Amid some stout outings, Lions roared a little louder

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

Week 2 was an early “statement week” in local high school football.

Class 2A’s No. 1 team, Calvary, blew out well-regarded Class 5A Captain Shreve 61-27. Class 4A Huntington outscored Class 5A Byrd 44-43.

Haughton went to LaGrange and hammered away in a not-that-close 43-22 romp, but using the passing game, with Christian Turner throwing a school-record-tying five TD passes.

Woodlawn dominated Class 5A Southwood 32-6, not allowing a first down until late in the game.

No shortage of good choices for the Shreveport-Bossier Journal Team of the Week honor.

The nod, in a photo finish, goes to Booker T. Washington, who went to Alexandria and slammed Bolton 52-6 – playing a quarterback who wasn’t expected to start until two days before kickoff.

First-year coach Gary Cooper explained. A misstep at school got the Lions’ starting quarterback briefly suspended, as of midday last Wednesday. 

“Brian French was our backup quarterback, and the opportunity presented itself to start,” said Cooper. “Brian’s a very good passer. He understands the running game without really practicing much, and he knows the passing game. Once he was told he had to be the guy, there were a lot of things he had to get caught up on. We kept the game plan basic and he performed very well.”

All he did was account for five touchdowns as the Lions roared. They did it together, unshaken at the late-in-game week QB change.

“The kids responded very well to Brian. We went through a couple of spring practices with Brian as the quarterback and that went well,” said Cooper. “So there weren’t doubts about the move.”

That success has altered the BTW depth chart.

“It’s actually a good problem to have – two talented kids who can do a multitude of things,” said Cooper. “We’re going to go forward with Brian as quarterback, and give Damion (O’Neal) the opportunity play a couple of positions he’s very good at – he’s a very talented defensive back, and also a return man.”

It was hardly a one-man show in Alexandria.

Senior linebacker Andrew Houston got the party started with a scoop-and-score fumble return on the game’s first play, and didn’t stop there. “He orchestrates our defense on the field,” said Cooper, “and had a great game.”

Defensive linemen Cardell Marston and Montrevion Chatman are anchors for the Lions, day in and day out. They controlled things up front at Bolton.

The romp evened the Lions at 1-1 after an opening 42-0 walloping by a strong Wossman team in Week 1 – what the doctor ordered, said Cooper, who is pleased with how they responded.

“They’re working hard. We went through a little phase of having success scrimmaging, and in the jamboree, and the kids felt, ‘we’re here.’  The Wossman game helped out in a number of ways. The score was really bad – shouldn’t have been that bad, but we had turnovers that played a big part – and the kids responded with a very good week of practice. We knew Bolton wasn’t the best opponent but the way the kids responded made me proud.”

In the big picture, he said BTW’s offensive line needs to develop.

“They’re doing things differently than before. The system is new to them, and as those kids continue progressing, it will make us so much better.”

The progress in Cooper’s first year extends far past when the young men are wearing helmets and shoulder pads.

“We want to bring pride back to 2104 Milam,” he said. “This is a place that’s very rich in tradition, and we just want to get it back to where it was, when everybody said, ‘I’m proud to be an alumni of Booker T. Washington High School.’

“It starts with being serviceable to the community. A lot of field day activities, going to church, anything we can do to shine a positive light on this school while doing things for the community, is what we want to do.”

One great opportunity on the field to spike pride in BTW comes Saturday at 5 p.m., when the Lions square off against their arch-rivals, the Green Oaks Giants, in the annual “Soul Bowl.”

Staying on task, Cooper said, is the pathway to success this week and going forward. Signs are encouraging.

“We have a group chat and last night the kids were in there saying the right things: understanding it’s just another football game we get to play. Next opponent up. We acknowledge the history behind it, understand the pageantry, but we have to play a football game,” he said. “For now, the mentality is right.”

Contact Doug at