Injured Southern player Devon Gales to watch Georgia play Georgia Southern in Athens _lowres

Southern's Devon Gales with his stepmother, Tish Gales, and physical therapist Leigh Rottner during physical therapy last month at the Shepherd Center. The Southern University wide receiver was injured in a football game against the University of Georgia in Athens early in the season. (Photo courtesy of Shepherd Center)

Two of the top quarterbacks in a conference loaded with talented QBs will face off when Southern and Prairie View meet Saturday in A.W. Mumford Stadium.

Jaguars sophomore Austin Howard ranks third in the Southwestern Athletic Conference in passing yards and total yards per game in conference play. Panthers junior Trey Green is fourth in both categories.

“Our conference is like no other conference,” Southern coach Dawson Odums said. “Every quarterback can beat you in some shape, form or fashion. Usually they’re dual-threat quarterbacks that can beat you with their arm, and they’re going to test you from a scramble standpoint and they’re going to test you with their feet. Offensive teams in this conference know they’re never out of the game.”

Odums said Green is playing as well as anyone in the league — including Howard, who won four awards for his performance in a 45-34 victory at Alabama State last week.

Panthers coach Willie Simmons said there’s one difference between Green and other elite quarterbacks such as Howard, Alcorn State’s John Gibbs Jr., Grambling’s Jonathan Williams and Jackson State’s LaMontiez Ivy.

“Trey is the only one of those five who’s starting his first season,” Simmons said. “Those other guys are seasoned veterans. Trey is still learning how to lead this program. He’s still learning how to be the guy that everyone looks to to make the play.

“I’m impressed with how he’s playing so far, but he can still get a lot better. He understands that. He knows the challenge he has ahead of him to lead this team the way that we need to go.”

Consistent D

It was the best of halves and the worst of halves for the Southern defense last week.

The Jaguars had their first scoreless half of the season in the first, but the 34 points they allowed in the second were the most allowed in a half in a SWAC game this season.

“We didn’t play consistent football. We played in spurts,” Odums said. “They know they left some plays out there. We can play better on third down.”

The Jaguars allowed Alabama State to convert 8 of 16 third downs, which dropped them to last (49 percent) in third-down defense in SWAC games.

Odums said Southern should have gotten more than the two sacks it had after the Hornets threw 39 passes.

An emerging leader

Odums said sophomore linebacker Kentavious Preston has emerged as a leader on defense. Preston was thrust into the starting lineup after senior Demetrius Carter suffered a season-ending Achilles injury against Mississippi Valley State on Sept. 10.

Preston leads the team and ranks third in the SWAC at 8.7 tackles per game.

“We’ve had some injuries, and he’s had to step in and step up,” Odums said. “We said that if we’re going to continue this journey, somebody has to step up and become a leader and make plays for us, and he’s been one of those guys on defense that has stepped up.

“I’m happy for him (that) he’s one of the leaders now. He’s one of those guys that, when you get on the bus after the game, you know he left every ounce that he had on the field. And, as a team, that’s what we have to do.”

Ex-teammates face off

Prairie View senior running back Johnta’ Hebert and Southern running back Lenard Tillery grew up near each other in Baton Rouge and played football together at Glen Oaks Elementary School and Sherwood Middle School before going their separate ways.

Hebert played at Glen Oaks High, and Tillery played at McKinley.

“He’s very patient and very fast,” Tillery said of Hebert. “His first step is one of the best you’re going to see in the SWAC. He’s a versatile guy that I enjoy competing with.”

Lots of state players

Hebert is one of 10 players on the Panthers depth chart who played high school football in Louisiana.

The others: two from Scotlandville (OLs Josiah Freeman and Denzel Lewis, three from LaGrange (DB Jalen Thibodeaux, RB Courtney Brown and WR Nick Pitre), two from Landry-Walker (DB Damond Jackson and TE Raymond Jackson), one from St. Augustine (OL Glen Haisley) and one from Bogalusa (S Cedric Porter).

Follow Les East on Twitter: @EastAdvocate.