University High junior defensive tackle Glenn "Big Baby" Davis isolates himself from his teammates minutes before the Cubs will take on Port Barre, the No. 1 team in Class 2A, at the McClendon Football Practice Facility on the LSU campus. The top-ranked Red Devils present the first major test for U-High in the 2002 season.
While U-High players one-third his size are bouncing off one another in a hyper frenzy, Davis is calmly collecting his thoughts behind the goalpost in the north end zone. The 6-foot-7, 350-pounder is whispering softly with clinched fists that softly pound the padding.
His task on this night is to contain the double-barreled running game of Port Barre, featuring seniors Daniel Francis and Abdule Levier. Both ran for over 1,000 yards in 2001 and are already on pace to duplicate the accomplishment this season.
For the first two quarters of play, Davis is up to the task. He and the Cubs are able to break into the Port Barre backfield on plays up the middle and chase down the Red Devils' attempts to stretch the field.
But after taking a 7-6 lead in the first quarter, U-High falls behind 20-7 at halftime. The Red Devils answered the Cubs' first score quickly with an 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown from Marvin White. And following a U-High fumble on a punt return, Port Barre put together a 21-yard scoring drive to extend its lead to 13 in the second quarter.
The Red Devils fumbled over to U-High twice in Port Barre territory, but the Cubs failed to convert a first down on both possessions.
The wear and tear of the physical game took its toll on U-High's backfield, forcing the Cubs to turn to Davis as their go-to guy on the ground. Head coach Wayne Williams said he has the big tackle in his offensive game plan for injury purposes but may use him for ball control in future games.
"Coach puts me in there in crucial situations," said Davis. "Tonight I think it had to do more with our injuries."
Davis responded with 63 yards on 13 carries, including a two-yard touchdown run in third quarter that made the score 28-14. Cramps and a hip pointer slowed him some, but he was still making runs deep into the fourth quarter.
"He kept saying, ‘Give me the rock, coach,'" Willams said. "He's a load at 6-7, 350 and he can move."
The Cubs got to within a touchdown of Port Barre, but Francis followed with the second special teams score of the night for the Red Devils on a 78-yard kickoff return. Francis led all rushers in the game with 125 yards on 20 carries, and Levier finished with 100 yards on 14 attemps.
Levier capped the game's scoring with 65-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, helping Port Barre overcome four fumbles and 85 yards in penalties.
"Their special teams really hurt us," said Davis. "I thought we were able to slow down their running game in the first half, but we just couldn't keep up with them in the second half."
Williams, who has former LSU players John Compton, Thomas Dunson and Shaun Wynn on his staff, said the loss to Port Barre can still benefit his team heading into district play. With Davis moved over to offense in the second half, he was able to play younger, inexperienced athletes on defense and was pleased with most of what he saw.
As for Davis, he is expected to continue his standout play on defense while making occasional contributions on offense.
The recruiting interest is already very strong for Davis, who says he will probably start thinking seriously about his choices in the next couple of weeks. He is also a starting post player on the Cubs' basketball team and has played on amateur summer league teams with some of Louisiana's elite hoops talent.
"I'm making sure my grades and ACT are all straight right now," Davis said. "My five favorites right now are LSU, Florida State, Florida, Notre Dame and Southern Miss."