There were so many chrome accents in the crowd — chrome pompoms, chrome cowboy hats, chrome Mardi Gras beads — there to support the team in the chrome helmets, a fitting new-age topper for a team making its first appearance in the state title game.
All that chrome was shaking, waving and ecstatic. With 2:46 remaining, the chrome-domed St. Thomas More football team had a four-point lead on Parkview Baptist.
Less than a minute later, that lead was gone.
“We just couldn’t quite hold on,” coach Jim Hightower said.
Parkview Baptist quarterback Reggie Hayes, who spent the majority of the game terrorizing the Cougars with his legs, found receiver Jacob Ruffin in the flat.
The STM defender collided with a teammate and a different Parkview receiver, and Ruffin turned up the sideline and turned on the jets, giving the Eagles a 24-21 lead that would ultimately serve as the final score Friday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The Cougars still had a chance, though.
Their kicker, Bailey Raborn, is one of the best in the state.
Their quarterback, Will Bellamy, had led one of these drives before.
Earlier this season against Plaquemine, the Cougars were in a similar situation. They trailed by six with a minute remaining; Bellamy led them down the field and fired a game-winning touchdown with 3 seconds left.
“We’ve been there once this season and got it done,” Bellamy said. “My team, my whole offense was excited. We were ready to go finish out the game.”
There would be no heroics this time.
Bellamy, who finished with 286 passing yards and a touchdown, looked for a receiver on the sideline. Parkview defensive back Caleb Meaux saw it coming and jumped the route, getting to the ball a fraction of a second before it reached its intended target.
Afterward, the missed opportunities were what Hightower lamented.
His team led Parkview 14-10 at halftime, but it could’ve been by a bigger margin. Running back Evan Trahan, who finished with 131 rushing yards and a pair of scores to earn Most Outstanding Player honors for STM, fumbled the ball into the end zone just before he crossed the goal line in the first half, wiping away one score.
At the end of the first half, the Cougars had first-and-10 at the Parkview 20-yard line, but an offensive pass interference penalty pushed them back 15 yards and they didn’t get any closer, another scoring opportunity missed.
The Cougars finished with four turnovers and nine penalties for 104 yards and still managed to have the lead going into the final minutes.
“We had to overcome a lot of penalties. … We had two fumbles, two interceptions,” Hightower said. “It’s hard to dig out of that, but yet we did. Until the 1:50 mark, we had the lead. I thought we battled back. They did, too.”
In the end, the Cougars didn’t have an answer for Hayes, the son of former Louisiana-Lafayette star Reggie Hayes. Hayes finished 5-for-7 for 65 yards with a touchdown through the air, and he added 165 yards and a score on the ground.
His 227 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns earned him Most Outstanding Player honors for the Eagles.
It wasn’t the outcome STM wanted, but it was still a tremendous accomplishment.
After the players sullenly accepted their runner-up trophy, they silently walked back to their sideline. Their silence was answered with the roar of an appreciative crowd that made the trip to watch school history unfold, regardless of the outcome.
“This is probably the best team I’ve ever coached in 41 years,” said Hightower, who enters the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame next summer, an honor he earned before ever coaching an STM team to a state title.
The chrome looked right at home in the Dome.