St. Thomas More’s veteran football coach Jim Hightower looked at last year’s participation in the “Battle on the Border” as a springboard of sorts.
The Cougars decisively defeated eventual Division III state champion Calvary Baptist 44-19 and went on to win their first nine games before falling in Week 10, tying for the District 5-4A title.
STM enjoyed the experience so much they accepted a return engagement. The Cougars (1-0) will face 2-0 Gladewater, Texas, in the next-to-last game at 6 p.m. Friday at Shreveport’s Independence Stadium.
“It was a first class all the way,” Hightower said of the fourth annual event. “They did a great job of putting it on, and the venue is first class. It was a wonderful experience and we had a great game with Calvary. That was kind of a kickoff for our season last year.”
Reigning Class 5A state champion Acadiana (1-0) also returns to take part in the showcase event, facing Shades Valley of Birmingham, Alabama (3-0) at 5 p.m. Saturday. The Wrecking Rams lost to Neville in the event a year ago.
“We’ll kind of build up the intrigue of playing someone from out of state,” Acadiana coach Ted Davidson said. “Maybe there will be an old state pride thing that will come out and we’ll say, ‘This is Louisiana football.’ ”
While St. Thomas More and Acadiana will represent their home state in Shreveport, the Acadiana area will feature a couple appealing games closer to home.
Class 4A’s eight-ranked Breaux Bridge Tigers (1-0) travel to face Class 3A’s sixth-ranked Notre Dame of Crowley (1-0) in a game scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at Gardner Memorial Stadium, while Eunice (1-0) hosts Jennings (1-0) in a longtime series at 7 p.m. Friday.
“Notre Dame’s defense is always traditionally good and I don’t expect anything less this year from them,” said Breaux Bridge coach Paul Broussard, whose team lost to the Pioneers 3-0 last season. “I hope we can find a way to get some points on the board and come up with a victory. It’s going to be a challenge.”
Breaux Bridge opened with an impressive 22-3 road win Friday over Class 5A New Iberia, limiting the Yellow Jackets to negative yards rushing and 49 total yards. Running backs Marquis Domonter (76 yards) and Ruben Hypolite (67) were part of a 204-yard rushing effort for the Tigers.
“It’s always good to get that first victory on opening week against a quality opponent like New Iberia,” Broussard said. “I think it was a total team effort. I thought on both sides of the line we dominated and that was the difference.”
Junior Trevor Begue returned a pair of kickoffs for touchdowns in STM’s 43-26 win over Sulphur.
The Cougars now get the opportunity to face a Gladewater team that advanced to the Class 4A-Division II quarterfinals and steamrolled Pittsburg, Texas, 77-14 on Friday. They also feature Texas A&M defensive tackle commitment Daylon Mack, the nation’s No. 5 rated player at his position.
“They’re a very physical, hard-running team,” Hightower said. “They have a stable of big backs. You can tell they’re well-coached. It’s going to be a real challenge for us.”
Like St. Thoma More, Acadiana will play an out-of-state opponent for the first time. The top-ranked Rams opened Friday with a 55-6 triumph over Northside.
Shades Valley is a Class 6A team that went 10-2 and advanced to the second round of the state playoffs last season before losing to state power Hoover 33-14. They boast the state’s top-ranked player in defensive tackle Daren Payne (6-foot-2, 346 pounds) and Mississippi State commitment Keith Mixon, a 5-8, 175-pound running back.
“You’re going in and playing a team you have no familiarity with,” Davidson said. “The hard part is comparing them to somebody you’ve seen. It kind of puts you in a quandary. It’s an exciting thing to do and the kids enjoy it.”