MAIS football teams set for jamboree action

There will be a pick up in intensity and different-colored uniforms on the other side.

Silliman Institute football coach T.J. Davis said these are the differences between spring and summer and what his team will experience Friday night.

Baton Rouge’s two Mississippi Association of Independent Schools teams, Silliman and Central Private kick off their seasons Friday night with preseason jamboree contests on the road.

Davis’ Clinton-based Wildcats head to Bogalusa-based Ben’s Ford to face Salem at 7 p.m. and Ben’s Ford at 8 p.m. Central Private faces Acadiana Home School at 7:30 pm. at Louisiana College in Pineville.

“There will be refs out there, flags will be thrown and kids will be able to hit other kids with different colors on,” Davis said. “It’s not a regular season game, but the environment is there. You can see things you don’t see in practice — how they respond, how they execute in situations, how they react to adversity.”

Davis said the opportunity to face a district opponent in a jamboree, while not unprecedented, can be advantageous. He noted that with annual turnover, no team is the same as the season before.

That’s the part of the challenge he relishes.

“Football, like no other sport, requires everyone to do their individual job,” Davis said. “Teams have to learn each other, play for each other. Every team is different. It’s never the same 11 guys on both sides. This is about development and executing.”

Silliman looks to succeed and atone for a heartbreaking 20-17 playoff defeat at Tri-County Academy. The Wildcats have one of the area’s most sought afer recruits in two-way lineman Jozie Milton, a South Carolina commitment.

It’s a different story for Central Private, which is 1-19 over the past two seasons and looks to rebuild with first-year coach Joey Sanchez, former Zachary athletic director and Redemptorist assistant.

Sanchez will measure the progress of the Rebels with a realistic, expectant eye. Adding players has been a must the Rebels, who have more than doubled their roster size to 37 players.

“We want to see if they can take what we’ve taught them and implement it in a game atmosphere,” Sanchez said. “We want to see 11 guys on defense run at and attack the ball. We want to see 11 guys on defense who want to do their jobs but don’t look for credit.”

Starting quarterback Trenton Guay, a 6-foot-1, 170-pound transfer from Central High, will be sidelined by a sprained ankle. Sophomore Cade Sanchez will get the start at quarterback.

The Rebels will run a base I-formation, double-slot offensive attack with emphasis placed on tight end and fullback usage.

“Things are different under the lights,” Joey Sanchez said. “We’re looking for our seniors and juniors to make sure these younger guys are focused. The big thing is seeing how they all react. This was a spread team last year. We’re a team that will line up, run the ball and stop the run.”

Transfer Johnny Duncan (6-0, 210), a running back at Istrouma a year ago, is set to make his debut.

On defense, the Rebels will run a multiple four-man base front.

Davis said among other reasons, he’s pleased jamborees are here because he has been concerned his team might actually be a bit too “jacked up” in practice.

Davis stressed the return of junior quarterback Zach Kelly and his 3,000-plus combined yards from scrimmage is only part of the reason for optimism.

The Wildcats’ strength lies in their ability to not have a player or two keyed on by opponents on either offense or defense. The offense’s multiple-spread approach emphasizes ball distribution.The traditional 3-4 scheme employed on defense thrives on hard-nosed physicality.

Milton (6-3, 290) anchor to that defense and also plays a key role on offense.

“He’s a beast,” Davis said of Milton. “A big man. But he’s a silent leader. He does things the way they’re supposed to be done. He gets excited, but he’s more focused on being an example and setting the right tone.”

Jordan Talley (6-2, 245) excelled in the trenches but also will be used in the offensive backfield. Potential stars aside, it still comes back to a team philosophy and execution for Silliman.

“Our offense is productive, but nothing is unstoppable,” Davis said.

“If we don’t execute, it’s a mess. It’s like life. You work together and put out a good product. We have to play that way.”