Earlier this week, Parkway coach David Feaster said he hoped his Panthers could compete with teams like Byrd.
Thursday night at Lee Hedges Stadium, Parkway proved that and a lot more.
The Panthers capitalized on five Byrd turnovers for a blowout 44-14 statement win to stay undefeated this year and in District 1-5A.
Parkway (7-0, 2-0) scored the game’s first two touchdowns – a 2-yard run from Marcus Harper and a 1-yard quarterback sneak by Brandon Harris on fourth-and-goal – for an early 14-0 lead.
But the Panthers did that last year, when Parkway had a 14-0 lead after the first quarter before losing 52-21. This season, Parkway was up to the challenge.
“I’m as surprised as you are,” Feaster said. “I’m very happy that we are at the point where we can compete with a team like this, two and a half times our enrollment. We were very happy that we can bring back two starters on offense and three on defense and reload fast enough to play at this level. But to think that we would beat them by 30 points? No, I didn’t expect that.
“And to be honest with you, if we match up with them in the playoffs, I’m going to be very nervous. I still have a lot of respect for them.”
While Byrd was able to tie the game at 14 in the second quarter, after quarterback J. D. Lorence broke free for a 61-yard touchdown run, Parkway responded with a quick-strike touchdown drive to regain control.
Panthers moved down the field in 1:06, a drive that went 81 yards and ended with a 13-yard touchdown run from Harris.
Parkway pulled away in the second half, with help from the Yellow Jackets (4-2, 1-1), who turned the ball over on all four of their third-quarter possessions – two fumbles and two interceptions.
“We say it going in to every ballgame that we can’t turn it over,” Byrd coach Mike Suggs said. “We got out there and turned it over. Parkway played well. They lined up and beat us.”
Harris connected with receiver Broderick Jefferson for two second-half touchdowns, and Demetrius McAtee ran for a 17-yard score.
And the Panthers defense didn’t budge against a strong Byrd rushing attack. Parkway defensive tackle Antonio McGhee stuffed Byrd’s attempts to run up the middle, and the Yellow Jackets struggled to move the ball.
“Great effort by our defense,” Feaster said. “We were able to substitute enough guys to keep them fresh, but mostly the starters sucked it up and went. We couldn’t get them off the field for anything. The crowds were so loud, and they just wanted to play.”
By the fourth quarter, with the Panthers up big, Feaster was already looking ahead to next week’s game against Airline.
“I spent the whole fourth quarter thinking about Airline,” Feaster said. “Someday we will look back at this and think of it as an incredible night for us and south Bossier and our community. But right now, I have to think of some way to beat Airline.”
Feaster will be in the stands for tonight’s game between the Vikings and Haughton, scouting Airline to prepare for his team to play the Vikings next week.
“Just about everybody I know is going to be at that game,” Feaster said. “They are going to make a lot of money off Parkway people … Airline is still the favorite.”
Xavier Long scored Byrd’s first touchdown, and Lorence finished with 145 yards rushing to lead the Yellow Jackets. Harris threw for 200 yards and his two scores to Jefferson, who finished with 137 receiving yards.
Byrd will play Southwood next week.
“Obviously we weren’t very focused coming into this one,” Suggs said. “But we are going to get the players’ attention. We are going to work hard and get better. We have a good group of young men, we just took a step back tonight. We got it handed to us.”
Connect with Brent Shirley on Twitter at @bshirley08.