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|Sterlington defeats OCS, heads to Rayville|
The Sterlington Panthers (3-0) stood tall on a late two-point conversion attempt to turn away the Ouachita Christian Eagles, 14-13 last Friday.
Sterlington will now head to Class 3A powerhouse Rayville this week.
Last week, OCS (2-1) grabbed an early 7-0 lead when quarterback Paul Michael Garner found wide receiver Mark Laird for a 30-yard score. Senior kicker Taylor Dawson added the extra point to give the Eagles the early advantage. Sterlington responded with a long drive that ended with an eight-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Logan Dopson to Clay Branton just before halftime.
Sterlington took the lead in the third quarter when they finally drove down the field behind the arm of Dopson and the hands of Branton, who had six receptions for 61 yards on the night.
Branton scored on a 27-yard reception from Dopson with just over two minutes remaining in the game and then caught the two-point conversion to give the Panthers the advantage.
His brother, Clint, seemed to have put the game away for Sterlington when he intercepted a pass with under two minutes remaining.
However, the Sterlington offense quickly faltered when an option pitch popped into the hands of OCS' Shawn Key, who raced untouched into the endzone.
A trap inside on the two-point conversion as stopped short of the goal line on the next play to seal the win for the Panthers thanks to a big tackle by junior linebacker Dustin Theut.
"They didn't do anything we did not expect," Sterlington head coach Mike Collins said. "They shut our run game down and we had some success throwing the football in the second half."
Another big stat for the Sterlington defense was the fact that they won the turnover battle 4-1 in helping the team to victory.
Sterlington now heads to Rayville where they will try to correct mistakes that nearly cost them against the OCS Eagles.
A punt snap that was low and caused the punter to go to one knee on the 12-yard line is something Sterlington cannot afford to do too often in the future, Collins said.
"Rayville is so sound and have such great athletes," Collins said. "We have to be smart and play solid assignment football."
This will certainly be the longest trip and toughest environment that Sterlington has gone into this season, but the coaching staff is not worried about the trip affecting the team's ability to execute.
"We do ok on the road and that is not an issue with us," Collins said. "We just have to play smart and make plays."
Rayville quarterback Phaquinton Lawson is one of the top athletes in the state this season, Collins said.
"There is not a better athlete at quarterback in the state in my mind," Collins said. "He is a special talent."
The Rayville defense will try to take away the Sterlington rushing attack like OCS and then use their experience in big games to their advantage.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. in Rayville.