By T. Scott Boatright
It’s shaping up to be one of the biggest regular season football games ever for Lincoln Preparatory School as the Panthers prepare to take on Haynesville at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Jonesboro-Hodge football stadium.
And if the Panthers, who have turned in a solid season so far and stand at 5-3 overall and 4-3 in District 1-1A, could somehow take down the Golden Tornado, it would be a victory of historic proportions.
History has shown that Lincoln Prep will have its hands full facing a Haynesville team that has gone to the playoffs for 42 straight seasons, the third-longest streak in the state behind only John Curtis and Kentwood, which have both made 46 straight playoff appearances.
Haynesville has also won 17 state championships (1924, 1929, 1936, 1970, 1971, 1984, 1987, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2009, 2013 and 2014), ranking second for most titles in Louisiana behind only John Curtis, which has won state 26 times.
“Everybody knows about those guys,” said Lincoln Prep head coach Glen Hall about Haynesville. “They’re a strong team every year. They make deep playoff runs every year. It’s like ‘David vs. Goliath,’ and Haynesville is Goliath.
“But anything is always possible. David beat Goliath with only a slingshot. It was all about execution. And that’s what this game will be about for us. We’ll have to execute and play near perfect football in all three phases of the game to have a chance. That’s the only way you can beat great teams like Haynesville.”
Lincoln Prep has never defeated Haynesville since rising from the metaphoric ashes of what was once known as Grambling Laboratory High School to start the 2016-17 school year.
Since 2009, the Golden Tornado has stormed past high school football teams from Grambling by the combined score of 446-95 through 10 games.
Following is a year by year breakdown of series results since 2009.
• 2020: Haynesville 57, Lincoln Prep 0
• 2019: Haynesville 43, Lincoln Prep 8
• 2018: Haynesville 53, Lincoln Prep 12
• 2017: Haynesville 20, Lincoln Prep 13
• 2016: Haynesville 49, Lincoln Prep 0
• 2015: Haynesville 56, Grambling Lab 8
• 2014: Haynesville 58, Grambling Lab 22
• 2013: Haynesville 40, Grambling Lab 8
• 2010: Haynesville 46, Grambling Lab 6
• 2009: Haynesville 24, Grambling Lab 18
The Panthers have been consistent so far this season, defeating all teams it was considered to have a chance against. But Lincoln Prep fell hard to perennial powerhouses Calvary Baptist and Homer, and also lost big to Louisiana High School Athletic Association newcomer Glenbrook.
Lincoln Prep comes into the contest riding the momentum of a 45-12 win at Magnolia School of Excellence last week in Shreveport.
Haynesville (5-3 overall, 4-2 in District 1-1A) will be looking to rebound from a 49-7 home loss last week to Calvary Baptist. The Golden Tornado has also lost to Glenbrook at home and at North Webster this season.
“Haynesville is Haynesville,” Hall said. “They’re going to be solid on their running game and they’re going to play solid defense. I’ve told our guys that if we go in and make the tackles we need to make, and make our blocks, I think we can score the ball because I’m doing some new things and the kicks are picking up real quick on it. I think if we can execute we can score, but I also know we’re really going to have to do some tackling if we want to stay in the game.”
Lincoln Prep’s three losses saw the opposing team pull away from the Panthers early. That’s something not lost on Hall.
“If we can stay close or even heading into the fourth quarter, I think they will give us a chance to win,” Hall said Tuesday evening. “We looked really focused today and had a great practice. I told the team today I feel good about this game. I know it’s going to be tough and there might be times it will be tough on them. But I told them I don’t want to see them put their heads down at any point. We just have to keep on fighting the whole way — the whole game.”
Lincoln Prep center Marvin Johnson missed last week’s game due to illness, forcing Hall to juggle his offensive line and move blue chip left guard Imani Marcel to center.
Johnson has been back at practice this week, but as part of some of the new offensive schemes Hall has had the Panthers work on, Marcel could remain at center against the Golden Tornado.
“I can move Imani back to guard, but I might not do that,” Hall said. “We have a huge nose tackle (Lathan Elmore, who Hall said stands at 5-9 but weighs in over 380 pounds) that I think I want to match up with Haynesville sizewise. So we may keep Imani at center, because he really knows how to snap the ball, and move our other big nose tackle to guard.”
Those aren’t the only offensive changes Hall is considering.
“Simmons ran well today,” Hall said. “We had races going on and the kids really enjoyed the practices (Monday) and (Tuesday). They’re excited and they look good. That’s part of the reason I feel good.
“During the practices we’ve been using Emmanuel Bryant, who has been playing H-back and tight end, some at tailback. We actually have practiced with Ta’Rell Simmons moving from quarterback to the receiver opposite Dmitry Payne to maybe try and keep the defense from doubling on Payne so much. Or if they do still double Payne, Ta’Rell is a natural receiver and such a big target that he can really help us that way. We’ve moved Braylen Mayfield to quarterback and he’s been looking pretty good doing that and has made some good throws.”
Hall hopes any offensive changes will help the Panthers stay close early in hopes of trying to pull off the win.
“The first quarter will be big,” Hall said. “But even if we fall behind, as long as we stay positive and move the ball some and score ourselves, I like our chances. Haynesville deserves all the accolades they’ve earned over the years. But this team I have just seems more together than we’ve had over the past few years. They like being around each other and having fun. If I can get them to keep fighting together the way they have fun together, then I think we have a chance.
“I can promise one thing — we’re going in to win. What Haynesville has done in the past is great. But our team is working toward the future one game at a time. We could get really good playoff positioning if we can somehow pull this off. Our players have been excited in practices this week. Now we have to carry that over to the opening kickoff on Thursday.”
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