Having accepted the Live Oak job nearly nine months ago, new football coach Brett Beard has had plenty of time to get comfortable with his new surroundings.
But the Mears Sand & Gravel Jamboree on Friday, though only a glorified scrimmage, gave Beard his first taste of a game night at his new school.
The lights were on. The stands were packed.
On the field, Beard watched his Eagles notch a 7-6 victory over Fontainebleau in a game that featured 12-minute halves.
“You can see the butterflies and the jitters,” Beard said afterward. “Everything’s new, and we’re still getting comfortable with each other. We’re all working together for the first time. It’s only going to get better week in and week out. We’ve just got to keep growing, keep learning, let the game slow down and go play.”
The result of the jamboree was, in some ways, a best-case scenario for Beard and his coaching staff.
Not only were the Eagles able to eke out a narrow victory that will surely give them confidence moving forward, but they also left Beard’s unofficial debut as coach knowing they had much room for improvement.
Aside from a two-play, 80-yard drive that netted Live Oak’s only points, the Eagles were outplayed by a Fontainebleau team that ran 17 more plays and had seven more first downs.
Live Oak had only one first down before junior Ryan Morris struck for a pair of long completions midway through the second half, first connecting with Nick Cacioppo for 55 yards and then finding Will Higginbotham for a 25-yard score.
“The more comfortable we get as a staff playing in these games, the more comfortable our kids will get in these situations,” Beard said.
With their dress rehearsal behind them, Beard and the Eagles will officially kick off the new era Friday night when St. Amant visits Watson.
St. Amant is a familiar foe for Beard, whose Woodlawn teams faced the Gators in District 5-5A the last two seasons.
Denham to see EA in opener
Live Oak isn’t the only Livingston Parish team welcoming an Ascension Parish opponent on opening night.
Denham Springs will face East Ascension in a matchup of two teams that advanced to the second round of the playoffs last season.
The Yellow Jackets are coming off a 21-14 loss to Dutchtown in the jamboree, while EA held on to beat St. Amant by the same score.
Denham Springs returns 13 starters from last year after winning a playoff game for the first time since 1989. Running back Tyre Golmond, one of those returning starters, ran for 106 yards on just six carries in the jamboree.
Albany has only two road games on the regular-season schedule, so the Friday trip to Live Oak was one of few chances for the Hornets to leave home.
But it’s likely coach Blane Westmoreland felt pretty much at home.
Westmoreland graduated from Live Oak in 2005, and he spent five seasons as an assistant coach at his alma mater. He and his family live in the Watson area.
“They do a great job here and it’s a great jamboree,” Westmoreland said after Albany played Pine to a 14-14 tie in the jamboree. “The facilities are amazing. But I tell you, I love the Hornet Nation, and I’m proud of what we have over there.”
Albany faces Cohen on Friday in the first of seven straight home games for the Hornets. The only road games are against Bogalusa and Amite in district play.
Walker rolls in Lawley’s debut
Walker had no trouble in coach Brandon Lawley’s unofficial debut, rolling to a 56-0 win over Kipp Renaissance in jamboree action at Walker.
Terry Bozeman completed 7 of 9 passes for 142 yards and three touchdowns.
Walker, too, will be at home Friday for the season opener as the Wildcats host Northeast.
Northeast advanced to the semifinals in 2A last year but will be breaking in 17 new starters. Walker has lost 15 games in a row dating to October 2013.