Catholic-New Iberia coach Brent Indest arrived at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome just in time to see Southern Lab head to the locker room trailing 45-6 to Ouachita Christian at halftime, and he nearly reintroduced himself to his breakfast.
“I almost threw up,” Indest said.
His response wasn’t triggered by disgust. No, Indest started thinking about what he and his team had waiting for them a couple hours down the road in their state championship game against Calvary Baptist.
Indest made the trip fully expecting his 12-0 Panthers to be massacred on the Superdome turf Friday afternoon. He saw the future in the scoreboard, and he suddenly felt sick.
“Because I was scared to death that was going to be our game at halftime,” Indest said, referring to the Southern Lab game against Ouachita Christian. “Knowing the opponent we were going up against, knowing how outmatched we were all over the place.”
This was the underlying theme in Indest’s candid postgame commentary after his team was defeated in the Division III state title game at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Prep Classic.
His team was not big enough, fast enough, talented enough to hang with Calvary Baptist and its army of Division I football recruits.
“We’ve got one guy on our football team being recruited,” Indest said. “They’ve got a few guys on their football team not being recruited.”
But did you notice how I said the Panthers were simply defeated, not blown out? Against their own coach’s expectations, the Panthers came to the Dome aiming to cap a perfect season with a state title, no matter which prized recruit was standing in front of them.
The bigger, faster and stronger Cavaliers met a determined and clever opponent.
The Panthers resorted to football’s version of guerilla warfare. Where the Cavaliers had a roster dotted with players who’d go on to play college football, the Panthers had one, quarterback Jason Pellerin, an Ole Miss commitment, who was actively recruited.
So, when Calvary Baptist devoted all of its attention to stopping Pellerin, the Panthers deployed their sleight of hand. They ran Pellerin one way and took the ball another way, catching the bigger, faster and stronger Cavaliers off balance again and again.
The Panthers were in the ballgame that their coach said they shouldn’t have been in. For more than 45 minutes, it was a wildly entertaining back-and-forth affair.
But Calvary’s athletes eventually did what Indest thought they would. Consensus five-star quarterback Shea Patterson tossed two touchdown passes to Arizona commitment Shun Brown. Fellow Arizona commitment Orlando Bradford ran hard against players that Indest said had no business trying to bring him down.
“You can have everybody in the right spots, (Bradford) is just going to make you miss,” Indest said. “I mean seriously, I’ve got three linebackers out there that if you see them with their shirts off in the locker room you’d say, ‘Those guys are linebackers in the state championship game?’
“They’re just guys. They’re not college guys; they’re just high school kids.”
And that’s just the Calvary offense we’re talking about. We haven’t even gotten to the defense that featured lockdown defensive backs who made Indest feel hopeless and helpless when his team was faced with the prospect of driving the length of the field to tie it late.
“We’ve got guys running five flats out there at receiver,” said Indest, referring to his receivers’ times in the 40-yard dash. “So when No. 20 (Jacorey Fuller) and 21 (Rodarius Williams) get up in those guys’ faces, we ain’t got much of a chance.
“That’s like Deion Sanders covering me.”
Calvary coach John Bachman knew what he had at his disposal and turned to his stars when he needed a big play. They delivered.
“We all know you can’t win the Kentucky Derby with a mule, and I’ve got a bunch of thoroughbreds,” Bachman said — and just to be clear, he was not making any reference to Catholic’s players but was simply acknowledging his team’s own athleticism.
But the important thing to take away from this was the underlying theme to the underlying theme: That was how proud Indest was that his overmatched team was in it with a chance to win it.
Indest nearly broke down when looking at running backs Seth Pierre and Andre Bellefontaine, who were seated to his left and right.
Neither Pierre nor Bellefontaine is much of a physical specimen, at least from a college football standpoint. Neither will find themselves with a chance of playing at a school like Arizona or Ole Miss.
Both ran their tails off against Calvary.
“They are what is Catholic High School,” said Indest, his voice dripping with pride as it cracked. “They are program guys. They are what we are.”