By JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports
The Northwood Falcons have come down a different street, but they have arrived at the same address when it comes to Friday’s game with North DeSoto.
Playing the Griffins for a district championship isn’t anything new, but this time, the Falcons will be a decided underdog.
And it’s OK to say that. Northwood coach Austin Brown actually likes being in the underdog role.
Whether or not the Falcons have been the underdog in the last few years in this matchup may have been up for debate, but the Falcons certainly had their share of credentials in the days leading up to this game. In the last six years — excluding the COVID-19 year of 2020 which had a shortened season — Northwood has had teams with a record of at least 8-2 in the regular season.
This year is shaping up differently. North DeSoto comes in to the game ranked No. 4 in the state and sitting on top of the District 1-5A standings with a 6-0 record.
Northwood is 5-4 overall but the Falcons are 5-1 in in the district, which gives them a shot to win the district if they are able to take down visiting North DeSoto Thursday night at 7 o’clock at Jerry Burton Stadium.
But then there is also this. In the last six years, Northwood has beaten North DeSoto seven times on the field (one was later ruled as a forfeit), which includes a 2021 playoff matchup.
“The last couple have been awesome games, down to the wire,” Brown said. “I think we’re very similar teams, we just go about it in different ways. Those two styles tend to clash, and the last couple years we’ve had epic games.”
Last year was one of those as North DeSoto led 13-0 before Northwood came roaring back. The difference ended up being a missed extra point in the fourth quarter and a defensive stand inside the 20 by the Falcons to end the game.
The Falcons started the season 0-3 before catching fire. That’s quite similar to North DeSoto in 2021, when the Griffins started 0-4 before winning five straight and reaching the playoffs before losing to, you guessed it, Northwood in the second round.
That’s not the only similarity between the two schools.
“We feel like we’re similar communities,” Brown said. “We take the underdog mentality as far as Blanchard (Northwood) vs. Stonewall (North DeSoto), but from a football standpoint, it’s gone our way. It just adds an extra element. Two small towns, suburbs of Shreveport. It’s what high school football is supposed to be.”
Plus, the football field isn’t the only place where some of the players on both teams have met before.
“A lot of the best players on our teams are also baseball players,” Brown said. “We’ve got their number in football so far, and they’ve got our number in baseball.”
North DeSoto beat Northwood in the baseball quarterfinals in 2022 in an epic, extra-inning first game of the best-of-three series. Last spring, Northwood won 17 of 19 games to end the regular season. The only two losses? Both to North DeSoto.
Northwood is currently No. 14 in the Division 1-Select power rankings. The top 16 get a first-round home game, so that gives the Falcons even more incentive.
The Falcons are coming off a 48-18 win over Woodlawn in which senior quarterback Hutson Hearron passed for 232 yards and three touchdowns, completing 12 of 16. Northwood also had a 60-yard punt return from Elijah Crawford and a 25-yard blocked kick return by Christian Blackmon.
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NORTH DESOTO (8-1, 6-0) at NORTHWOOD (5-4, 5-1)
Where: Jerry Burton Stadium
Series: Northwood 9-6
Last year: Northwood 20-19
Last week: Northwood beat Woodlawn 48-18; North DeSoto beat Bossier 55-8
Rankings: Northwood #6 in SBJ Top 10 poll; North DeSoto #4 in LSWA Class 4A Top 10 poll
LHSAA power rankings: Northwood #14 Select Div. I; North DeSoto #1 Non-Select Div. II
Notables: Northwood moved up to No. 14 in the power rankings and with a win would move up more by playing the No. 1 team in Non-Select Division II … Falcon QB Hutson Hearron completed 12 of 16 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Woodlawn … Tucker McCabe had two touchdowns on three receptions and 102 yards receiving … Jalil Wainwright had three catches for 77 yards and a touchdown … North DeSoto is among the state leaders averaging 50.8 points per game … Sophomore QB Luke Delafield has passed for 2,243 yards connecting on 125 passes of 196 attempts and 24 TDs; Kenny Thomas has rushed for 927 yards and 13 touchdowns; Trysten Hopper has 803 yards on 145 carries and 14 touchdowns. Cole Cory has 1,062 receiving yards on 53 catches and 10 touchdowns.