By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports
In spite of appearances, James Bradford Jr. knew what his first Green Oaks team had cooking.
The Giants had just one win to their credit as they stared down a halftime deficit at their homecoming game last Friday night, against an equally hungry North Caddo team.
But games last four quarters. And in this one, things turned on a dime at halftime. The Giants scored 20 of the final 26 points and came back for a stirring 32-18 triumph, validating their coach’s faith in his guys.
The turnaround, and the mental toughness it required, earned Green Oaks the Shreveport-Bossier Journal’s Team of the Week award just ahead of several other worthy candidates.
But with acknowledgement to Benton, Evangel, Loyola, Northwood and Woodlawn, it’s fair to say Green Oaks’ victory came in the face of lots of adversity and potentially, plenty of discouragement.
Bradford read the room at halftime, and decided the Giants needed a jolt.
“At halftime I gave them one of those very, very intense talks in the locker room. Not executing was not going to be allowed,” he said.
His message was well received.
“I was really happy to see them to come out, play together, and take over, not even give up a point in the second half,” said Bradford, who noted that the timing of the win could hardly have been better.
“Soul Bowl (the annual early-season battle with Booker T. Washington) is a huge thing around here, but homecoming is right up there with it. With the Coronation Parade and all the community excitement, the alumni who were in town, it was definitely big to get that one done,” he said.
Especially without starting quarterback Tovoras Lee, sidelined with an injury that has him “day to day.” Stepping in were running back Stedtravious Brister and receiver Delarrious Marshall, and they stepped up in big ways.
“Our two guys who filled in did an excellent job of controlling the clock, getting the guys lined up, and making plays themselves,” said Bradford.
Marshall, a senior, ran for 115 yards on 11 carries, including two touchdowns, and added a passing TD to freshman Tony Johnson. Marshall also lined up the defense while he played free safety.
Brister, a sophomore, had 17 carries for 171 yards and two touchdowns.
Up front, the offensive line gelled, following the lead of senior Kevin Richardson, who “plays every position for us, wherever we need him,” said Bradford, along with manning a defensive tackle spot.
Speaking of defense …
“After halftime, we didn’t give up a point. We forced three fumbles and had an interception. It was great to see that group play together and do what we coach them to do.”
Senior Zachon Miller recovered a fumble. Senior JoMariyion Collins had a big night at safety. Senior Amarion Dorsey moved out of position and played a lot of cornerback against the Titans.
“They definitely came to play,” said Bradford. And despite the appearance of a 2-6 overall record, the Giants have done so all season, he said.
“These guys never give up. We’ve had a lot of adversity even from the summer into the first few weeks. We played two 5As, a 4A and a 3A, and the numbers had some effect. Each game we went in with our best approach.
“We had some injuries (notably losing 6-6, 320-pound junior OL Jamari Coleman and returning all-district sophomore DE Keshawn Williams for the season in the Week 3 Soul Bowl). But for these guys to come out and compete hard, at a high level, I’m super proud of them, and we’re looking forward to continuing this.”
Bradford and his staff have stayed on message from the first day they arrived with a squad that has only seven seniors among about 40 players.
“Always stay consistent, no matter what’s going on at school, or with the team. We’re sowing seeds. You don’t always get a chance to see the fruit, but I am definitely seeing my guys growing up,” he said.
“We preach about adversity, but this younger generation at times, it’s harder to get them to understand it. This group is loving playing together. You want that team mentality. We talk about character, courage and commitment all the time, and I think those things are going to stick with them so that we’re building a solid foundation.”
It’s not “wait ‘til next year” for Green Oaks, however. If the Giants sweep their final two games, Friday at 7-1 D’Arbonne Woods and the Week 10 home game against Lakeside, they’ll certainly make the playoffs, and they have a reasonable chance even if they split because of their strength of schedule.
Making the playoffs might sound great, but it’s not Bradford’s goal for the young Giants.
“We don’t want to just get in. We want to get in and upset somebody.”
Contact Doug at firstname.lastname@example.org