Panthers begin year off on the road; take on Class 4A Tioga

PINE PRAIRIE -- Gas up your vehicles, check the tires and get ready to roll Pine Prairie fans, because for the next four weeks your Panther football team will be road warriors. And, it all starts tomorrow night, as the Panthers will travel up to Ball to face off against the Tioga Indians out of Class 4A. Game time is set for 7 p.m.
The Panthers were already scheduled to play three of the first four games on the road in 2018. But, because of the tremendous amount of rain last year, the Beau Chene contest was switched to Pine Prairie. That meant that the Panthers had to travel to the Gators this season.
The Panthers come into the first regular season game with one thing on their mind; making the playoffs for the first time in school history. In order to do that, Pine Prairie must get over the three-win hump that has plagued them over the past three seasons.
“We really need to get off to a good start this year,” stated Pine Prairie head coach Yves Prince. “Getting that first win in your first game of the year would be a huge morale boost for our players. It is going to be tough. Tioga is a very athletic team and will present problems for us, especially on the defensive side of the ball.”
Last season, the Indians handled the Panthers rather easily, winning 33-7. But, Pine Prairie has shown some true grit in their scrimmage against St. Ed’s and in their two jamboree outings against Basile and Sacred Heart.
In the jamboree, the Panthers overcame an early turnover inside the red zone to take a 7-0 win over the Bearcats. In that game, returning All-Parish running back JJ Sims carried the ball eight times for 47 yards and a touchdown, a testament to the offensive line of the Panthers.
However, Pine Prairie did turn the ball over inside the five-yard line and was called for three penalties.
“We made a few mistakes up front on offense against Basile,” said Prince. “But, I thought we were aggressive at the point of attack and allowed JJ (Sims) to find the open spaces to get free. Our biggest problem is one that we have had over the past few years, putting the ball on the ground. We are going to have to stop turning the ball over in crucial situations. For us to have any chance of making it to the post-season, we will need to cut down on the mistakes.”
Defensively against the Bearcats, Pine Prairie gave up some yards to Basile, but the defense came up big when needed.
“When you can stop the opponent from scoring, you tend not to lose the game,” said Prince. “I thought we did a good job of execution on defense in that first game. We are not big up front, so we rely on our stunts. Overall, I was pleased with our defense in the Basile game.”
Pine Prairie floundered a little bit against Sacred Heart, however. The Panthers could not move the ball much against the Trojans and turned the ball over twice, once on a fumble and once on an interception. Still, Prince saw something good come out of both games.
“I liked what our special teams did in the jamboree,” commented Prince. “We flew to the ball and did not allow Sacred Heart or Basile to get going in that phase of the game. Special teams is an important aspect of football and can win or lose a game for you. Overall, the mistakes that were made by us in the jamboree are all correctable.”
As far as Tioga goes, Prince knows that the Indians will be ready to play.
“Tioga likes to throw the ball all over the field,” said Prince. “They have some terrific receivers that can take it to the house. They want to spread you out and use their athleticism to their favor. Our game plan is to chew up clock and yardage on offense and try to keep the ball out of their hands. We definitely want to slow the game down. I think we can run on them. They have a good return game, so we will have to be on our toes on special teams. Hopefully, we can come away with a win.”

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