Like most of the administration, teachers and students at Parkway High School, Meredith McGovern will be outfitted head to toe today in all black as a show of support for the undefeated and No. 2-ranked Parkway football team.
It’s Black Out Day in south Bossier in preparation for perhaps the biggest high school football game in this area in well over a decade. No. 4-ranked Byrd, along with its “city” of fans will roll into Preston Crownover Stadium for a 7 p.m. meeting of two top five-rated Class 5A teams, Louisiana’s largest school classification.
McGovern, an avid sports fan and big-time Panthers supporter, won’t be at today’s game with the 7-0 Yellow Jackets, however, because she hasn’t attended a game all season. That’s despite teaching about 20 Panthers involved with the football team, cheerleaders, band or Black Cat Revue.
“I’m very superstitious, and I don’t want to be the reason they lose by attending when I haven’t been to a game this year,” said McGovern, who swears LSU lost to Ole Miss on Saturday because she wasn’t wearing the correct outfit. “I’m scared to go, but we’ll be keeping up with it on social media sites. It’s out there.”
The game is expected to attract a standing-room-only crowd to a stadium that seats about 5,000. Parkway principal Nichol Bourgeois, who is in her ninth year at the school (four as principal), said attempts were unsuccessful at renting additional portable stands for the contest. But the game will be a big money-maker for the school, at the dead end of the Arthur Ray Teague Parkway.
“When we played Haughton in 2011, both teams were unbeaten, and tickets were $6 each. We made about $35,000 from that game,” Bourgeois said. “Some years, we don’t bring in $35,000 for our entire season. This year, tickets are $7 in advance, $8 at the door.”
When Byrd and Parkway met in 2011, The Times called it “an electric crowd of 5,353 at Preston Crownover Stadium.” This will be the only meeting of the season between the two District 1-5A rivals since Byrd will compete in the LHSAA’s select playoffs, and Parkway is considered nonselect. Both could finish with state titles.
Across the river, Byrd assistant basketball coach Jessica Elie will don her pink Air Jordans for Pink Out Day at the Line Avenue school, and she will attend the game. But Elie won’t leave her house until 7 p.m. because she left her house at that time for Byrd’s first game of the season.
“And we’ve kept winning,” Elie said, chuckling. “I have trouble getting there on time anyway. Everyone at our school is very motivated and very excited.”
Byrd principal Jerry Badgley said he and Bourgeois have decided to put their spirit groups in chairs on the track, rather than in the stands where they will take up seats for ticket buyers. At the request of game officials, however, the bands will be in the stands to keep their noise from disrupting the play on the field.
“For most of these kids, playing high school football will be as far as their football career carries them — only a few get to move on to the next level,” Badgley said. “I wish we could get a crowd like this for every game. The kids deserve it. I’d rather play in a sold-out stadium all the time.”
The game will feature some of the top athletes in the state, including Parkway quarterback Brandon Harris, an LSU commit, and wide receiver Brodrick Jefferson, a Louisiana Tech commit. The 6-foot-2 lanky Harris sparks memories of former Byrd quarterback Arnaz Battle, who starred at Notre Dame and played several seasons in the NFL.
“Avnaz was a great kid, very smart, who worked hard every day — he had the whole package,” said Byrd coach Mike Suggs, who has watched film of Harris. “Avnaz and Brandon are a little different, but they do have some similarities. Avnaz was more (of a) physical runner of the football, but Brandon is a little better thrower of the football.”
Security at the game is not expected to be a problem, Bourgeois and Badgley said. Parkway will have about 16 officers on hand, while Byrd is bringing one more than it usually takes.
“We have secured some additional parking at the middle school and at Shady Grove Baptist Church nearby,” Bourgeois said.
Badgley said tickets were selling briskly at his school early this week, and he overheard some of The Hive (Byrd’s student cheering section) talking.
“They said they were headed to the stadium as soon as the bell rang on Friday,” he said.
The Byrd-Parkway game not only pits district rivals and ranked teams against each other, it lines up Bossier City’s best against Shreveport’s best. Just how big is the game?
“All the girls were talking about it at Junior League today — that’s how big it is. It’s citywide,” McGovern said.
However today’s game turns out on the field, at least one thing is certain — either McGovern will be able to start attending Parkway games or Elie will be able to leave her house on time for the next Byrd contest.