When it comes to playing against Southern, former Glen Oaks standout Johntá Hebert of Prairie View maintains it’s just another game.
No red circle on the calendar required.
History suggests otherwise: Hebert has enjoyed some of the finer moments over the first two years of his college career at the Jaguars’ expense.
“It’s more of a coincidence,” Hebert said. “I wouldn’t say I do anything different during the week or approach the game any differently.”
Southern (1-2), which visits Prairie View (0-2) to open Southwestern Athletic Conference play at 6 p.m. Saturday, is the latest obstacle between Hebert and the Panthers’ first victory.
With back-to-back losses to begin the year, including the SWAC opener to Texas Southern, there’s a greater sense of urgency, Hebert said.
“As a whole, we need this win just to keep our season’s hopes alive,” Hebert said. “Coach (Heishma Northern) talks about getting that first taste of victory and then being able to string some victories along. It’s definitely a big game, and not because it’s Southern. It’s a SWAC game, and we need to come together as a team.”
Prairie View and Southern have split two games since Hebert arrived after a productive career at Glen Oaks, where he earned all-district honors as a junior and senior.
Hebert, voted the SWAC’s Freshman of the Year with 1,339 all-purpose yards, got an early taste of the series with Southern during his freshman season, registering one of his five games with 148 all-purpose yards or more with 162 in a 49-29 victory at Shreveport’s Independence Stadium.
A year ago, with the teams involved in dramatic overtime game at A.W. Mumford Stadium, Hebert rushed what was then a career-high 22 times for 153 yards and three touchdowns and caught seven passes for 50 yards before his team fell 62-59.
“Every year we play them offensively, we have a good game against them,” Hebert said. “It’s definitely a different feel. It’s more of a homecoming for me.”
Hebert concluded the 2013 season on the highest of highs, taking over for injured leading rusher Courtney Brown and posting a career-best 35 carries for 250 yards, just 7 shy of the school’s single-game rushing record, in a 43-23 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
It was the top rushing total posted in the SWAC last season and concluded a year in which he carried 156 times for 907 yards with five TDs.
The 5-foot-9, 180-pound Hebert led the SWAC in all-purpose yardage with a 159.4-yard average. He was fifth with a 19.1-yard kickoff return average and was sixth in rushing yards per game at 75.6 but did not secure any postseason honors from the league.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t get anything,” Hebert said. “I kind of have a chip on my shoulder. It’s just that extra little motivation to work harder.”
Hebert, who compiled 3,252 all-purpose yards through two seasons, envisioned a similar role in Prairie View’s spread offense of complementing Brown, who led the Panthers with 1,039 yards a year ago, catching passes out of the backfield and being a threat on kickoff returns.
A preseason ACL injury to Brown revised Prairie View’s plans and catapulted Hebert into the team’s featured back role.
“He does a very good all-around job of doing what we need,” said Northern, a Glen Oaks and Southern graduate. “He’s tougher than what people expect. He can make you miss, but he will lower his head, get the tough yards and keep fighting for yards in a pile.”
Hebert said he’s still in search of his first marquee game this season, having rushed 34 times for 132 yards for a TD and caught five passes for 28 yards. He’s averaging 22.7 yards on seven kickoff returns.
“I’m definitely itching for a breakout game,” he said. “I’ve been thrown in the mix since I’ve been here and have gotten the experience to where now I can just let loose and play free.”
A pair of bus trips are available for Saturday’s game at Prairie View.
The Blue & Gold Fan Club is sponsoring a bus trip that will return immediately after the game. The cost is $110 per person and includes tailgate food, refreshments and game ticket. Contact Craig Pierre at (225)-324-7234 or Robert Square at (225)-931-4052.
The SU Quarterback Club’s trip costs $185 for a single hotel room or $260 for a double. Visit southernuniversityqbclub.com or call Jonathan Dearbone at (225)-572-5878, Reginald Jarvis at (225)-939-5906 or Robert Brown at (225)-287-8385.