Parkway coach and noted offensive guru David Feaster couldn’t explain why his defense looked so markedly different in its past two games.
He could only beam as he gushed about their complete and total dominance in a 20-6 win over No. 5 Byrd (4-1, 1-1) in Bossier City Friday night. The Yellow Jackets’ 16-game regular season win streak ended as they scored their only points on Trent Touchet’s 80-yard fumble return and never even made it past the Parkway 30 yard line until their last drive of the game.
“I’m just tickled pink with our performance tonight,” Feaster said. “It kind of makes us forget all about last week.”
Parkway (4-1, 1-1) certainly didn’t have many good memories from a 56-21 thrashing at the hands of Evangel, which rushed for nearly 300 yards while owning the line of scrimmage. But the Panthers responded at practice during the week and showed they’re still contenders for a District 1-5A crown.
Evangel runs over Parkway in district opener
Byrd pounds Shreve, cements status as 1-5A favorite
As coaches love to say, it all started up front as Parkway closed some huge middle gaps and refused to be pushed back by a Byrd offensive line accustomed to manhandling its opponents. The Panthers sent a message in the first quarter when the Yellow Jackets had two plays to gain 1 yard for a first down and fullback Tray Allen got stuffed at the line twice.
“We were doing some things with our line and moving them around and trying to get ourselves in the best position to gang tackle Tray Allen because he’s so good,” defensive coordinator Neil May said. “We were trying to make some adjustments to get to where we didn’t have one person trying to tackle him.”
The game plan worked as Allen netted only 45 yards on 16 carries. Parkway also added some much-needed bulk to the middle of its line by moving 290-pound offensive lineman Nick So’oto to defensive tackle.
On the rare occasions Byrd running backs actually found some space, they were likely to be met by senior Lloyd Cole. The ballhawking free safety made some big plays against the pass as well and finished with seven solo tackles and 12 assists.
“Lloyd Cole is the heart and soul of our defense,” May said. “He knew going into this game that he was going to have a big night and he did.”
Injuries made the challenge even tougher for Byrd, which was already without starting running back Tysen Hardman and lost sophomore Jalin Thomas on his first carry. Byrd coach Mike Suggs said he didn’t know the extent of the electric kick returner’s injury, and even quarterback Deuce Caston missed some key snaps due to cramps in a gutsy performance that saw him set a career-high with 106 rushing yards.
“We had so many missed assignments in the first half that we never could generate any momentum,” Suggs said. “We had some people out and that’s not an excuse. We just got beat.”
Feaster said even after an impressive start, he figured the Panthers would need more than Keondre Wudtee’s three first-half touchdowns to hold off a Byrd team that averaged more than 41 points in its first four wins and hadn’t scored fewer than seven points since 2009. Wudtee finished with 279 passing yards and still left some points on the board, most notably when he overthrew a wide open Deonte Hawkins on what would have been a sure touchdown over the middle.
But it would be a mistake for future opponents to read too much into two relatively low-scoring weeks for the Parkway offense, particularly since Feaster said Wudtee has been hobbled by an ankle injury. If the Panthers defense can continue to play the way it did Friday night, they’re capable of beating anyone.