John Ehret is the proverbial favorite in District 8-5A after claiming the league title the past two years.
Corey Lambert’s Patriots sport a 12-game district win streak dating to 2013.
Enter Landry-Walker, a Class 4A quarterfinalist in 2014 and a semifinalist the year before, now playing in Class 5A and in revamped District 8.
The matchup between these two West Bank powers has been billed as a key district game, as Ehret aims to defend its crown, and Landry-Walker looks to make a statement in its new league.
“The key is staying focused,” senior Ehret linebacker De’Jon “Scoota” Harris said. “Don’t get into all the hype and get distracted. We’re going to continue to play Ehret football.”
“We’ll be preparing for this game just like any other,” junior Landry-Walker quarterback Keytaon Thompson said. “We come together as a family. We don’t let anyone come between us, and all the people that try to tear us apart just make us stronger.”
Thompson, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound LSU quarterback recruit, has missed the past two games with an ankle injury. Landry-Walker has gone 1-1 without Thompson and sits at 3-2, 1-1 midway through the season.
Thompson is questionable for the game and sat out practice Tuesday and Wednesday. He’s a game-time decision, coach Emanuel Powell said and will need medical clearance from the doctor before suiting up.
“It’s feeling better,” Thompson said. “I’m in physical therapy right now, but it’s not 100 percent. Hopefully, I’m 100 percent by (Friday).”
The Patriots (4-1, 2-0) have also dealt with issues under center. Quarterback and Missouri commitment Ca’Ron Baham is out for the year. Filling in is freshman Travis Mumphrey, who has guided Ehret to back-to-back wins.
Lambert and Ehret offensive coordinator Clint Harrison are former quarterbacks, and have put Mumphrey in winnable situations.
“He has a great advantage because we’re able to put him in situations to be successful,” Lambert said. “We’re letting the older guys with experience carry the team and let (Mumphrey) have fun, distribute the ball and do things he does well.”
As the offense adjusts to the Baham’s absence, Ehret’s defense has risen to the challenge. The team has posted back-to-back shutouts of East Jefferson and Higgins and has three total for the second consecutive year.
The Patriots pride themselves on their defensive tenacity and enter this week’s contest with no shortage of confidence, whether Thompson plays or not.
“We think we could shut them out,” Harris said. “I hope I see (Thompson). If we don’t, it’s not going to be a pretty game, but he would want to play to make it a game.”
“It’s impossible to put in a whole new offense in a week,” Lambert said. “We’ll prepare for Keytaon playing and not playing. We’ll play Ehret football and cause havoc no matter who’s back there.”
Landry-Walker has adopted a similar mentality as they get set to face Mumphrey.
The Charging Bucs defense has allowed 7.8 points per game over their past three games, including a 38-0 shutout of Bonnabel last week, and they’re only getting better, Powell said.
“It’s a testament to our team; when one player went down, the other side picked it up to offset the injury,” he said. “(Mumphrey) has good players around. He’s not going to be asked to win the game, just manage it.”