Woodlawn High’s defense provided a bright spot in a long, frustrating night overall Thursday to open football season.
The Panthers struggled to find offensive consistency, including three turnovers, and stumbled to a 25-0 loss to University Lab in the opener, which they hosting at East Iberville.
“The defense played lights out — I should start there with the pros,” coach Marcus Randall said. “The defense was in bad situations pretty much throughout the game, but stood tall and forced field goals when given short fields or turnovers on downs. They did a great job.”
Senior defensive lineman Mark Fielder led the way with two sacks, four other tackles for loss and another quarterback hurry.
Senior defensive lineman Devin Boyd and junior defensive lineman Joe London chipped in tackles at or behind the line.
Junior linebacker Chris Cooper navigated traffic well to square up multiple sure tackles near the line to contain the U-High rushing attack.
And senior defensive back Dezaray “D.J.” Delmore broke through the U-High line to block an extra-point attempt.
“(Fielder) played stellar,” Randall said. “The whole defense did, but that front was really able to shut their run down. That’s what we came in to do. And we knew they were gonna try to use multiple backs to run the football, and I will say Mark Fielder and the rest of the defensive linemen stood up strong on the inside.”
Woodlawn held the Cubs to just 132 yards, but repeatedly started backed into its own red zone because of two long punt returns, two interceptions, a fumble and a blocked punt.
The Panthers managed just 86 total yards total — 35 on the ground and 51 through the air and didn’t gain a first down until the final minute of the third quarter.
LSU-committed quarterback Rickie Collins completed five of his 17 passes for 51 yards as he scrambled from constant pressure by U-High.
And Louisiana (Lafayette) running back commitment Jay’veon Haynes finally gained 34 yards on back-to-back fourth-quarter runs to supply nearly the entirely of the rushing production with the game already out of reach.
“Obviously the offensive line struggled today as we saw they did in the scrimmage game,” Randall said. “Those five guys there, they’re trying to get their continuity down, and we just couldn’t get anything going. They sent the blitzes and a lot of good stunts in there, and they were able to get a lot of pressure on the quarterback. Special teams, we’ve got to tighten those up as well. We didn’t give up scores, but we gave up a lot of field position on a couple punts there that set up scoring drives.”
The Panthers will attempt to regroup quickly as they face a challenging schedule with little let up.
Woodlawn will visit perennial power Lafayette Christian, winners of four straight state championships from 2017 to 2020, next Friday.
“So we’ve got to get back to the drawing board on all those things right there as we move to another state championship-caliber team,” Randall said. “We’re back on the road, and we’re back to work.”