NEW ORLEANS — St. Thomas More coach Jim Hightower wasn’t about to place the blame at the feet of any of his players.
Regardless of his team’s first appearance in the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Prep Classic, the Cougars found themselves trailing Parkview Baptist 24-21 with 1:44 remaining in Friday’s Division II state championship game.
No. 2 St. Thomas More was able to garner one first down before quarterback William Bellamy was intercepted for the second time in the game by Kaleb Meaux, this time with 1:08 remaining, to seal the No. 4 Eagles’ three-point victory at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
“I didn’t notice any nervousness,” Hightower said. “It was just two hard-hitting football teams.”
The second interception for Bellamy, who completed 20 of 33 passes for 286 yards and a TD, gave STM (9-4) four turnovers in a game it battled back to lead 21-17 with 3:46 to go on Gabe LeBouef’s 37-yard touchdown reception.
“I was trying to throw an out route that would get him out of bounds,” Bellamy said of his pass attempt for Griffin Hebert. “I wanted to get a fast tempo working and the guy jumped the route.”
Leading rusher Evan Trahan, who wound up with 131 yards and two TDs on 22 carries, was twice stripped by Parkview’s Trent Kavanaugh, the first time near the goal line in the first quarter with STM primed to take a 14-7 lead.
“A few too many turnovers,” Hightower said. “It seemed like the fumble at the 1-yard line early in the game put us on the chase a lot of the first half.”
Kavanaugh’s second strip and recovery of Trahan came at the end of a 6-yard run midway through the third quarter with the Cougars at the Eagles’ 36-yard line and trailing 17-14.
The four turnovers, coupled with nine penalties for 104 yards, spoiled a terrific offensive game in which STM piled up 498 yards on 69 plays.
STM managed to flirt with 500 yards of offense despite Parkview’s concerted effort to take away the Cougars’ top play-maker — senior wide receiver Trevor Begue — who came into the game with 62 catches for 1,171 yards and 17 TDs.
Begue, facing two defenders, was limited to four catches, two of which came on STM’s final drive, for 25 yards to go along with one carry for no yards.
“They were devoting two guys in the secondary to covering Trevor,” Hightower said. “That left some other people with some open space. I thought Trevor did a remarkable job of drawing two guys and making them work. It allowed other people to make plays.”