The 2015 season has been one of firsts so far for the Sterlington Panthers football team and the squad is prepared to see just how far they can take it.
Sterlington entered the year with 96 players in the program, more than most Class 2A programs, and certainly a larger deck than the Panthers are accustomed to playing with.
When head coach and athletic director Jason Thompson arrived at Sterlington High School in 2013, the team had less than 50 players in the program.
After a couple of winning seasons and a trip to the 2A semifinals in 2014 – the first since going to the state finals in 2003 – the community is believing in Panther football again.
“It has been neat to watch,” Thompson said. “The community is excited and has embraced us. Having that depth is a luxury that we haven’t had in the past. The competition it breeds has been a benefit to us.”
With 18 starters back from last season, there was a lot to like about the Sterlington team from the get go. Thompson sensed the team would have a chance to do some special things and they got it out in the open from the beginning with a 2015 team motto of “Embrace The Expectations.”
None have embraced expectations better than junior running back Devontae Douglas. Douglas has rushed for 275 yards and 5 touchdowns in the first three games.
“He has one of the best hearts paired with a work ethic unlike anyone I have ever coached,” Thompson said. “He has a heart you couldn’t fit in the back of a truck.”
Douglas showed his horsepower with 162 yards and three touchdowns on just six carries during a 35-6 win over Oak Grove last week.
Those expectations appear to be state wide as the program reached another first on Tuesday as they were ranked No. 1 in the Louisiana Sportswriter’s Association Class 2A poll.
“Our guys have sold out to it,” Thompson said. “They understand it puts a bullseye squarely on us.”
The Caldwell Spartans (0-3) are the next team to take aim at Sterlington. Caldwell visits Sterlington Friday evening at 7 p.m.
It is the second of four straight home games for the Panthers.
While Sterlington has enjoyed the highs of victory so far this season, the Spartans have been in a drastically different position.
Caldwell has been outscored 105-54 through three games. The team narrowly missed a win on Sept. 11 in a 29-26 loss to LaSalle.
“They (Caldwell) are very multiple on offense,” Thompson said. They have a lot of formations. There kids are getting better week after week. You can see that on the film.”
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