LAFAYETTE — As the seconds ticked down on Catholic High School’s 28-14 win against Teurlings Catholic — the 300th of coach Dale Weiner’s career — the coach didn’t even realize what had happened until his players started tugging on his shoulders.
Then, on a cool night in Lafayette, a perfect Friday night for football, the realization really settled in thanks to an icy Gatorade shower.
Weiner, in his 41st year as a football coach, reached a milestone few in this state have achieved, and Weiner was thinking more about what that figure represents than the figure itself as he stood there on the sideline, drenched, with an engraved football commemorating the win cradled in his arms.
“But it represents so many people,” Weiner said. “It’s different towns, it’s different schools, it’s different players and parents and coaches. You don’t do stuff by yourself. You depend on so many people.”
People like his current team, which started the season in an ugly 0-2 hole and has since responded with three straight wins against three straight solid opponents. The last two, St. Thomas More and Teurlings, entered this week ranked Nos. 5 and 3 respectively in the LSWA’s Class 4A state poll.
“I just feel blessed, and with this group especially because they’ve got such great character,” Weiner said. “We started off stumbling twice in the first two games of the season, and we’re 0-2 and we look at the schedule coming up and we’ve got some big dogs in front of us. They just kept working. They never lost faith and never lost a step.”
Motivated, Catholic set the tone from the start, with a 14-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to open the game.
Playing without leading rusher Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who missed the game with a turf toe injury, the Bears turned to junior running back James Berrigan. Berrigan set the Bears up with a first-and-goal after a 17-yard run up the gut, then gave the Bears a lead they wouldn’t relinquish with a 1-yard touchdown plunge.
The Bears also set the tone on defense. As the Rebels were driving on their first possession, quarterback Cole Kelley’s pass over the middle of the field was high and off the fingertips of his intended receiver. Catholic defensive back Tarick Johnson intercepted the ball and returned it into Teurlings territory.
That’s when Berrigan really shined. On fourth-and-6, the Bears dusted off the Statue of Liberty play. Quarterback Ian Brian pantomimed throwing to the flat while handing the ball off to Berrigan. By the time Teurlings figured out what had happened, Berrigan was sprinting down the sideline to give the Bears a 14-0 lead. Berrigan finished with a game-high 159 yards on 22 carries.
That sequence effectively described the first half.
Outside of a miraculous 35 yard touchdown pass from Kelley to senior wideout Evan Huesers on a desperation heave on fourth-and-20, Teurlings couldn’t stop shooting itself in the foot. Kelley finished the first half with three interceptions.
The Bears capitalized on the interceptions with trick plays. After Kelley’s second pick, the Bears called a double pass, with Brian throwing a backward pass to receiver Parker Sulik, who lobbed a 19-yard score to a wide-open Tyler Mason for the score, making it 21-7.
With a little more than a minute to go in the half, Teurlings opted to stay aggressive and try to cut into the lead. Kelley threw another interception, this one to a leaping Daniel Guilbeau, and Catholic once again went to the trick play to set up another score.
Weiner called Berrigan’s number again on the Statue of Liberty play, and Berrigan raced down the sideline for 27 yards. One play later, Brian gave the Bears a 28-7 lead with a 16-yard scoring pass to junior Patrick Dunn in the corner of the endzone.
“But I told the guys, they were not going to die on us,” Weiner said. “They weren’t giving up, they weren’t throwing in the towel. They’re not going to let someone come over here and walk all over them, they’re going to fight back. Sure enough, they did.”
Teurlings put together a 15-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to open the second half, but the Catholic defense stiffened after that, dropping Kelley for back-to-back sacks the only other time the Rebels got into Catholic territory.
Catholic opens district play at home against East Ascension next week.