By T. Scott Boatright
The Lincoln Preparatory School athletics teams have been “road warriors” for three years now.
And it looks like the Lincoln Prep football team will probably have to spend at least the majority of its four-game 2022 home season playing on the home fields of their opponents.
But Panthers head coach Glen Hall says there is light at the end of the tunnel, and that light is growing brighter by the day.
It all began with a desegregation lawsuit initiated by the United States in 1966 involving Grambling Laboratory High School.
That decades-long legal battle eventually led to the closure of Grambling Lab and the other Grambling laboratory schools. But rising like a phoenix from the ashes , Lincoln Preparatory School opened as a charter school for the 2016-17 school year, still playing athletic games in the old Grambling Lab facilities as well as at Grambling State University.
But then in January of 2020, the U.S. District Court barred Lincoln Prep from operating on the GSU campus for the following school year because of delays in meeting desegregation requirements involving the percentage of white students attending the school.
So Lincoln Preparatory became a nomadic school starting the 2020-21 school year, with classes split between various sites in Grambling and Lincoln Parish and athletics teams forced to play at other locations.
And it’s been that way ever since. The Panthers played a 2021 home football playoff game at Louisiana Tech, and the Panthers basketball teams played last season at the New Living Word Gym before the boys team played a pair of “home” playoff games at Scotty Robertson Memorial Gym on the Tech campus.
But last November ground was broken on a new school campus now under construction at 1455 West Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. in Grambling.
And with any luck, Hall said there’s at least a slight chance the Panthers could play a late 2022 game or two on their home field located on their new campus.
“I’ve been talking to different surrounding schools but nobody has pulled the trigger for me yet, so if I can’t get anyone to help me out I’ll just reverse it on the schedule and play our home schedule on the road with those games being played on our field next year,” Hall said of his team’s 2022 season..
Lincoln Prep has four home games on its 10-game slate this season — Sept. 9 against Plain Dealing, Sept. 30 against Lakeside, Oct. 1 against River Oaks and Nov. 4 against Ouachita Christian.
Hall admits playing all 10 regular season games on the road won’t be easy.
“It’s tough,” Hall said. “Not getting to look forward to having your home crowd at your home stadium, and not being able to perform in front of them isn’t an easy thing. But I try to convince my kids every day that we’re road warriors. We’ve been doing it for three years now, so the team just continues working hard and are ready to start official practice next week and get after it.”
Seeing the new Lincoln Prep campus quickly being constructed has helped uplift Hall’s “road warriors.”
“That provides a big spark. We have so many people on our waiting list waiting to be able to get into Lincoln Prep, it’s ridiculous,” Hall said. “We’re supposed to move into the new campus probably around Thanksgiving.
“Everybody knows that people like brand new toys, so I truly expect the number of players on the football team will be a lot higher for the 2024 season.”
Hall also has his fingers crossed in hopes that progress on the school and stadium continues the way it has in recent weeks.
“If that happens, who knows? Maybe we get to play the last game of the season or a playoff game on our home field,” Hall said.
The Panthers are playing four games up in class this season — at 2A Madison (Sept. 2), at 2A Jonesboro-Hodge (Sept. 23), vs. 2A Lakeside (Sept. 30) and at 3A Richwood (Oct. 7).
“I’ve always believed playing bigger teams with more players can help make you stronger and make you better for the playoffs,” Hall said. “ I love playing those kinds of games.”
Hall also knows his Panthers will at least get one opportunity to play in front of the home crowd. Lincoln Prep will play a jamboree game on Aug. 27 against Red River in Eddie G. Robinson Memorial Stadium.
“So we know we’ll get to play in Grambling at least once this season anyway,” Hall said. “We have to make our own future this season, but we can see a brighter future coming down the road. We’re just ready to get it all started.”
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