What started out as a fun night for the Captain Shreve faithful with veterans celebrated in a pregame ceremony at Parkway’s Preston Crownover Stadium and an early Gator score, turned the Panthers’ way midway through the first quarter when coach David Feaster’s club revved up its offensive engines.
With the incredibly speedy EJ Williams scoring three times in the first half, the Panthers rolled into the second round of the LHSAA Class 5A state playoffs with a resounding 60-21 win.
The Panthers play with a lot of speed, then pour more speed on top of that. Terrace Marshall plays at another level as did quarterback Justin Rogers on this night. When Rogers is in-tune with his receivers, there’s not much a defensive secondary can do.
“Parkway looked a little sluggish early, but then they opened it up and just beat us with their speed,” Captain Shreve coach Bryant Sepulvado said. “You play them up close and they run by you. You back off and they catch it underneath and run by you. We made adjustments, but there’s not much you can do.”
It did take the Panthers, who must play at Central in Baton Rouge next week, a while to get untracked. They didn’t get their first lead until 41 seconds remained in the first quarter when Williams cashed in for a second time from one yard out.
“It seemed like they kept the lead for a long time,” Feaster said of the Gators. “The key was for us to keep stopping them and coach (Neil) May’s defense kept doing that. We really like to go over the top, and our fans like that too.”
The Panther defense came up with a pair of interceptions, a trio of fourth down stops and created a multitude of harassing moments for Gator quarterback Lucas Grubb. Sure, Shreve managed touchdowns from Stephen Smith on a 5-yard Grubb pass, Caleb Ester on a 46-yard fumble return and Isiah Knox on a 33-yard run, but only the initial score came against Panther starters.
The key was a plethora of mega Panther plays that quickly turned out the lights and sent the party in south Bossier into overdrive.
Robert McKnight scored on a 37-yard throw from Rogers and Marshall hauled in one from 60 yards out. When the Gators tried an on-side kick to open the second half, big Kendall Brown scooped it up and lumbered 51 yards down the right sideline for a score.
Then it was Derrick Mitchell’s chance to shine when he took a toss from Rogers and went around the end 67 yards for a score. The final Parkway score from 37 yards out came on a pass from backups Amani Larry to Keimare Payne.
“Shreve really got after us early, but we responded well,” Feaster said. “And that’s a good sign. There will be ebb and flow in every game. We made the plays we needed to make to get the lead, and we are dependent on the big play.”
The Panthers (10-1) face a strange team in Baton Rouge next week. The Wildcats lost 41-2 to Live Oak in their regular-season finale, but turned around and topped Live Oak 17-0 Friday night.
“That shows you what can happen in the playoffs and why we prepared for Shreve like we did,” Feaster said. “We hope to take care of things on this road trip.”
Rogers finished his night 8-of-11 for 166 yards and two scores with no picks, while rushing 5 times for 30 yards. Most of those came on one devastating run where he hauled several Gators with him 15 yards down the field. Marshall had 5 catches for 128 yards.
“Terrace changes a team’s game plan because they have to put their best defensive back on him and usually another person to help out,” Feaster said. “Justin just has a lot of grit about him and he’s one of the strongest guys on the team.”
In his final game as a Gator, Demarcus McCall rushed 21 times for 86 yards.