Byrd coach Rusty Johnson says his Yellow Jackets still have a lot of room for improvement, but one thing is for sure — Byrd is learning how to win.
The Yellow Jackets (14-1) are 6-1 in games either decided by six points or less or in overtime, and that’s without eight football players who will make their first appearances Thursday in the Bossier Invitational.
“We only had one starter coming back in Chad Lott, and we have a lot of kids who are learning how to play in a varsity setting,” Johnson said. “We’ve had a lot of close wins, but we’ve made a lot of inexperienced mistakes with missed free throws and turnovers.
“Hopefully the team understands by now that Chad is the centerpiece of what we do, but other kids are very good. We play 15 to 18 kids every game.”
Lott played a huge role in one of Byrd’s largest comebacks as he scored 42 points against Minden, who led by 14 points with about three minutes to go and lost.
The one team that’s beaten Byrd? Fair Park (7-8), who will meet the Yellow Jackets on in the first round Thursday at 6:30 at Bossier Parish Community College.
The Indians have other impressive wins like Ouachita, Bastrop and Southwood, but they’ve also been beaten by solid squads like Northwood, Neville, Grambling Lab and Natchitoches Central.
“Sometimes it’s about matchups, and when we went over there, Fair Park wanted that game worse than we did,” Johnson said. “They led the majority of that game.”
Bossier High will host the 74th Bossier Invitational, one of the oldest tournaments in the state.
The Bearkats (8-6) returned just one starter in Devonte Hall after losing eight seniors from this past season’s Class 3A semifinals team, but coach Jeremiah Williams said others like Kentrell Hardy are emerging alongside Hall.
“We’re coming together as a group and trying to develop cohesion — it’s coming along,” Williams said. “We start four seniors, but for three of them this is their first season of varsity ball.
“We’re not there yet, but we’re showing glimpses of what we can do.”
The tournament is back to 16 teams, which includes 14 local teams, Neville (8-3) from Monroe and Orr Academy (4-1-1) of Chicago. Orr features three top 30 players in Illinois, including a pair of three-star forwards in Marlon Jones (6-foot-8) and Tyquone Greer (6-foot-7).
“It’s going to be an awesome tournament with talented teams,” Williams said. “A lot of college prospects here, and I sent an email out to every college in the state about the talent here.
“We played in a showcase in (Little Rock, Ark.) that Orr was in last year, and I just called the coach up to see if he wanted to come and play. We both went 2-0 in the event but didn’t play each other.”
Huntington (13-1) is the other top local team in the Bossier tournament, losing only to Richwood in the Doc Edwards. Brandon Sheppard and Aaron Roberson lead a deep group of Raiders.
Other local teams include Green Oaks (6-9), Plain Dealing (8-5), Southwood (8-6), North Caddo (3-11), Captain Shreve (6-6), Nothwood (7-8), BTW (5-3), Airline (6-8), Mansfield (6-8) and Parkway (5-5).