Tigers travel to get tested again, this time by rugged Oakdale

While the football teams from Natchitoches Central and Lakeview begin district play tonight, St. Mary’s continues its stout preseason slate with a trip to play at Oakdale.

SMHS (2-1) blasted Buckeye at home two weeks ago, then dominated after halftime last week in Alexandria to top rival Menard 31-17. The Tigers’ two-game win streak followed a 42-22 home loss to 3A Abbeville, which is off to a 3-0 start.

Oakdale is also 2-1, but the Warriors were thrashed 35-8 in their opener by St. Edmund’s before claiming a forfeit in week two. Last week they rolled 33-8 at Oberlin.

The teams have won on their homefields in the past two seasons of the matchup.

Tonight’s 7 p.m. contest presents challenges as it returns the Tigers to the scene of a frustrating loss in

2019 – one that has been revisited this week by SMHS.

“Oakdale is a physical team. They are weightroom bred, and they are going to hit you from the opening whistle,” said Tigers coach Aaron York. “They’ve got a fullback who can go, a guy who can give us fits if we don’t do what we’re supposed to, and a quarterback who can run it.

“They play typical south Louisiana football – they run the triple option, pound it at you, and up front defensively, they have two big tackles who are going to try to take the line of scrimmage and move it backwards.”

Ordinarily the Tigers wouldn’t study tape from two seasons ago, but that game was no ordinary tussle.

“Our running back got his helmet knocked off, got laid out on the field, and some of their kids taunted him, and it put a little fuel to the fire. That’s been looked at this week,” said York.

Part of the reason: the Tigers’ coaches realize what an emotional win their team notched at Menard in a rivalry game, and what is possible this week.

Said York: “My challenge to them has been, ‘don’t have a letdown. You match that intensity or push to get better.’

“I like the way we played at Menard. Our defense was lights out, especially in the second half. Our offense moved the ball, didn’t turn it over, we trusted our underneath routes and ran the ball well. If we can build on that and match our intensity and add some more from last week, I’ll be very pleased.”

The Tigers have a couple of under-the-radar stalwarts whose contributions may not show up on the stat sheet or the headlines.

“Our right offensive tackle, Mason Mathis, is doing a really good job and doesn’t get enough credit. He’s a tough customer,” said York. “Our safety, Mixon Bankston, is our quarterback on the defense. Without him, we wouldn’t be lined up right. He’s my guy on defense. He’s an unsung leader, the real deal for our team.”

District play doesn’t start for two more weeks. After going to Oberlin, St. Mary’s hosts DeQuincy next Friday night.

“These next two games, these are good measuring sticks for us. This is going to be good football we’re going to see,” said York. My message to our team is, ‘trust that this is going to make you better in 6-7 weeks, going into the playoffs.’ So far we’ve been up to the challenge.”

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