Byrd extends success in Shreveport's Battle on the Border High School Football Showcase

Jimmy Watson
Shreveport Times

A decade ago, when the Battle on the Border High School Football Showcase carried more status than it does in 2021, most of the current Byrd players were in elementary school.

They grew up watching their older brothers or neighbors battle Marshall, Texas; Bastrop; or El Dorado, Arkansas, in one of the early versions of the annual event.

On Friday night, the Jackets played Tioga in the first of four games that included half the field from Shreveport-Bossier. That hasn’t happened since the 2012 contest when there were just two games involving Byrd-Marshall and Calvary-West Monroe. 

Byrd was not hitting on all cylinders offensively but still won 18-3 after wearing down Tioga’s defense with its rushing attack, which rang up 344 yards.  Byrd quarterback Lake Lambert, who attended the showcases as a child, didn’t give up a turnover.

“I remember watching my oldest brother, who’s like 20 or 21, coming to these games and watching him play,” Lambert said. 

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The showcase started in 2011 as the brainchild of Patrick Wesley and Wendell Delaney, who have moved on to other endeavors. Delaney, a retired Shreveport police officer, had been the Evangel athletics director and had the connections to bring in regional football powers.

“And I had the connections with Independence Stadium,” said Wesley, currently director of Caddo Parks and Recreation. “We wanted it to be a regional and national showcase, not to turn into just a jamboree, and we wanted it to be something to boost Shreveport’s economy.”

The Byrd football team celebrates its win over Tioga in the 2021 City of Shreveport Battle on the Border High School Football Showcase.

Byrd fell into the inaugural event by accident when Neville was forced to pull out late and then-Jackets coach Mike Suggs received a call to play East Texas power Marshall exactly 10 years ago Friday.

“Of course, I said yes,” said Suggs. "When we got in, you understood you were in a showcase playing tough competition. My assistant coaches didn’t like it, but I always told them we’d play whoever you matched us up with.”

Byrd (2-0) became the mainstay – the only school to participate in all 10 showcases and the winningest team to participate. The Jackets are 8-2 in the event after getting past Tioga (0-2).

“We’re proud of teams like IMG Academy, John Curtis, Pearl, Aledo, Bentonville that have come,” Wesley said. “Byrd has always been a first-class program with a great following, so we wanted them here.” 

Byrd coach Stacey Ballew was an assistant on Suggs’ staff for the first nine showcases, but got a taste of running the show on the bigger stage Friday. 

“It is fun for the kids and it’s a great atmosphere,” Ballew said. “I’m proud they keep asking us back. The city does a great job. It’s a great atmosphere. And I’m glad we came out with a win. I just want us to perform a little bit better.”

The Jackets had 106 penalty yards, including some personal fouls.

Woodlawn and Southwood, which were a combined 2-11 last season, played the nightcap Friday. Saturday’s two games will feature late addition Ruston against Oxford, Mississippi, the only out-of-state team participating. The finale has Captain Shreve against Leesville.

Twitter: @JimmyWatson6