WATSON – Live Oak football coach Brett Beard addressed his 29-member senior class following last week’s 35-0 homecoming win over Sci Academy that pushed their record to 5-0 for the first time in 17 years.
It was hardly the time the group of Eagles figured to hear about the potential of their season having an expiration date.
“I told them we’re at the halfway point,” Beard said. “In five weeks if you haven’t earned the opportunity to get an 11th game, you’re not a football player anymore. You’ll always tell stories about football, but you're no longer play football. It’s about taking advantage of opportunities and not letting these games get away from you. It’s not an option.”
The first such opportunity, which coincides with the start of District 4-5A play, may as well be on a billboard illuminated in neon lights Friday when Live Oak (5-0) hosts Zachary (2-2) – the reigning two-time Class 5A state champion.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Eagle Stadium where a capacity crowd’s expected.
“We know they’re good, but we’re also good,” Live Oak senior linebacker Gabe Kimble said. “It’s the next team up. We just need to keep playing like we’ve played and get better every day.”
Said Beard: “We all want to play the defending state champion, we all want the opportunity to be the ones that beat them. Realistically it is a big game because it’s Zachary, but it’s a bigger game because it’s our next one. It’s our first district game. It’s the next piece of the puzzle that we’re looking for, good or bad. There’s still a lot of question marks we’ll be able to get answers to this Friday. That’s what I’m excited about.”
Zachary represents the benchmark, not only in the district, but the state in Class 5A. Coach David Brewerton’s built a program that’s sustained success, having won the past two state titles and three of the last four.
The quarterback of that budding dynasty, quarterback Keilon Brown – a Memphis commitment – is back for his senior season where the Broncos have also recently welcomed back junior receiver Chris Hilton from an injury. He’s rated as the state’s top receiver in the Class of 2021.
“To stop guys like Keilon Brown (400 yards passing, 407 rushing) and Chris Hilton you’ve got to want and accept responsibility,” Beard said. “You’ve got to want that challenge. You’ve got to want that opportunity. You’ve got to want to make the best of it. Those are special dudes that have a lot of success under their belt with that coaching staff.”
Led by LSU defensive line commitment Jalen Lee, the Eagles defense has been a formidable one this season, allowing 92 yards per game – including minus-20 rushing.
Lee has 27 tackles and a team-high six sacks and Kimble four for the Eagles, who have 21 sacks to their credit.
“We’ve got to stay disciplined and we’ll be alright,” Kimble said. “As long as everyone does their job and plays physical, we’re going to be good.”
Live Oak's offense, behind a veteran offense line, relies on a ground-crunching running attack that’s averaging 203.4 yards, led by Army commitment Key Hawkins (99-567, 10 TDs) and Hagen Long (33-246, 2 TDs).
Quarterback Rhett Rosevear has completed 61 percent of his passes (28 of 46) for 545 yards with six touchdowns against five interceptions. C.J. Davis (7-98) tops the Eagles in receiving, while Byron Smith (6-175) has four receiving TDs.
“We feel like we are close but it’s games like this that we’ve got to start winning,” Beard said. “And to beat a team like Zachary you can’t make mistakes, you have to execute the game plan, you have to do the job that’s asked of you. You have to get it done.”
Live Oak will also alter its look at home to try and create a winning color combination against Zachary, which has won the last six outings in the series dating to 2012.
Beard promised his team that if they won their first five games, they could wear their white helmets with the school's blue and gold logo to go with a high school version of the NFL’s Color Rush - an all-gold jersey, pants and socks fit for the occasion.
“I’m just real excited about the opportunity to see where we’re at, to see the Watson community come out and support our kids and see if we can go 6-0,” Beard said. “I love going up against them and love coaching against them. I love watching our kids compete against them. We don’t feel like we’ve had a signature win here the last couple of years and this could be it.”