High-Powered Gladewater Rushing Attack Faces Traditional Louisiana Power St. Thomas More
Gladewater Bears (2-0)
Lafayette (La.) St. Thomas More Cougars (1-0)
6 p.m. Friday
Independence Stadium, Shreveport
- Gladewater: John Berry
- St. Thomas More: Jim Hightower
- Gladewater: def. Pittsburg, 77-14
- St. Thomas More: def. Sulphur (La.), 43-26
- Gladewater: vs. Carthage, Sept. 19
- St. Thomas More: vs. Lafayette (La.) Carencro, Sept. 19
- DT Daylon Mack, Sr., 6-1, 330 (11 tackles, 9 for loss, 1 sack; committed to Texas A&M)
- DL Quanterius Turner, Jr., 6-2, 280 (10 tackles, 6 for loss, 2 sacks)
- FB Justice Centers, Jr., 5-11, 220 (31 carries, 206 yards, 4 TDs)
- RB Darnell McKnight, Soph., 5-11, 195 (17 carries, 138 yards, 3 TDs)
- WR Caleb Williams, Jr., 5-11, 160 (3 catches, 92 yards, 1 TD)
- DB Daylon "Duke" Gordon, Sr., 5-10, 155 (12 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 2 PBU, 1 blocked kick)
- RB Marcello Jackson, Jr., 6-0, 177 (8 carries, 150 yards, 1 TD)
- RB Daryl Polk, Sr., 5-5, 175 (25 carries, 151 yards, 2 TDs; 1 catch, 18 yards)
St. Thomas More
- DE Robbie McElderry, Sr., 6-3, 240
- DB Will Trotter, Sr., 6-0, 185
- WR Tiger Bech, Sr., 5-9, 175
- LB Brennan Bourgeois, Sr., 6-0, 200
- OL Cole Kreger, Sr., 6-2, 290
- RB/KR Trevor Begue, Jr., 5-10, 170
- DB Deuce Wallace, Sr.
- QB Will Bellamy, Jr., 5-11, 175
Just the facts
- Gladewater is seeking its second 3-0 start since 2008. Its last came in 2012, which was followed by a seven-game losing streak.
- Friday's game will be Gladewater's first against a team from out of state since 1956 when the Bears faced Ruston, La.
- Through two games, Gladewater is averaging 55.5 points and 495.5 yards per game -- 396.5 rushing.
- Gladewater quarterback Nick Canaguier is averaging 33 yards on six completions with three touchdown passes.
- The Bears' 77 points last week were the most they've scored in a game in the last 63 years.
- St. Thomas More Catholic High School is currently ranked No. 4 in Class 4A in the latest Louisiana Sports Writers Association poll.
- STM went 10-2 last season, losing to Shreveport Evangel 32-29 in the 4A state quarterfinals.
- The Cougars have won five consecutive district titles, and have reached the state semifinal round seven times since 1991 -- the last coming in 2010.
Key matchup: Gladewater rushing attack vs. St. Thomas More defensive front. Gladewater has attempted just 10 passes so far this season, and for good reason: the Bears' ground game has been plenty busy getting Gladewater to the end zone. Gladewater's powerful running attack has had little trouble through two weeks. After going for 312 yards in a season-opening win over Daingerfield, the Bears erupted for 481 yards and seven touchdowns on only 39 rushing attempts -- an average of more than 12 yards per carry -- last week against Pittsburg. For the season, Gladewater already has four ball carriers with at least 138 yards, which means having running backs wear down late in games is rarely a problem the Bears experience. The running game was so effective last week, that when Gladewater did decide to throw, which it did three times, they all went for touchdowns. The Bears posted 589 yards of total offense last week on just 42 plays, which equates into an average of more than 14 yards per snap.
It's hard to predict which of Gladewater's four primary backs will have the most success. None of them have more than 31 carries through two games, and all of them are averaging at least 6.04 yards per attempt. Junior fullback Justice Centers leads the team with 31 carries for 206 yards and four touchdowns, but was only the team's third-leading rusher last week vs. Pittsburg. Daryl Polk led Gladewater with 111 yards a week ago, but the two backs with the highest ceilings might be junior Marcello Jackson and sophomore Darnell McKnight. Jackson has good size and is capable of breaking a long one every time he touches the ball, as evidenced by his four-carry, 110-yard performance last Friday night. McKnight bursted onto the scene as a freshman in the playoffs, and his star is only going to continue to brighten. He's the only one of the four Gladewater backs that has yet to surpass 100 yards in either of the first two games, but his time is coming.
St. Thomas More began its season last week with a 43-26 win over Sulphur, but its defense struggled at times, especially against the run. The Cougars allowed 273 rushing yards last week, which could be a concern for them going into Friday's game. Thirty-nine of Sulphur's 52 rushing attempts came from one person, Derrick Guillory, who finished the night with 204 yards. Sulphur quarterback Byron Walker accounted for 68 yards on 12 attempts. Gladewater will come at St. Thomas More will more than just a couple of options out of the backfield, and it will be up to a defensive front led by defensive end Robbie McElderry and linebacker Brennan Bourgeois to force Gladewater out of its comfort zone. With 89 rushing attempts to just 10 pass attempts through two games, it's fair to say that Gladewater will live and die with its ground game.
Don't be surprised if: The opener of the six-game Battle on the Border at Shreveport's Independence Stadium ends up being one of the weekend's most competitive contests. Gladewater is anxious to prove it's ready to be recognized as one of the very best teams in the state at the 4A level, and what better way to prove that than with a win against one of Louisiana's most storied programs? After falling behind Daingerfield 13-7 in the first half of the opener, Gladewater took its game to a new level by outscoring Daingerfield 27-0 the rest of the way, before blowing up for a 63-0 halftime lead over Pittsburg the next week. No one expects that type of domination from Gladewater this week, but if the Bears continue to show improvement like they've done through the first two games of the season, there's no telling what the Bears can accomplish going forward. If Gladewater's offensive production even remotely resembles the output of the last two weeks, the Bears could be 3-0 entering next week's battle with defending state champion Carthage.