VINTON — Pickering has been one of the surprise teams this season in Southwest Louisiana, but not much a surprise to the Vinton Lions.

The Red Devils started the season 2-0 but it really started last year when they ended a 20-game losing streak at the expense of the Lions in Week 10.

“Our guys are very mindful of that one win because that was against us Week 10,” Vinton head coach Tarius Davis said. “We know what situation we were in last year and what situation they were in and the outcome. 

“By no means are we overlooking Pickering but we feel like it is a great opportunity to open up district. We think it is going to be ultra-competitive.”

Vinton (2-2) will open the district season today on the road against Pickering (3-2) at O’Banion Stadium.

First-year head coach Ryan Russo has helped guide the Red Devils’ turnaround to a 3-2 team after going 1-19 over the previous two seasons.

“Coach Russo has done a good job taking over there,” Davis said. “He has the kids playing hard. 

“They always have athletes at Pickering and they are finding ways to get the ball in their hands offensively and they fly around on defense.”

Vinton’s offense had its best game last week, a 48-0 win over D’Arbonne Woods. Pickering senior linebacker Anthony Woods could mean trouble for the Lions.

“Defensively, Anthony Woods is the guy you have to know where he is at,” Davis said. “Through scouting, they seem to base their defense around stopping what you do with him being a big part of it.”

Pickering offense went from averaging 11.7 points a game in 2018 to 36.2 this season. Junior quarterback Braden LeBato has recovered from an injury last year to throw for 724 yards and 10 touchdowns. Vinton’s defense is coming off its first shutout since 2016.

“The quarterback is a leader and he makes them go,” Davis said. “He has done a good job of running that offense. He has shown he can throw the ball but also pull it down and run.”

Davis expects a battle for the district title this year with Kinder returning to the district. Rosepine is the two-time defending district champ.

“I feel like it is going to be competitive with Kinder coming back into the district and the things they have done the past few seasons,” Davis said. “They deserve to probably be the favorites. 

“Outside of that, I think it is going to be a pretty competitive district from top to bottom. I think that each week you are going to have to play well to win. The goal is in five weeks to have an opportunity to be sitting there with an opportunity to be the district champs.”

Oakdale (3-1, 0-0) at          DeQuincy (2-3, 0-0)

DeQuincy is looking to jump start its season with two home games to open play in District 5-2A. The Tigers will host Oakdale today at 7 p.m. at G. Dalton Faircloth Stadium.

DeQuincy beat the Warriors 35-33 last year, but the Tigers will be up against the third best defense in Southwest Louisiana. Oakdale is holding opponents to 8.75 points per game.

DeQuincy junior quarterback Gunner Gearen threw for 271 yards and four touchdowns against Oakdale last year. This season, Gearen is averaging 240 yards a game through the air.

Oakdale running back Keyon Pugh leads all small school backs in Southwest Louisiana with 668 yards and nine touchdowns in four games.