feaster’s and (current Airline coach Justin) Scogin’s offense, and I was on board with that,” said Smith. “He’s designed his offense with that same mentality.”

Defensive coordinator Marcus Hudson “was a 3-3 guy and we’ve gone to a 3-4, and he has the kids responding,” said Smith, whose roots are on defense during a career that started at Bossier as an assistant 30 years ago. He was the DC at Airline (where he coached Hudson) under current Loyola coach Mike Greene, then head coach at North DeSoto and several years as DC at McKinney (Texas) before the last seven seasons with Jason Brotherton’s Haughton program.

“Haughton’s a great spot. It was really tough to leave, but the last of my boys graduated from there last year, and this job opened at the right time,” said Smith. ”I figure I’ve got 6-7 years left and thought It was something I needed to do.”

He and his staff see good days ahead in a gradual build.

“We have a good group of young kids. We started four sophomores and a freshman on defense Friday night,” he said. “We’re building something that can be very successful in the future.”

For the moment, Bossier is focused on preparing for Friday’s contest at Class A power Glenbrook. It helps to have such a sensational debut.

“It was a great way for us to start. Hopefully it leads to more success,” said Smith. “I see light at the end of the tunnel.”

Contact Doug at