SHREVEPORT, La (KMSS/KTAL) – The C.E. Byrd Yellow Jackets will do whatever it takes to beat the heat. That’s why, if you want to watch them practice, you’re going to have to set your alarm well before sunrise.
“If it gets too hot, we aren’t allowed to practice,” said second-year head coach Stacey Ballew. “So we get them out here before school.”
Getting over 100 teenagers up and engaged before school may sound like a daunting task. It’s standard for the Yellow Jackets.
“I think it shows how bought in we are,” said senior linebacker Brooks Brossette. “We’ll do whatever it takes.” That’s just what a head coach wants to hear. “You see it everyday, these kids are dedicated,” said Ballew.
The first year of the Stacey Ballew era was more of the same. In the year after long-time head coach Mike Suggs retired, the Yellow Jackets won nine games and captured a share of the District 1-5A championship for the second consecutive year. Year two of the Ballew era hopes to bring the team back to the Division I state championship game.
“This senior class were sophomores when we went to state,” said senior quarterback Lake Lambert. “I think this class is starting to feel like that senior class that year,…we’ve got the blue-print to do it, we’ve just gotta get it done.”
Lambert was the starting quarterback for that state championship game back in 2019. He was a sophomore then. Now, as a senior, Lambert’s experience keeps the Yellow Jackets’ offense stable.
“With all that experience, there’s less mistakes, less errors,” said Ballew. “He keeps us going and keeps the offense effective.” For Lambert, there’s one specific area he feels like he’s grown the most in since that 2019. “Leadership,” said Lambert. “Sophomore year, there were a lot of senior starters and I was trying to not mess up. Last year and this year, its kinda more of a leadership role.”
Gone is half of the Yellow Jackets one-two punch at running back from a season ago, Mitchell Ramsey. Ramsey was second on the team with 914 rushing yards in 2021, but led the team in touchdowns with 13. His running mate, Devon Strickland, returns for his senior season. Strickland led the team with 940 rushing yards last fall. “We have a number of guys ready to step up in the backfield,” said Ballew.
The Yellow Jackets have captured at least a share of the 1-5A title the last two seasons. That feat means the rest of the district is gunning for their crown. They welcome the competition.
“I think it makes it more fun personally,” said Lambert. “Because you know you’re going to get the best out of everybody.” The Yellow Jackets will get their opponents’ best effort. And their opponents will try to survive “The Hive”, the nick-name for what the team believes is the area’s most emphatic fan base.
“We feed off of their energy, we go how they go,” said Brossette. “We count on them to win the game.”
With a rough and tumble, physical attitude, the C.E. Byrd Yellow Jackets are embracing the work it takes to stay at the top of one of the state’s deepest districts.
“This is a blue-collar football team,” said Ballew. “We’re gonna get up and put our work boots on and go to work. Our kids embrace it.”
The Yellow Jackets start their season at home hosting Pleasant Grove (TX) on September 2.