By Dwain Spillman Jr., Journal Sports
NATCHITOCHES – When St. Mary’s opens its home schedule against historic rival Holy Savior Menard on Friday, the Tigers know that Menard will be laser-focused on ruining that homecoming of sorts.
That’s because St. Mary’s soundly defeated the Eagles on their actual Homecoming this past season in 31-17 fashion – the first meeting between the programs in more than a decade.
Tigers coach Aaron York will preparing his squad to match a Menard group that is soaring after its thrashing of a Class 5A opponent– albeit a struggling a Pineville program – in a 32-13 victory this past week.
“This week will be another tough one,” York said. “It’s a rivalry game. They are going to be coached up. They will play hard, and we just have to be ready.
“They will be riding high because they just beat Pineville. This bunch we are playing are pretty good. We beat them at their homecoming last year, so I know they will be wanting revenge.”
Kickoff for Friday’s grudge match is set for 7 p.m. at NSU’s Turpin Stadium.
But the Tigers have their own reasons to be confident after dominating Class 3A Buckeye in the second half of a 26-7 rout on the road.
“We needed that win, especially after the week before,” said York, referencing a 21-7 loss at Class 3A power Abbeville after leading at the half. “We played well at Abbeville and just let it get away from us.
“Last week was a good win for us. That team (Buckeye) will win some games this year. They are a really good team.”
Facing Buckeye, the Tigers second clash with a 3A foe in as many weeks, the Tiger leader said the hard work all came together.
“In the first half, I don’t think we played our best,” York said. “We would move the ball, and then things happened that would stall our momentum. But thank goodness we have a really good kicker (in Payne Williams). He helped get us over some of the mistakes we were making.”
Williams booted field goals of 49 and 53 yards to propel the Tigers to a slim 6-0 lead at the break. He went 2-for-4 on field goals, which included a 54-yarder that doinked off the crossbar.
“In the second half, it was just different,” York said. “Our offense started putting everything together, and our defense just continued to play well.”
That defensive effort, which held Buckeye scoreless for more than three quarters, was led by Ben Bienvenu’s 12 total tackles.
York also took time to praise his Tigers progress this season.
“We are going to be a pretty good team — we just have to put it all together, one half and then another for a full game effort,” York said. “I am very proud of our team and our progress.”
Kickoff for this week’s grudge match is set for 7 p.m. Friday at NSU’s Turpin Stadium.
Lakeview hits road for first time this season at Northwood-Lena
Following a big 33-6 win over Montgomery in Week 2, Lakeview (1-1) faces a formidable foe at Northwood-Lena this Friday.
NHS (1-1) will play at home for the first time this season after dropping a tough 49-6 decision to Elton this past week.
“They will play very physical and come right at us,” Gators boss Brandon Helms said of his opponent this week. “We have to be prepared for a lot of different things. A two tight end, two wing running formation on one play and then four wideouts on the next play. We just have to be able to adjust. And, communication is going to be the key for us this week.”
Reflecting on a big win a week ago, Helms said it was a performance his team needed after a Week 1 loss to D’Arbonne Woods Charter.
“It was really good for everyone when you see success on the field,” Helms said. “The plan, everything you have worked on, came together. Every kid in uniform got quality time on the field, and we were able to coach every kid in game situations last Friday night. That was big for us. The kids bought into the plan defensively, and when you hold a team to 70 total yards offense, then our plan worked and the kids saw that for themselves.”
Helms, a 29-year veteran of the high school coaching ranks, said now his Gators must be able to handle that success heading into Week 3.
“Having success is one thing,” said Helms of a Lakeview team that has already matched its win total from this past season. “We enjoyed the win no doubt. But how we handle success is the goal for us this week. We could get humbled very quick if we don’t stay focused and accomplish our game plan this week.”
PHOTO: Elizabeth Yopp/St. Mary’s School