Byrd keeps answering any questions about whether it should be considered the frontrunner in the highly competitive District 1-5A race.
The No. 7 Yellow Jackets (4-0) show fewer and fewer weaknesses each week as they dispatch their opponents, generally with ease. Coach Mike Suggs continues to praise a talented, senior-laden group out to prove it can replace Byrd’s 18 graduated seniors from a year ago.
Captain Shreve had no answer for the defending district champs, especially when they unleashed a passing game that had been dormant for two weeks. Senior quarterback Deuce Caston completed all six of his throws in the first quarter to lead the Yellow Jackets to a comfortable 42-13 win in the district opener at Lee Hedges Stadium.
“It felt pretty great,” said Caston, who finished 9-for-11 for 157 yards, including a 47-yard touchdown to Joey Jernigan to open the scoring. “That was our game plan coming in, to throw the ball a lot more.”
He went 0-for-10 with an interception over the last two weeks against Longview and Calvary, often barely missing open receivers. But the Yellow Jackets found success relying on a swarming defense and a powerful triple-option attack, just as they have throughout a 16-game regular-season win streak.
Captain Shreve’s young, inconsistent offense stood no chance against Byrd, who didn’t even allow a first down before halftime. Thanks to a passing game that featured short throws to the sideline and over the middle as well as deftly thrown deep balls, the Yellow Jackets raced out to a 35-0 lead and didn’t even need their starters for the second half.
“We came out and I thought we played pretty sharp tonight,” Suggs said. “We’ll look at the film and we’ll see we made some mistakes and just keep working to get better. “
Captain Shreve got the spark it needed to create some momentum in the second half, when junior James Ivory broke free up the middle for a 92-yard touchdown run. Sophomore quarterback Lucas Grubb showed some flashes of his potential despite completing just 10 of 32 passes for 131 yards, and coach Bryant Sepulvado saw positives as his team continues to build for the future.
But they’re certainly not one of the biggest obstacles Byrd will face on its path to another district title. The Yellow Jackets have won 19 of their last 21 against the Gators, including the last six by at least two touchdowns.
Don’t expect Suggs to let Byrd take too much time to celebrate Thursday’s win before looking ahead to next Friday’s showdown at Parkway, where they last lost a regular-season game in 2013. Caston knows he’ll need to throw more and put some points up on the board to keep up with the Panthers’ offense, led by Louisiana Tech commit and standout quarterback Keondre Wudtee.
“Obviously, everybody knows how big this ballgame’s going to be,” Suggs said. “It’s been a great ballgame for quite a few years now because they’re a very talented football team and it’s going to be a great game.”
The district’s other two undefeated teams, Airline and Haughton, also look strong enough so far to perhaps pose a challenge to Byrd. Even newcomer Evangel has hopes of competing for a district title, despite a somewhat slow start and lack of depth compared to the Yellow Jackets.
But until someone proves otherwise, Byrd deserves the right to be called the favorite. Just ask Sepulvado.
“As senior-loaded as they are, I would definitely say they’re the frontrunner not only in our district, but they’re going to be a frontrunner in the state,” he said.