One of the most highly anticipated games of this weekend's Battle on the Border lost some star power last week when Parkway (LA) quarterback Justin Rogers was sidelined for the season with a knee injury. Meanwhile, Pearl (MS) is on the opposite trajectory heading into Friday's clash in Shreveport, LA.
Can the depleted Panthers still keep up with the 25th-ranked team in USA Today's Super 25 Expert Rankings? Here's everything you need to know.
Battle on the Border VII -- Bossier City Parkway (LA) vs. Pearl (MS)
When: Friday, Sept. 8 at 8:30 PM (CT)
Where: Independence Stadium, Shreveport, LA
What you should know about Parkway:The nation's top-ranked wide receiver, Terrace Marshall, will have to make plays without the No. 2 dual threat quarterback in the country delivering the ball. Rogers, a TCU commit, was lost for the season during last week's blowout victory over Shreveport Washington. Needless to say, his absence casts significant uncertainty onto what was a team with championship aspirations.
What you should know about Pearl:Pearl is off to a 3-0 start, including a 28-21 win over Vicksburg Warren Central (MS), and ascended to No. 25 in the USA Today Super 25 Expert Rankings this week. The Pirates have sputtered offensively, but linebacker Willie Brown has been a terror for opposing offenses.
OffenseJunior slot receiver Amani Larry takes over at quarterback in the wake of Rogers' injury. He's a burner who will be able to make plays with his feet. Larry was effective in relief of Rogers last week, as well, going 9 of 14 for 87 yards and carrying eight times for 84 yards. At wide receiver, Marshall will make Larry's life a lot easier, as well. The 6-foot-3 Marshall is an elite athlete who will go up and make plays. He'd benefit from having Rogers behind center but figures to make his presence felt regardless.
Pearl found some success in the air during its first two games behind senior quarterback Jake Smithhart, who threw for 362 yards and four touchdowns. Against Northwest Rankin, however, Smithhart and the Pirates struggled. Smithhart was just 8 for 18 with 64 yards and fumbled three times. The running game was improved in week three but had nowhere to go but up after posting team rushing totals of negative-43 yards and minus-1 yard in the first two weeks of the season.
DefenseParkway dominated Shreveport Washington last week, smothering the Lions offense en route to a 35-8 victory. The Panthers are particularly strong in the secondary with a pair of Division I-bound defensive backs in safety Israel Mukuamu (a Florida State commit) and cornerback Jaylon Hall. Washington managed just 50 yards passing.
Pearl's strength is its defense -- and, more specifically, at linebacker. Willie Brown, who racked up 141 tackles as a junior, paces the team in tackles again in 2017 but also recovered a fumble and intercepted a pass in last week's victory over Northwest Rankin. The Pirates are allowing just 58 rushing yards per game through three weeks. If Pearl again struggles to move the ball, Brown and the Pearl defense will be looked upon to take control of the game against one of the most explosive offenses they will face this season.
IntangiblesThe loss of Rogers has, understandably, hit the Parkway program hard during the last week. A few mistakes in the passing game could weigh heavier on the psyche of players and fans than would have normally been the case. Across the field, Pearl is a veteran group confident that, regardless of struggles and deficits, it will find a way to win.
Key MatchupJake Smithhart vs. Parkway's secondary
Establishing a ground attack has been tough sledding for Pearl through its first few games. If that continues, it will be Smithhart and the passing game that will need to provide the scoring -- and, even without Rogers, Parkway figures to put up some points. Mukuamu, Hall, and the Parkway secondary were outstanding in their season opener and can drastically impact the outcome of this one if they're able to eliminate the Pirates' air attack.
Friday & Saturday, September 8-9 | 6 PM (CDT)Shreveport Independence Stadium, Shreveport, LA
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