An ankle injury has limited the mobility of high school football coach Ken Hilton this week as he helps prepare a group of local all-stars for the Red Stick Bowl.
Still, Hilton’s enthusiasm bubbled over as he offered an assessment of Tuesday’s practice session for his squad, the Rattlers.
“This is the easiest coaching job I’ve ever had,” said Hilton, an assistant at Central. “What I like about being out here is that I see bodies flying around. I love that.”
The bodies are part of 45 standout seniors for the Rattlers and another 45 for their opponent, the Black Knights. The talent level is more than enough to have Hilton excited about the game, which is Sunday at Olympia Stadium. Kickoff is 2:30 p.m.
Numerous athletes have played in the Red Stick Bowl before moving on to college careers. A few have even made it all the way to the pro level. That includes former Scotlandville running back Branden Bolden, East Ascension defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey and Parkview Baptist punter Brad Wing.
This year’s Rattlers roster is filled with athletes who represent 18 teams that qualified for the playoffs.
Standout teams on that list are Class 3A champion Lutcher and Zachary, which captured the Class 5A title.
“The good thing is everybody we have out here is all-star caliber,” said Hilton, who noted that teams aren’t allowed to blitz in the game. “On defense you’re limited, but we’ve got athletes that can fly around the ball.
“Offensively we’ve got a system that’s simple. Everybody kind of runs the same plays during the season, but maybe the terminology is a little different. It’s just a matter of getting everyone on the same page.”
Hilton mentioned several players that impressed him Tuesday: Live Oak defensive lineman Michael Crowson, Walker linebacker Kyle Nevels and Scotlandville defensive back-turned-receiver Dwayne Williams.
Williams was all-district 4-5A as a cornerback but started working with the Rattlers receivers before his absence on defense was noticed.
“One of the coaches told me this receiver from Scotlandville was killing them,” Hilton said. “I thought he was talking about (Williams’ teammate) Chris Johnson. The coach didn’t believe me when I told him Williams was an all-district cornerback.”
For players like Crowson, the game offers one more chance to impress college scouts. It’s a fitting follow-up to a season in which he helped Live Oak post its first ever playoff win.
“We had a great coach (Brett Beard) with a great group of kids. We had an awesome defense,” Crowson said. “A lot of it was Coach Beard. He put us where we needed to be.”
Zachary running back Terry Sullivan helped put the Broncos where they needed to be by rushing for more than 1,500 yards and 18 touchdowns. Also steady in the classroom with a 3.0 GPA, Sullivan said he learned about competing for four quarters at Zachary.
“All year we were a second-half team,” Sullivan said. “Sometimes we’d start slow, but after halftime we were explosive. We had so many people that could score at any time. That’s what made us explosive.”