Strong line play is the foundation for any football team, and coaches for both teams expect that to make the difference at the 16th annual Red Stick Bowl on Saturday.
Black Knights coach Dwayne Thomassee sees his team’s defensive line as its best unit while the Rattlers' Frank Fresina believes his team's strength will come from the offensive line.
“I think the game is going to come down to our offensive line versus their defensive line,” Thomassee said. “I think that’s going to be the heavyweight fight that a lot of spectators are going to enjoy watching.”
Kickoff for the high school all-star game is 2 p.m. at BREC’s Olympia Stadium.
With many all-star games dominated by skill players, Thomassee sees this year’s Red Stick Bowl as a rarity, but one that should be appreciated, nonetheless.
“It's usually about the skill kids — the quarterbacks and the running backs and the wide receivers — the guys that get out in space,” he said. “This game is going to be fun to watch because of the battle in the trenches. I’m excited to see that.”
Defensively, per Red Stick Bowl rules, teams won’t be allowed to blitz, but it’s a way of leveling the playing field, said Rattlers coach Frank Fresina.
“With only a few days to practice, you need to give the offense a chance to prepare something,” Fresina said. “Plus, you’ve got five guys up front that are playing together for the first time. It basically gets down to playing football, and that’s what you want it to be about.”
One challenge the coaches face, that of working every player into the game, is not really a challenge at all, Fresina said.
“It's easy at this point because you have the best of the best," he said. "All these guys can play. Our coaches have done a great job coming up with a rotation, and all of these guys will play.
“They all deserve to perform, and they’re all capable of performing. It's easy to match those two up.”
Last year, the Rattlers fell behind 10-0, but rallied for a 43-24 win. Current LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Catholic) caught a 16-yard touchdown pass, one of two thrown by Hayden Mallory (St. Amant) for the Black Knights.
Levi Lewis (Scotlandville) sparked the Rattlers, completing 12 of 17 passes including touchdowns of 21, 63 and 35 yards. Defensive back Chance Atkins (Central) returned an interception 70 yards for the clinching score.