Time to ‘bring the pain’ as Tigers have big home game, Gators travel

By DWAIN SPILLMAN JR., Journal Sports

Line up and hit them head on.

That will be the commanded quest from Gators head coach Andy Boone as Lakeview makes its way to the north central part of the state for the 2023 season-opener at D’Arbonne Woods this Friday night.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. in Farmerville.

“We got to bring the pain,” Boone said this week as his crew prepares to collide with the homestanding Timberwolves. “That has to be our goal each and every week. We teach and preach to our kids that we have to be physical. Be the meaner, tougher guy on every play.”

Boone, in his first year as boss in the Swamp, added that he saw progress from his team in last week’s jamboree against St. Mary’s but one issue stands out that must be corrected above all others.

“We have to hold onto the ball,” Boone said. “I don’t think there are many games we can win if we give up five fumbles like we did in the jamboree. We have to take care of the ball. If we can do that, and that’s a big ‘if’ right now, then I believe we can score a lot of points and win games.”

The Gators did find success in moving the pigskin on offense against SMS a week ago but costly turnovers gave the ball back to the Tigers. SMS took advantage of those turnovers in a 42-20 win in the last practice session of fall camp. Boone reported that he continues hope for younger players to make contributions on defense while his offense simply needs to secure the ball and eat up time on the clock.

The Timberwolves, competing in District 1 of Class 2A, are looking to continue their success against Lakeview from a year ago. D’Arbonne Woods won a physical battle in Campti last season by a 17-6 count. That first game win came enroute to a 6-5 record on the 2022 campaign and a first-round appearance in the postseason.

“D’Arbonne Woods looks like they are way ahead of us right now,” Boone concluded. “They appear to be in mid-season form. We will match up well with them. But, because everything counts starting this week, we have a long way to go and a short time to get there.”

St. Mary’s toughest regular-season game is probably the first one

In Tigerland, St. Mary’s head coach Aaron York and his crew will entertain Abbeville for a third consecutive season. Kickoff in Turpin Stadium will also be 7 p.m. Friday.

A year ago, the Tigers had a potential huge win just slip from their claws before letting it slip away late, falling to the Class 3A perennial powerhouse Wildcats 21-7 on the road. However, the Tigers rebounded from that loss to finish 9-2 on the year and with a strong appearance in the quarterfinal round of the postseason. In 2021, SMS fell 43-23 to an Abbeville team that soared as high as No. 3 in Class 3A.

“We will see just how good we are at this point,” York said as he analyzed his team’s progress heading into the official start of the new campaign. “The are a very good ball club and they play very physical. We haven’t beaten them since they have been on our schedule and that is a huge motivator for us to get a win. It can be huge for us. There is a first time for everything.”

Last Friday, the Tigers were guided to 42 points in just two 15-minute halves by senior quarterback Mixon Bankston. Bankston, who also doubles on defense in the secondary, is complemented by a host of skilled veterans and the Tigers will be exciting to watch in a wide-open offense. York said he saw great progress offensively but continues to look for depth to help the starters on defense.

“Our offensive line grew a lot last week and our kids put in the game plan and did a good job,” York said. “We were able to spread the ball around fairly well and our offense played well overall. Defensively, we are still looking to build depth and for kids to step up and contribute for the remainder of the season. The more we can build, the more guys can give us minutes, then the better we will be this season.”

Photo by KEVIN SHANNAHAN, Natchitoches Parish Journal