East Feliciana football coach Cedric Anderson knew beginning the 2017 football season against West Feliciana, St. Helena and Kentwood would be a difficult challenge for his team.
He was right.
The Tigers lost to Class 3A West Feliciana 38-28, followed by Class 2A St. Helena (20-12) and Class A Kentwood (29-22) as they struggled to a 0-3 start. But all three of those opponents have had outstanding regular seasons and are in the middle of their respective classification playoff battles.
And Anderson is convinced those early losses served as a catalyst for the rest of the way. His team only lost to Dunham (30-8) and Episcopal (41-16) in a tough District 7-2A race, where the Tigers eventually finished third with a 4-2 league mark and 5-5 overall.
“I knew we’d be all right because we were in all three of those games and those teams were all playoff teams from the year before,” he said. “We had a lot of penalties and I knew if we cut down on the penalties and mistakes, I knew we could be a much better football team.
"I like to start off with good competition because it gets the kids ready for the playoffs. It helped them not to play intimidated, do their best and do what they’re coached and taught to do.”
Anderson said he was encouraged because he saw his team improve with each game. That includes last week, when the No. 18-seeded Tigers traveled to Mansfield and surprised the No. 15-seeded Wolverines 38-28 in the first round of the Class 2A playoffs.
This week, his team will host No.2 seed Ferriday at Clinton Middle School’s field. Anderson said he doesn’t know much about Ferriday, other than the fact the Trojans are 9-2 and went 5-1 in District 2-2A. They opened the playoffs with a 60-14 win over Oakdale.
“I know they’re a good team and coach (Stanley) Smith does a good job getting them ready,” Anderson said. “They run multiple sets on offense and we just have to get our kids in position to make plays.”
Despite a rash of injuries to some key players, Anderson credits improved play by his offensive line and senior leaders stepping up with getting his team to this point. Receiver/defensive back Cedric Anderson, returner/receiver and defensive back Maleek Chriss, linebacker/running back Kirtland Hills and offensive tackle/defensive end Sheldon Lanns have provided stability and experience in their senior leadership roles.
Early in the season, starting quarterback Joshua Taylor went down with a knee injury followed by backup quarterback Manuel Jackson. In stepped sophomore Caleb Anderson, who has provided a steady hand and deft running skills at quarterback. Cedric Jr. and Caleb are Anderson’s sons.
“The offensive line has really done a great job of helping give him (Caleb) confidence,” Anderson Sr. said. “He’s grown a lot from his first start in the fourth game.”
Against Ferriday, Anderson knows his squad needs to jump out to a quick start offensively, needs consistency in tackling, must win the turnover battle and needs to avoid mistakes, especially penalties.
“We need to execute like we’re capable of doing,” he said.