Tigers go to rival Menard, Gators geared up for homecoming

Senior running back Drake Griffin is a tough Tiger to take down, leading the St. Mary’s ground game. (Photo courtesy St. Mary’s)

By DWAIN SPILLMAN JR., Natchitoches Parish Journal

The St. Mary’s Tigers and Lakeview Gators face huge matchups in Week 3 this Friday as the 2023 high school football season rolls along.

St. Mary’s hits the road for a rivalry game at Holy Savior Menard while Lakeview will host Northwood-Lena to conclude a week of homecoming festivities.

Both teams earned victories a week ago, and both teams are anxious to remain on the winning track.

“I have to admit it is a different-type game for us but we have to treat it just like it’s the next challenge,” SMS head coach Aaron York said looking at his team’s trip to Alexandria to battle Menard. “But we have to prepare for it just like it’s the next challenge.”

The difference in this matchup for the Tigers is simple. Players from SMS and Menard know each other personally while some SMS parents graduated from Menard back in the day. The ties run deep, but the mission remains the same.

“Our approach remains the same,” York said. “It is a big game for us. There are a lot of ties between the two schools. To say this is just another week would be foolish. We have to prepare like it is any other week and we have to keep focus on our ultimate goal of going deep into the playoffs this year and hopefully winning a championship.”

The Tigers, moving to No. 1 in the power points in Class A after two straight wins over Class 3A opponents, are not garnering much notoriety in the LSWA poll. The Tigers have not broken into the top 10 in Class A while sitting at 2-0 on the season. SMS blasted Buckeye 44-12 at home a week ago after dispatching powerhouse Abbeville 21-18 at home the week before.

But York and his crew aren’t much worried about polls. The Tigers are working on getting better each week.

“We are locked in and ready to go,” York said. “Our attitude is really more upbeat now but we have had a great attitude since we started this process back in the spring. Our challenge is to keep getting better each week and clean up some things from last Thursday.”

Looking at Menard, York said, “They are very big up front and are coached very well. They will be ready and this will be another big test for us.”

The Eagles are standing at 1-1. After getting drubbed on the road in the first week at St. Frederick’s by a 34-3 count, Menard rebounded to dispatch Class 5A Pineville, playing across the Red River and earning a 19-7 victory.

St. Mary’s holds a win streak over Menard the last two seasons, tallying a combined 66-24 advantage on the scoreboard.

Up at the Swamp outside of Campti, the Gators will bring a close to homecoming events when they play host to Northwood-Lena. Coach Andy Boone’s Gators are coming off a huge 60-36 thrashing of Montgomery on the road a week ago and sit at 1-1.

Boone’s boys piled up an impressive 572 yards rushing last week, recovering multiple onside kicks while two running backs were over the 200-yard rushing mark (Caleb Collins 288, Omarion Pier 233) in the successful campaign against Montgomery. The Gators look to build on that success this week.

“We just held onto the ball last week,” Boone said. “We only had one bad snap that we lost. Because of that major correction from the first game, we were able to run the ball like we want to. We did recover some onside kicks but we had a chance to recover three or four more that we just missed.”

Boone is pleased with the team’s steps forward.

“Wins are great and the kids really needed that moving forward. But, as coaches, we enjoyed the win over the weekend but we have to get over that quick. We now have to get ready for the next game.

“The kids celebrated the win too and they deserve that. But they have to get back down to business and get ready for the next challenge. We have to get better each week. It really doesn’t matter to us who the next opponent is. We just have to prepare and get better at what we do and that should take care of business on the field regardless of who the opponent may be.

“Our goal is to have four good practices each week and we haven’t done that just yet. But this week looks like we may accomplish that and that only means we put ourselves in a position to be successful on Friday night.”

Northwood-Lena sits at 0-2 after losing to Ringgold and Elton by 34-26 and 35-6 scores.