All Avoyelles Parish teams open 2020 football season at home tonight
The COVID-shortened football season will finally get underway tonight.
While six high school football teams will take to Avoyelles Parish's three football fields tonight, there will be two unseen "players" who have already made their presence known -- COVID and Laura.
Avoyelles, Bunkie and Marksville were all on the road last week to play practice scrimmages to prepare for the 8-game season's openers. All three are at home tonight. Due to measures to control the spread
of COVID, the stands can only be at 25 percent capacity.
Bunkie got a "double whammy" of the two recent natural disasters.
Scheduled opponent Mamou Green Demons had to cancel at the last moment when one oftheir players tested positive for COVID-19 -- throwing the entire team into a two-week quarantine.
Luckily -- if "luck" is the appropriate word -- Panthers Coach Nick Pujol was able to find a replacement who had also lost their Oct. 2 opponent.
"I was on the phone all day, literally, trying to find someone to play," Pujol said. "South Beauregard said they would come to us because their opponent, DeQuincy, was unable to play."
The Calcasieu Parish School Board decided none of their parish schools would play Week 1 because several were unable to practice due to damage from Hurricane Laura.
"The Calcasieu School Board decided it wouldn't be fair for some schools to play and not others, so they said none can play in Week 1," Pujol said.
The Knights are also a victim of Hurricane Laura, being rendered virtually "homeless" by the monster storm's savagery.
"Their coach said he hopes they can play one home game in their stadium this season," Pujol said. "They will play their home games at nearby schools, sometimes on Saturday."
The pre-season scrimmages, held Sept. 24 for Avoyelles and Sept. 25 for the other two teams, were not actual games.
Each team was allowed a certain number of plays on offense. The guidelines for the games varied. No score was officially kept.
Pujol said the scrimmage against Sacred Heart of Ville Platte was good for its intended purpose -- to give players some level of "live-fire" experience before the opening kickoff and first snap from center.
"There were some bright spots and some weak points to address for Week 1," he said. "It was pretty much what you would expect."
Marksville traveled to Oakdale for its work-out.
"It was a good day," Tigers Coach J.T. Dunbar said. "If you were keeping score, we scored four times and they scored zero."
Dunbar said the defense played well and "overall I was pretty pleased. I just hope we can find some depth. That's my concern at this point.
In the Marksville-Oakdale scrimmage, each school's 1st string offense was allowed 15 plays against the 1st string defense and another 12-play drive on offense in the first half. The 2nd string teams squared off in the second half with each offense getting a 12-play and 10-play series.
"We scored on each series," Dunbar noted.
The Avoyelles Mustangs' ball-control, ground-and-pound style was not a good fit for the controlled scrimmage rules when the men from Moreauville went to CatholicNew Iberia.
"They scored twice -- the last time on a long touchdown pass with no time left on the clock," AHS Coach Andy Boone said.
"They couldn't really stop us, but we ran out of plays inside the 20 and inside the 30."
The Mustangs fumbled deep in Panthers territory on another series and were stopped past the 30 on 4th and one on another.
"Our defense played well and our offense played well," Boone said. "Carlos Bazert looked better than anyone else on the field. He was running over people."
The 6-1, 245-pound athlete also played some at defensive lineman.
Boone said Catholic-New Iberia "is one of the better teams we will play this year. They're Class 1A, but they're private and have about 80 guys on the sideline."
Avoyelles faces the St. Edmund Fighting Blue Jays in Mustang Stadium.
Asked for a prediction on the outcome, Boone said, "I just want to score one more point than they get. That's my goal for every game this season. Just one more point."
Boone said he believes his team "is ready to play. I think we're going to have a huge year."
Pujol said the Panthers and South Beauregard "are pretty evenly matched. I expect a good game, an entertaining game for the fans."
Marksville plays 5A Pineville High. The smaller Tigers defeated Pineville last year -- but in high school, the team is different every year.
Dunbar said he is expecting a challenge from the Rebels, "just like they bring every time we play them."
Due to COVID, no tickets will be sold at the gate to ensure attendance is kept below the 25 percent capacity under the state's Phase 3 COVID