The Lakeview High School Gators will cross Black Lake Friday afternoon and keep going east for about 140 miles, traveling as far east as anyone can in north Louisiana, to visit the Tensas Panthers in the 2021 prep football season opener for both teams.
Kickoff is 7 o’clock in St. Joseph, on the west bank of the Mississippi River in delta country. A soggy field could await as Hurricane Ida dumped heavy rain in that region.
Neither squad played in a jamboree last Friday as both were sidelined with quarantine issues. Tensas hasn’t faced another team yet in 2021. The Panthers were shut down for the past two weeks, unable to scrimmage on Aug. 20, either.
“It’s going to be two teams that don’t know a whole lot about each other. It will be interesting,” said Lakeview’s veteran coach, Brandon Helms.
What he and his staff do know is Tensas will be no pushover.
“They’ll be very athletic. They’ll spread you out and throw it around,” said Helms. “We don’t know a whole lot about their personnel because their program was shut down for the last two weeks. They didn’t have a scrimmage or a jamboree. I’m going off last year’s film on them and looking at what they had returning.”
After a very encouraging scrimmage outing at Lakeside two weeks ago, the Gators were idled last week.
Their roster of about three dozen players has about half of those available to play this Friday night.
“We’ve been fighting the quarantines. We started the week looking like we would be in great shape, and we’ve been down to as few as 14 players at one point, and now we’re at 18.
“We’ll be down three starters who are in quarantine, but it is what it is, and that’s the way we’ll roll – next man up,” said Helms.
The situation has not dimmed enthusiasm on the team.
“I like our attitude, the way we’ve worked. We came into the week knowing we’re down a few guys and we’ve had some young men step up. They continue to come to work every day, wanting to get better, and as long as they do that, we’ll keep coaching them,” he said.
Friday’s matchup shapes up as a battle up front, and a battle for possession and tempo.
“Our priority is to be able to run the football and control the clock. When you’re short on depth, you definitely don’t want to work fast,” said Helms. “We want to hang on to the football, limit the turnovers, and stay out of long yardage situations. It comes down to controlling the line of scrimmage.”
The Gators will play on the road again in their second contest, visiting Beekman Charter next Friday night before Rayville visits LHS on Sept. 17. District play opens Sept. 24 against Menard.
The Lakeview schedule sweetens down the stretch run. The Gators play three of the last five games at home.
“That could really work in our favor,” said Helms, with an eye on the postseason.
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