This Saturday the Lake Area Fighting Leopards participated in the New Orleans Saints annual 7 on 7 football competition. The Leopards came into the Tournament as an unknown to most, and disrespected by others. With 22 teams from the surrounding area and 2 from Mississippi with there eyes on the championship trophy, the Leopards were out for much more than a mere trophy could provide. RESPECT.
The first game of the day seemed to be an equal matchup between The Leopards and the West St. John Rams. Nevertheless once the Leopards started scoring, nothing could stop them. Quarterback Ricky Jones threw 5 TDs while the Leopard defense added 3 interceptions to seal the victory 44-28. Cyron Sutton was the offensive game breaker scoring 4 Touchdowns. Afterwards all the officials who called the game came and asked ” Where is Lake Area again?” All of which had a puzzled look on their faces.
The second game of the day was a heated match-up between district opponents Warren Easton who were the 2014 division10-4-A state runner up. The Eagles took an early 7-0 lead but the Leopards did not back down. In the closing min of the game the leopard offense took the field down 21-20. With a methodical drive down the field and 11 seconds left on the clock, Ricky Jones threw a strike downfield to a wide open receiver. As the ball traveled through the air you could here the Easton faithful fall to a dead silence as the game was thought to be over with the Leopards victorious. Unfortunately the pass was dropped and the sidelines erupted. Yet the statement had been made, The Leopards are for real.
The third game was against West Jefferson High School. The scorching sun ate away at the team but the offensive firepower and blanket defense led by Junior Terrence “TJ” Jackson gave the West Jeff Buccaneers a fit. Though the defense gave up a few touchdowns due to blown coverages they managed to pull it together for a 48-25 victory. Brice Kensey was the offensive game-breaker scoring three times.
Once again the Leopards had to face West St. John. This game was tough on the team due to the previous two games being outside in the searing heat. The Leopards seemed exhausted and worn from the Sun but not even mother nature could stymie the Leopard offense. While several players were suffering from heat cramps they still endured and dominated their competition. West St. John did not go down without a fight. The game was tied at half-time 14-14. Once again in the second half the Leopard offense exploded with three un-answered touchdowns and the defense stepping up with 2 interceptions. finishing the game 35-21. Cyron Sutton and Donte McDonald was the offensive game breakers.
Now the Leopards faced the favorites to win the tournament. Hattiesburg. This is a team that has competed in 7 straight 7 on 7 tournaments, won them all, and came into this one un-defeated. This is the team that the Newman Head Coach said on the sidelines ” well we are all here to compete but we might as well just give the trophy to Hattiesburg”. Well, the Leopards didn’t receive that memo and stood toe to toe with the #1 seed. Every score by Hattiesburg was answered by a score from the Leopards. Not backing down or wavering in the face what appeared to be an unstoppable opponent. “This had to have been the most exciting game of the tournament”, according to coaches and officials who all stopped to watch the fireworks. The Lake Area receiving corp. went to work on the out of town opponents, with four different receivers scoring touchdowns. “I know it was because our kids had no clue who they were so they approached the game as if they were facing an average opponent, I guess that is what they mean by ignorance is bliss” said Coach Josh Moore offensive line coach for the Leopards. By games end the Leopards upset the number 1 seed in the tournament 35-28. When the game ended the Hattiesburg players all genuinely congratulated the Leopards for an outstanding win and for being such good opponents. “That was the first time we lost in a long time” said many of the Hattiesburg players, “good game”.
Once again the Leopards had to face the Warren Easton Fighting Eagles with the winner of this game going on to the Championship game to face the winner of Karr VS St. Augustine. This game did not start like the first matchup. Warren Easton did not take the
field the way they had earlier that day. They did not look at the Leopards the same way. They knew now the Leopards had receivers that could really run routes, a quarterback with pinpoint accuracy and the ability to throw the deep ball, defensive backs that can and will cover you and coaches on the sideline that were not afraid of the challenge. The Leopards went to work early and often scoring on all but two drives and making 4 key interceptions, 3 into the hands of Cyron Sutton who moonlighted on defense. In the closing seconds the officials had to call the game due to Warren Eastons frustration with the Fighting Leopards. Defensive players began to tackle Sutton because they knew he was the staple of the offense not realizing that Donte McDonald actually had more catches. Sutton was a decoy much of the game and it was a beautiful game plan. I guess cats and birds don’t get along. With the final score 34-17, and the Leopards with the victory, the statement had been made and RESPECT had been earned. Could this be a new rivalry for years to come. We will see when the Leopards face the Fighting Eagles in week 10 of the regular season.
An exhausted team entered into the Championship game VS Edna Karr H.S. The team were asked to take off their shirts and play Shirts VS Skins because the Leopards were drenched in sweat and need to cool down their body temperature to face a formidable opponent. Karr got of to an early start taking a 14-0 lead in the match. The Halftime score was 21-7. The Leopards pulled it to a one game score before the Karr Cougars capitalized on two big plays and an interception to win the match 28-14.
The team walked out of the Saints facility with a new found sense of self. “We can play with anybody” was the overall consensus of the team. Every coach and official witnessed a 3 year old football team put on a noteworthy performance. All were impressed with Ricky Jones awareness and accuracy, Cyron Suttons speed and route running ability, Donte McDonalds hands, Erin Johnson physical stature, Terrance Jacksons ability to cover the whole field, Demante Lewis nose for the ball, Keithan Hunters range and ability play safety and linebacker. There were also a few conversations amongst coaches and officials that Cyron Sutton just might have been the best receiver in the tournament.
The score or outcome of the final game didn’t matter. As the team looked around the building and realized all the other teams were gone home. It was just us and them. Honestly, there could be no greater joy than to be one of the last teams standing VS a team like Karr, which is a state championship team with numerous players in the NFL. Yet here we are, the new kids on the block knocking off opponents like Mike Tyson in the 90’s, who eventually lost to time. There stood the Lake Area Leopards watching Edna Karr take pictures of their new trophy and having interviews with local reporters. There wasn’t any animosity or frustration toward Karr. The message was sent, the statement was made, the Lake Area Leopards are for real and will be here ready, simply waiting in the shadows for their time to strike. After all, isn’t that what Leopards do? They wait for their prey in the shadows of the jungle, preparing themselves to strike and just when the prey is comfortable, they strike and kill. Coming in second will do, for now.