The Live Oak football team’s surprising 5-2 start came on the strength of a run-heavy offense that used a grind-it-out approach to milk the clock and limit the opponent’s offensive possessions.

The ploy only works, however, if the offense is able to string together first downs and mount long drives.

The Eagles were unable to do so in a 29-0 loss to Zachary on Friday as the Broncos took sole possession of first place in the District 4-5A standings.

Held to just 14 yards rushing and 102 yards overall, Live Oak moved the chains just seven times against Zachary and never held the ball for more than four minutes on a single offensive possession.

“We’re still a program that’s on the rise, and we’re still building,” Live Oak coach Brett Beard said. “We’ve got to learn how to compete with these teams.”

The Eagles suffered a significant blow Friday when senior running back Will Higginbotham, who entered the night with nearly 600 yards rushing, was sidelined by an ankle injury and missed the remainder of the game.

Higginbotham is expected to return this season, but it is unclear whether he will be available Friday when Live Oak plays host to Scotlandville.

“They didn’t think it was anything too serious,” Beard said of Higginbotham’s injury.

The loss to Zachary (7-1, 3-0) snapped a four-game winning streak for the Eagles (5-3, 2-1) and dropped them into a three-way tie with Scotlandville (7-1, 2-1) and Central (5-3, 2-1) for second place in the 4-5A race.

Denham, Walker seek first district win

Three weeks ago, it would have been hard to imagine Denham Springs and Walker matching up Friday night with each team seeking its first district victory.

The Yellow Jackets had several key pieces returning from a team that finished second in 4-5A last year and were expected to again challenge Zachary and Scotlandville for the league title. The Wildcats were coming off an 0-10 campaign in 2014 but had won their five nondistrict games by double digits to enter 4-5A play with a surprising 5-0 mark,

But when Walker (5-3, 0-3) meets Denham (4-4, 0-3) on Friday at Yellow Jacket Stadium, both teams will enter with winless records in league play.

Denham could just as easily be unbeaten.

The Yellow Jackets have lost their three 4-5A games to Live Oak, Zachary and Central by five combined points, with the deciding score in two of those games arriving in the final four minutes.

The latest heartbreak for Denham came in a 21-20 setback at Central last week.

Central scored the go-ahead touchdown with 3:28 remaining, then held on for the victory when a late drive by the Yellow Jackets stalled deep in Central territory.

Walker took an early lead against Scotlandville last week before losing 48-15.

Albany, Springfield fall

Albany and Springfield remain in search of their first district victories as well as both teams lost by double digits last week.

Albany suffered a 46-24 setback to Bogalusa in 7-3A, while Springfield fell to Archbishop Hannan 35-18 in 9-2A.

Albany (5-3, 0-2) will look to get on the winning side when the Hornets host Independence. Springfield (1-7, 0-5) looks for its first win since Week 3 when the Bulldogs play at home against Northlake Christian.

Walker swimmer picks Centenary

Shane Pendarvis holds Walker High School records in the 500 freestyle and 100 backstroke and has helped set three more school records in relay events.

Soon enough, Pendarvis plans to take his skills to the college level.

Pendarvis committed to Centenary College following a recent visit to the Shreveport school.

The Gents will get a swimmer who placed 13th in the 500 freestyle at the Division I state meet in 2014 and has qualified to compete in the 200 freestyle, 500 freestyle and 100 backstroke so far this season.

Last year, Pendarvis was sixth in the 200 individual medley and seventh in the 500 freestyle at the Capital City Swim League Championships.

Scott Hotard covers sports for The Livingston-Tangipahoa Advocate. He can be contacted at shotard44@gmail.com or livingston@theadvocate.com.