Local teams trying to heal for the playoffs

When Loyola running back Eldrick English is healthy, a 200-yard game is easily within reach.

English’s shoulder separation seems as much a hindrance to that success as the opposing defense. The No. 13 Flyers (4-6) will need every yard they can muster in Friday’s first-round Division II playoff game against a No. 4 Evangel (8-1, 5-0) defense that has shut out its last three opponents.

“Eldrick is still nicked at times, and he’s probably not going to be completely well,” Loyola coach Alan Carter said Sunday. “We’re glad we don’t have to travel to South Louisiana, but we’re playing a team (in Evangel) that might have the most talent in the state.”

The Eagles are allowing just 11 points per game but only six points in their last four games against North Webster, Bossier, BTW and Mansfield.

“(English) is really shifty and is a great back,” said Evangel defensive tackle Jerry Tillery, a Notre Dame commit. “We’ve got to tackle well because he can break tackles.

“(Shutouts) are what we work for because coach (Byron Dawson) says all the time that if they can’t score, they can’t win. We work as hard as we can to keep the shutouts so we can win and to give God the glory.”

Other local teams hope to heal as its first-round playoff games loom this week.

Haughton coach Rodney Guin, whose Bucs (6-4) dealt with severe injuries across the board most of the season, said his crew is “fairly healthy.”

Offensive skill players like quarterback Will Haines, running back Jarred Craft and a receiving corps that includes P.J. Douglas and Javonte Woodard are mostly over bumps and bruises.

The No. 17 Bucs head to No. 16 Ponchatoula (7-3) in the first round.

“We lost defensive lineman Mason Moreau in the Byrd game, but it’s been all offensive injuries until that game,” Guin said. “We’ve had 10 of 11 (offensive starters) miss at least one game, and it made us too one-dimensional.

“We’re getting better every day, and we’re close to being back.”

Haines hasn’t run much since his Week 4 concussion against Ruston, but Guin said his quarterback is able to run now. That means better chances at finishing drives in the red zone, where Haughton has struggled at times without a healthy Haines.

Fair Park might not have a lot of players missing games this season, but with just a roster of 28, minor injuries can affect a game with a lot of two-way players.

Coach Mike Greene said the Indians are healing after Thursday’s 24-16 loss at North DeSoto, their fourth consecutive defeat after a 6-0 start.

Fair Park (6-4), the No. 26 seed in 4A, will make a trip to No. 7 Franklinton (8-2) on Friday.

“We hit a little spell after the Northwood loss (in Week 7) where it was tough to get going,” Greene said. “But with these three days off … it’s like a new season and these kids have a little kick in their step now.

“We’ve still got bumps and bruises, and we quit hitting a couple weeks ago to avoid the pounding.”

Byrd is one of four local teams with first-round byes, which gives guys like fullback Louis Mills a chance to get fully healthy.

“Mills played a little bit in (Week 10), but he’s a little sore with the swelling in his thigh,” said Byrd coach Mike Suggs. “We’ve had folks out since Week 3, but we’re right on the verge of getting all of ’em back.”

Mansfield is in a different part of healing process — learning how to play without quarterback Dominique Hill.

Hill, who broke his clavicle in Week 8 and is expected to be out the rest of the season, was a dynamic passer, runner, defensive back and returner.

But coach Glen Hall says DeCarlos Jones, who started playing quarterback after another player struggled in the position, is getting comfortable as the No. 22 Wolverines (5-5) head to No. 11 Kaplan (7-3) in Class 3A action.

“We had to adjust because (Hill) was our home run hitter — he could score at any point,” Hall said. “We’re a ground-and-pound team now with play-action passes, and we had to pick it up on defense.

“Jones has good ball skills and a toughness to control the game. .”

Running back Levonta Hall has more than 1,000 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns, shouldering more of the load since Hill’s injury.

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