Last week the Iota Bulldogs were searching for its first victory, looking to string together a complete game.
This week they are entering unchartered, looking to start a winning streak as it enters district 5-2A play and celebrates Homecoming week.
It will be a busy week, but also an exciting one for Iota (1-4) as they will host the Bunkie Panthers (0-5) this week.
“We want to try to keep this momentum going,” said Head Coach Neal Legé. “We had a big win last week and that helped us out a lot and as far as the season goes, we’re ready for district.”
Last week marked Iota’s best game of the season, but the Bulldogs have been on the uptick for three weeks now with decreasing mistakes and increasing productivity, and when Iota faced Oberlin, they finally found it, two penalties and stability offensively (thanks in large part to the Bulldogs running game).
Through the first half of the season, Iota has 836 yards rushing on 208 carries. That is compared to its 13 completions for 220 yards in the air, or an almost 4:1 run-to-pass ratio.
But even more telling, of the 1056 yards of total offense Iota has amassed this season, the Bulldogs’ have found its most productive duo in Thomas Murrell and Brandon Fantroy, who have 376 and 607 offensive yards, respectively. Combined, they account for over 90 percent of the Bulldogs offense.
“Both backs are running real well right now,” said Legé. “We try to rotate them as much as we can and whoever has the hot hand we go with them. But both are doing a really good job of seeing the holes and making the right cuts and they are getting better from week to week. Hopefully that trend will continue.”
As it heads into district play, Iota will lean heavily on the two as well as its other emerging offensive stars.
“Oberlin has a really good team,” said Legé, “and coming off of a win like that really boosts your team heading into district.”
The district 5-2A slate is an interesting one, to say the least, as Iota, Pine Prairie (1-3, defeated North Central in its first game of the season, Week Two) and Ville Platte (2-3, defeated Sacred Heart-VP and Port Barre in weeks three and five, respectively) are the only teams to record victories so far in the season, while Bunkie, Mamou and Oakdale remain winless. Meaning, the district is up for grabs, something Iota is looking forward to already.
“I think any team in our district could win it if it gets on a roll,” said Legé. “It is going to boil down to who does the best job of controlling the game, running the ball and playing good defense.”
But before it can look ahead, Iota has one focus, winning its Homecoming game against the Panthers.
The Panthers season has not gone well as it has been outscored 219 to 25 in its five games this season, including two scoreless games. Bunkie has also found itself in blowouts almost all season, averaging only five points per game scored and allowing 43.8 per game, something Iota’s offense will look to exploit.
“Bunkie is kind of like us,” said Legé. “They are searching for an identity on offense and the defense has had the same problems we’ve had in the past. So, you have two teams entering district looking for a good start.
“The scores do not tell the whole story with Bunkie, they’ve played some quality teams, Elton has a really good ball club and Avoyelles is scoring 70 or 80 points on just about everybody, so they’ve played good competition. They’re just having trouble scoring points to match the other team.”
In the Panthers best game of the season, they put up 13 points and limited Holy Savior Menard (4-1) to 38 points. The Week Two contest saw the Panthers’ gain 223 yards of total offense, 192 of which came on the ground, meaning Iota will be facing another run-first team. On the other side, Iota will have to be wary of Bunkie’s quiet passing game.
“Bunkie has athletes that can cause trouble,” said Legé. “They like to run the ball with their backs and their quarterback, but if you put too many in the box, they will try to slip one past you.”
Luckily for the Bulldogs, they have shown the capability of stopping, or at least limiting, the opposing teams’ playmakers. It limited Vinton’s D.J. Reed to 126 yards and one big play; Lake Arthur’s eighth grade standout Trey Hargrave only amassed 24 yards on Iota’s defense after having a breakthrough performance the week prior; and it held Joe Ledet from South Beauregard to only 88 yards; all things Legé and the defense can hang their hat on.
That was even more evident last week as Iota had young players step in and perform well while missing both defensive tackles. Legé is hopeful that he will soon see both players return, but both are still listed day-to-day. Until their return, the Bulldogs must once again rely on the younger Dogs to get the ball rolling in district.
“We’ve moved some people around, especially on the lines with injuries and what we are seeing on film,” he said. “I think we are starting to find places for everyone and everything is starting to fall into place. That gives us more options on offense and particularly on defense.
“We had guys that had never played on defense step in and play well. Not only that but to stop a high scoring team like Oberlin, you know you have done a pretty good job.”
Outside of the two, Iota also remains relatively healthy, an even more welcomed sight entering the second half of the year.
“We have typical mid-season bumps and bruises,” said Legé. “I think if we can stay healthy, we will be OK.”
Iota’s Homecoming tilt with Bunkie kicks off at 7 p.m. at Bulldog Stadium.