David Feaster is accustomed to the rebuilding process.
After a successful tenure at Many in which he went 71-27, Feaster reshaped a winless Minden team in 2003 into Class 4A semifinalists in 2006.
His two-year stint in Sabine, Texas, was not successful, but he won 15 games in two seasons at Leesville that kept the Wampus Cats on their upward trend.
But Feaster didn’t have to go into rebuilding mode when he came to Parkway in 2011, and three seasons later, the No. 2 seed Panthers (13-0) will be playing for the Class 5A state championship Saturday against No. 1 seed Acadiana (13-1).
“A lot of the work was done before me, a lot of the ground work was set,” Feaster said. “It’s just a matter of me having to get the direction we wanted to go in already.
“The staff was pretty much already in place and working hard, and the players were working hard in the offseason when I got here.”
Jim Gatlin, now at Northwood, laid most of the groundwork. Gatlin took a program that had consecutive winless seasons in 2001-02 and turned it into a perennial playoff squad. Chris Hill won 10 games in 2010 before Feaster took over in 2011
Senior linebacker Austin Averitt was one of those players who has been part of Parkway’s ascension, crediting past coaches and the current staff for the Panthers’ first championship game appearance after the program won its first-ever semifinals appearance in a 28-27 squeaker at Covington.
“(Feaster) runs a great program as you can see,” Averitt said. “A lot of it deals with brotherhood, and we learned that from (defensive coordinator Neil May).
“The defense was a brotherhood, and then we knew the offense had our backs after we gave up 56 to Bastrop. They said, ‘It’s OK, we got y’all,’ – and it made us a bigger family.”
Offense has been Feaster’s calling card, and he’s used a deep group of skill players in a variety of ways as the Panthers average 49 points per game.
Dual-threat quarterback Brandon Harris is the focal point, throwing for 3,163 yards and 34 touchdowns while rushing for another 1,104 and 17 touchdowns.
“We lost to Barbe in the quarters last year, and my brother sent me a text message he saved after that game last year that I sent,” Harris said. “It said, ‘I’ll be back next year, and I’ll be better than ever.’
“That’s not only me, that’s everybody. The receivers are better, the line is better, everybody is better. We’re one step away from our goal.”
Parkway offers a balanced look with receivers like Brodrick Jefferson (Louisiana Tech) and Cory Hamilton along with running backs Demetrius McAtee, William McKnight and Stacy McCray – all of whom can catch out of the backfield.
Haughton coach Rodney Guin has assembled explosive offenses in his tenure.
“I told our kids that (Parkway) may be the best offensive team we’ve ever played,” Guin said after a 34-3 loss on Nov. 1. “We’ve played (John Curtis) and all of them. As far as what they can do with their kids, they are as good as anybody we’ve ever played. They are going to be difficult for anybody to stop.”
Acadiana’s defense might be up to the challenge. The Rams allow just 15 points per game and just 38 total points in four playoff games against Destrehan, Barbe, Ponchatoula and Slidell.
And an offense can’t score if they don’t have the ball. The Rams veer attack will try to consume the clock.
“They are really similar to Byrd (Parkway won 52-29) on offense, defense and special teams, including covering kicks extra well,” Feaster said. “They’d rather not throw the ball, but they can.
“Defensively, they are big and fast up front and have great guys in the secondary. The only difference is that Acadiana has more Division I prospects than Byrd.”
But perhaps more than Parkway’s offensive talent, it’s how Feaster deploys players in a way that creates mismatches.
Louisiana Tech defensive back Le’Vander Liggins played for Feaster at Leesville as a tailback/receiver.
“You never really knew what you were gonna get,” Liggins said. “He had new schemes, new ideas and an open mind.
“He pretty much wanted everybody to have fun, and you knew with so many different schemes, the defense wasn’t gonna be ready for all of them. As a coach, he always talking and clowning, but he had such confidence in his guys. If he had someone to go get it (like a fourth down), he wouldn’t hesitate, and Parkway has a few of those guys.”
Liggins’ favorite play? Buck sweep. “He would call it for me two or three times a game.”
Jefferson runs a similar receiver sweep, just one way Parkway establishes a non-traditional running game.
Feaster said a successful running game has been key in the playoffs.
But more than all the yards and points, Feaster said watching of a fan base experiencing a semifinals and a championship game for the first time is most rewarding.
“When we won the final regular season game (for a perfect season), a couple of different old coaches came up to me and said they’d been waiting for this for a long time,” Feaster said. “The people of south Bossier really deserve this because they’ve been supporting the team even when the team wasn’t winning and when there weren’t blue-chip prospects on it.
“It’s kind of like the Saints. When we finally won our Super Bowl, there is no way you could explain it to New England or Dallas fans how it felt because they haven’t been a Saints fan all that time.
“Even when we had a perfect season at Minden and reached the semifinals … they could draw on championship experience in (1954 and 1963). It was special, but it’s different when you’re the first ones to do it, too. Those old (Minden) people have something they can look at and compare it to, and the South Bossier people don’t.”
For a program that sees itself as Saints-like, what better way to make history than on the Saints’ home turf.