SHREVEPORT — It’s hard to score on the Evangel defense, and it’s hard to win at Rodney Duron Field.
Friday, Catholic High accomplished just one of those feats, but it was the right one.
Senior Noah Broussard blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown in the third quarter, then one-upped himself with a 28-yard Pick-6 with 4:09 remaining to lift the Bears to a 14-6 victory over the No. 1 seed in a Division I semifinal. The victory sends Catholic High into the championship game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome against No. 2 John Curtis in two weeks.
“I can’t even explain how much excitement I have right now,” Broussard said.
For the second time in three years, and despite just 105 yards of total offense Friday, the Bears will make a second trip to New Orleans. Catholic High won a state title in 2015. The victory against Archbishop Rummel was preceded by a semifinal victory against Evangel.
“We preach to our guys it’s about four quarters times 12 minutes. They fought, clawed and scratched,” Catholic coach Gabriel Fertitta said. “It’s just ‘Cur Dog’ football.”
Fertitta’s reference was to the late motivational speaker Bob “Cur Dog” Cade, and a relentless approach he preached.
Friday transformed into a defensive battle, but the first possession of the game offered a different tone. Evangel took the opening kickoff and needed just four plays to travel 80 yards for a touchdown.
Na'Drain Dizadare’s 2-yard scoring run came one snap after a 69-yard run by Elijah Chatman.
The Eagles immediately intercepted Catholic quarterback Cameron Dartez, but were unable to capitalize on the first of two interceptions for Jarrick Bernard.
The teams traded missed field goals — 44 yards for Evangel; 46 for Catholic — in the second quarter and the Eagles took a six-point lead to the break.
Evangel owned a significant advantage (155 yards to 68) in total offense, but the Bears were confident while down just 6-0.
“If you’re only down six to them — hats off, an unbelievable football team — at half you should be feeling all right,” Fertitta said.
Late in the third quarter, a full-on rush on Evangel punter Christian Bailiff led to an opening for Broussard, who fully engulfed the ball, picked it up and ran 14 yards for a touchdown to help Catholic High take its first lead.
“(Special teams) coach (Eric) Held set me up for that,” Broussard said. “I just did what he said.”
Two plays after Evangel rolled the dice and converted a fourth-and-1 at its 16-yard line with 5 minutes left, Broussard stepped in front of a Blake Shapen offering and rumbled 28 yards for another dynamic touchdown.
“My D-line put pressure on (Shapen), and he had to throw it away,” Broussard said. “I just made a play.”
The Eagles managed to get near midfield on the ensuing possession, but a penalty helped stymie the drive. Evangel committed 12 penalties for 97 yards Friday.
“We just tried to find a spark,” Evangel coach Byron Dawson said. “We just really stalled out a couple of times. We got a positive on (fourth down), but just couldn’t capitalize.”