As much as Parkway doesn’t want to change its typical preparation and focus, Friday’s game won’t be just an ordinary second-round matchup.
An almost entirely different group of Panthers took the field at the Dome two years ago, when Acadiana steamrolled them 77-41 for the first of back-to-back state championships. Senior free safety Lloyd Cole, who played only on special teams, just remembers falling behind big early and never recovering mentally.
Coach David Feaster would prefer his team forget that humbling experience and concentrate on the present, rather than revenge. But the coaching staff spent plenty of time this week watching the loss again to try to learn from past mistakes, since they expect to see a similar approach.
“We try to find reasons why we’re going to have a chance to beat them this year and so when we look back at the film of that game we think, gah, there’s a lot of things that we could’ve done better,” Feaster said. “Maybe the results would have been different and so that’s about the only way that we look at it.”
Another big Acadiana offensive line has paved the way for huge yardage this season from Jayrin Wilson and Ziggy Francis, but stopping the Rams won’t be a completely unfamiliar challenge for Parkway’s defense. Cole led the Panthers with 19 tackles – seven solo – as they shut out Byrd’s physical triple option attack in a 20-6 win.
Feaster sees similarities between the Yellow Jackets and the Rams, who began the season as 5A’s No. 1 team. Two losses in their first three games caused Acadiana’s power rating to take a huge hit, but seven straight wins – the last five by at least 20 – make the Rams a formidable No. 11 seed.
They captured a title as the No. 15 seed a year ago, so Feaster knows those numbers hardly matter. Still, a 6 in front of Parkway’s name means the game will be played at Preston Crownover Stadium, where the Panthers have won 20 straight dating back to 2011.
“None of them have ever lost a home game before, so they’re very excited about playing a playoff game at home again,” Feaster said. “I think our crowd’s going to be extremely excited and we anticipate a great weather night and so it should be a great home-field advantage for us.”
He’s hopeful that will bring out the extra effort needed to overcome Acadiana’s decided size advantage, something Cole and his teammates have grown accustomed to against most 5A opponents. The 5-foot-11, 189-pound senior runs a 4.35 40-yard dash and said speed plus a whole lot of heart has made this defense effective against power running games.
It could be the biggest difference from two years ago, when Parkway’s defense struggled to find consistency all year long before falling apart in New Orleans. This season’s Panthers have given up just one first-half touchdown in their last seven games since a 56-21 loss at Evangel.
“I really like our chances because I think that we’re really disciplined,” Cole said. “We know what we’re supposed to do playing assignment football.”
Acadiana’s defense won’t make it easy for Parkwy’s explosive offense, which scored on four straight plays in the first half of a 46-14 win over Natchitoches Central last week. The Rams have held opponents to seven points or less in three of their past four games, so don’t expect another high-scoring showdown in Friday’s rematch.
Of course, that won’t be a concern for Parkway, so long as it comes out on top in the end. Even though Cole and his teammates want to treat this game just like any other, he said they’re well aware of the opportunity to “avenge our brothers.”