Friday night’s scrimmages around the prep scene are the first step in the “tune up” process for Week 1 of the LHSAA season in two weeks.
It’s a chance for coaches to see where their teams are at against an actual opponent for the first time since the spring, which can be both good and bad depending on how it goes. Once it’s on film, improvements can be made for next Friday night’s jamborees. Then seven days later, it’s game time.
But first, teams have to find that all important scrimmage opponent.
There are two different ways to go about it. Some want to line up against somebody they know they’re better than to build confidence among the roster. However, most coaches are looking for the best scrimmage mate they can find.
Both Neville and Ouachita opted for the latter as the Tigers head west to Shreveport against Evangel Christian and the Lions host Airline.
Neville and Evangel also scrimmaged last season at Bill Ruple Stadium.
“We feel like this has proven to be a real good scrimmage for us,” Neville head coach Mickey McCarty said. “We’re always out to test ourselves against good people, and Evangel is as good as anybody in the state.”
Friday’s scrimmage against the Eagles will be the first time senior quarterback J.T. Jackson has taken snaps against another team as Neville’s starter. Jackson was one of a handful of Tigers that missed spring practice as part of Neville’s Class 4A runner-up baseball squad.
Jackson and sophomore Connor Curry — Jackson’s Evangel counterpart — lost dependable targets from last season with Neville product Kylon Highshaw continuing his career at McNeese State and Evangel’s Jared Cornelius moving on to the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Neither team is hurting for receivers though with Kavontae Turpin back for Neville and Mac Meyer — the Eagles’ leading pass catcher in 2013 — returning.
Even if a coach can find that good team to scrimmage with though, the trick can be making sure it’s a school that’s on the same wave length as you — that’s how fights, injuries and running up scores happen.
Luckily most coaches can lean on their friends in the profession when filing scrimmages, which Ouachita football coach Jeff Fitzgerald was able to do with Airline coach Bo Meeks.
“Airline’s program is very comparable to ours,” Fitzgerald said. “Bo runs a tight ship and nobody is out for blood. We know going into it there aren’t going to be any cheap shots or jabbing in the pile, just a good clean scrimmage.”
Running back Cam Davis and Ouachita’s offensive line will get a good primer against Airline defensive tackle Charlie Mathews, who steps in for Alabama signee O.J. Smith. Fitzgerald anticipates quarterbacks Charles Wright and Devion Warren to get around three series a piece running the first and second team offenses, respectfully.
Airline’s no huddle attack also gives Ouachita some reps against a style of offense it will see plenty of during the season.
“It’s hard because anytime you step on the field against another opponent, you’re in it to win,” Fitzgerald said. “Those competitive juices get going but really these types of scrimmages are all about getting better.
“Our goal is to come out of this a healthy and improved football team.”
Both scrimmages are set for 6 p.m.
Rebels have eyes on Randall
When West Monroe and Parkway kickoff their scrimmage Friday at 6 p.m. on Don Shows Field at Rebel Stadium, there will be a total of 22 players on the field at any one time.
And like last year in Shreveport when the two team’s scrimmaged, most people will have eyes on a star quarterback. But instead of former Parkway star Brandon Harris, now vying for the starting role at LSU, West Monroe junior signal caller Jon Randall Belton will be in the spotlight.
Belton suffered an ACL injury midway through last season, and how he responds to live play against an opponent for the first time in 10 months is something that many, including head coach Jerry Arledge will be keeping an eye on.
“I think he is ready,” Arledge said of Belton. “This is the first time he has been under the gun in a while against someone else. But also on defense, I am anxious to see how our defense and linebacker matchup against a very talented Parkway team. This is the time when we get to see if we have gotten any better. When you go against an opponent, it exposes things good and bad. We will find out what our weaknesses are and how much better we have gotten this fall. This is like our weekly test.”
The varsity and junior varsity will be together in the stadium at 6 p.m. and the freshman teams will scrimmage at that time too on the West Monroe practice field. Admission for both will be $5 at the gate.
Oak Grove travels to OCS
First-year head coach Ryan Gregory takes his Oak Grove team to OCS this evening for a 6 p.m. scrimmage.
Both teams are hoping to be clicking on all cylinders at some point this season, but for now the focus will be on getting the little things correct.
“The main thing is that we are doing things right,” OCS coach Steven Fitzhugh said. “It is early in the year, but we want to be doing more right than wrong. The sooner you do the fundamental things right, the sooner you can begin to become a good team.”
Fitzhugh called the Tigers “a physical team” and a “great challenge” for his team as they prepare for the upcoming season. Both teams reached the quarterfinals last season with OCS in the Division IV bracket and Oak Grove in 2A, losing a close battle to No. 1 seed Many.
Admission at OCS is $5 for adults and $2 for students.
Union, Delhi Charter come to West Ouachita
A three-team scrimmage will take place Friday at “Red” Sims Stadium at West Ouachita as the Chiefs host defending Class 3A state champion Union Parish and 1A Delhi Charter at 6 p.m.
Each team will get a period against the other teams during the scrimmage, and it gives all the coaches a good evaluation of what kind of team they could have this season.
“The main thing we are excited about is going against somebody else besides ourselves in practice, and with this you are facing two very quality football teams,” West Ouachita head coach Joey Pender said. “This will be some of our guys’ first time against another team, and it will be good to see how they respond.”
Sterlington hosts St. Frederick, Cedar Creek
Sterlington will take on St. Frederick and Cedar Creek in a scrimmage at Panther Stadium, starting at 6 p.m. Friday.
Following his first season with the Panthers, Sterlington coach Jason Thompson is now implementing another aspect this fall — a depth chart — and the first one will come after evaluating Friday’s scrimmage.
“We are looking forward to it,” Thompson said. “I think the defense gets a lot out of this because we will see a lot of spread offenses during the season and (St. Fred and Cedar Creek) do that.”
It is the best of both worlds for Cedar Creek and St. Frederick who will play snaps against the power running game of the Panthers.
“You get to see a little option and a little spread,” St. Fred coach Jeff Tannehill said. “It helps prepare us for our schedule to come. It is a good test for our kids.”
St. Frederick, Cedar Creek, Sterlington (at Sterlington HS) – 6 p.m.
Cedar Creek, Union Parish, West Ouachita (at WOHS) – 6 p.m.
Parkway at West Monroe – 6 p.m.
Airline at Ouachita – 6 p.m.
Neville at Evangel Christian – 6 p.m.
Oak Grove at OCS – 6 p.m.