Ascension Catholic and Southern Lab were about as evenly-matched as could be in Friday night's quarterfinal clash in Donaldsonville, as the Kittens out-gained the Bulldogs by a mere six yards.
Ascension Catholic and Southern Lab were about as evenly-matched as could be in Friday night’s quarterfinal clash in Donaldsonville, as the Kittens out-gained the Bulldogs by a mere six yards.
But the difference ended up being fourth-down conversions.
On two separate occasions, Ascension Catholic drove deep into Southern Lab territory, but they left with no points as they were turned over on downs.
Conversely, on two of the Kittens’ trips into the Bulldog red zone, they were also faced with fourth downs. Each time, they converted and finished the drives off with touchdowns.
The result was a 26-14 win for Southern Lab that was much closer than the final score indicated.
“The difference was a play here and a play there, and there were some things I’d like to change that I did, but that’s the way it goes,” Ascension Catholic head coach Benny Saia said. “They’re a good football team, and they earned the victory tonight. It wasn’t because we didn’t fight; I promise you that.”
On the Bulldogs’ opening drive, a 39-yard run by Jail Williams helped them reach the Kitten 16-yard line, but they eventually turned the ball over on downs.
Southern Lab turned the huge stop into an eight-play, 76-yard drive that ended with a 15-yard touchdown run by Dae’lon Hardy to give the Kittens a 6-0 lead.
It took Ascension Catholic just four plays to respond. A 45-yard scoring scamper by Khai Prean put the Bulldogs ahead, 7-6.
To begin the second quarter, Southern Lab went on a monotonous drive that saw them face a fourth-and-10 at the Ascension Catholic 17. Quarterback Angelo Izzard was able to scramble for the first down.
On the very next play, he hit Reginald Johnson for a seven-yard touchdown to give the Kittens a 12-7 lead.
The Bulldogs had a chance to regain the advantage before the half as they drove to the Southern Lab 30, but they were turned over on downs.
Ascension Catholic had another opportunity to score to begin the third quarter.
After Matthew Lafleur picked off Izzard, the Bulldogs put together a 14-play, 74-yard drive that reached the Kitten 11, but quarterback Bryce Leonard was intercepted in the end zone.
It was the defense that finally scored for the Bulldogs. Late in the third quarter, Jacob Dunn recovered a fumbled option pitch and returned it 48 yards for a touchdown to give Ascension Catholic a 14-12 lead.
Southern Lab responded with another long drive to begin the fourth quarter. On the march, they faced a fourth-and-four at the Bulldog 27. Izzard hit Johnson for 21 to keep the drive alive.
Later, Latrell Pruitt scored on a five-yard run to complete an 11-play, 65-yard drive that ate up more than six minutes.
Ascension Catholic had a chance late. They got the ball at their own 25 with just over two minutes remaining, but Leonard was sacked and stripped of the ball. The fumble was recovered by Southern Lab and returned for a touchdown to put the game out of reach.
“I thought the drive in the second half where we drove it all the way down there and couldn’t get in, that was big,” Saia said. “I thought that if we had scored there and then added the fumble recovery for a score, we would have had a little distance between us, but we couldn’t do it.”
To cap off his superb career at Ascension Catholic, Williams led the Bulldogs with 90 yards on 14 carries. Prean added 68 yards and a score on 10 carries.
Southern Lab out-gained Ascension Catholic, 271-265.
“Their quarterback gave us some trouble, especially when he pulled the ball down and ran,” Saia said. “They have a lot of weapons, and they spread you out. They’re a great football team. I’m not making excuses, but we were beat up. We had Sam Mire playing with a broken hand; we had Jai playing with a hip pointer, and they never took a step backward. I’ve never been prouder of a team.”
It was the Bulldogs’ first loss of the year. They completed an undefeated regular season for the first time in more than 50 years.
“I told them that it hurts right now, but a week from now, they’ll look back at what they accomplished, and they’ll see that it was a great season,” Saia said.