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Red Stick Bowl practice begins with crisp session

Practice for the 16th annual Red Stick Bowl began Monday evening at Independence Park, and coaches were impressed with the players’ level of preparedness.

The game, which divides Baton Rouge metro area high school seniors into two teams, will be played Saturday at BREC's Olympia Stadium with kickoff at 2 p.m.

"The guys came out and jumped right into it, even those guys that might not have played since week 10 or week 11," Rattlers head coach Frank Fresina said. "You would have thought it was just another practice during the season."

Fresina noted the play of Donaldsonville quarterback Jaylin Williams as a prime example.

"(Williams) was a late pickup, and he came out ready to go," Fresina said. "He really picked things up. He's an exceptional athlete."

Black Knights coach Dwayne Thomassee noted the play of McKinley quarterback Zack Johnson, Tara running back Chris Avery and East Feliciana receiver Maleek Chriss.

Thomassee said Johnson showed leadership while Avery, who has only been playing football for one year, showed maturity beyond his level of experience.

“For a guy who never had formal experience before this year, our coaches rant and raved about him,” Thomassee said of Avery. “He’s a guy to keep an eye on.”

Defensively, Catholic linebacker Andrew Gauthier was directing traffic and helping players line up after only a 15 minute chalk talk, according to Thomassee.

Plaquemine defensive end A.J. Riley was impressive with an explosive first step.

“(Riley) is a speed rusher,” Thomassee said. “He’s a guy that’s giving our offensive line a little trouble right now.”

• There were a handful of players who opted not to participate, including Lutcher wide receiver Gregory Clayton, who was slated to play for the Rattlers. Walker receiver Qaue Clark was among the players added on short notice.

• The Red Stick Bowl has seen its participants use eight team names over the past 15 years. The Black Knights, a moniker that has been around the past 11 years, has been used the most. Their opponent, the Rattlers, are using that name for the third year. Before that, the Rough Riders squared off against the Black Knights eight times. The first three games, when the event was known as the Capital City Metro All-Star Classic, pitted Capital City against the Great Eight. The Oilers, Gators and River Pilots each made one appearance.

• The Rattlers will feature 46 players from 21 schools, a total culled from 10 districts. All seven teams from District 4-5A are represented. The Black Knights' 46-player roster comes from 19 schools in eight districts, including all six schools in District 5-5A. Also being represented are all six schools from District 6-4A, two with the Rattlers and four with the Black Knights. Districts 6-3A, 6-A and 5-A, as well as the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools, also will have member participation split among the two teams.

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