Southern Lab football coach Marcus Randall was still clutching the championship trophy after the postgame news conference.
The former LSU quarterback looked at his seniors, smiled and said, “It’s a done deal. This one’s in the books. They sealed the deal.”
A year after losing in the title game, sixth-seeded Southern Lab used big plays and a suffocating defense to run away with a 36-2 victory over No. 4 St. Mary’s in the Division IV title game that opened the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Prep Classic on Friday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The Kittens knew big plays might be the difference between a close game and an easy win. Curtlan Williams made sure his team got one sooner rather than later.
Williams, who was voted the title-game MVP, returned a St. Mary’s punt 45 yards for a touchdown less than two minutes into the game for the first touchdown.
The senior also caught a 45-yard TD pass from Bladrick Veal that made it 28-0 late in the half. Williams had four catches for 79 yards.
Williams also returned an interception 88 yards, darting across the field and making one move after another, and although the TD was called back by a penalty, the play was emblematic of a dominant defense that gave Southern Lab (10-3) its first state title since 1996.
The Kittens also got the redemption they sought after losing 52-6 to Ouachita Christian in the 2014 Division IV game.
“Last year, we were just happy to be here,” Williams said. “We were taking pictures and things like that. I thought the lights were too bright for us. This year, we were ready.
“I didn’t come out thinking I was going to do everything. I was looking to see what I could do for my team.”
Darbbeon Profit ran for 89 yards on 16 carries and scored one TD for SLHS. Veal completed 7 of 17 passes for 162 yards and two TDs.
In addition to the TD pass to Williams, Veal also connected with Xavier Bell on a 70-yard scoring play in the opening half.
St. Mary’s (13-1) was left to ponder what could have been. The Natchitoches-based Tigers, who made their first title-game appearance since 1980, got burned by big plays.
“We could not control the big plays in the first half,” SMHS coach Lee Doty said. “You know, it should have been 6-0 at halftime. That broke our back. But we came out and battled.”
That battle was made infinitely harder by a Southern Lab defense that limited the Tigers to 105 total yards, including 47 rushing on 40 attempts. St. Mary’s quarterback Aaron Howell entered the game with 1,525 passing yards and 25 TDs. He left it with five completions on 23 attempts for 58 yards with three interceptions.
Tenoa Alex had the other two interceptions for Southern Lab. Dorien Welch led the Kittens in tackles with seven. Linebacker Josh Lucky was voted St. Mary’s MVP after forcing a fumble and recording two sacks.
Williams’ punt return for a TD started an offensive outburst that included a 9-yard TD run by Profit. The big pass plays to Bell and Williams followed.
Demonte Lang scored the lone second-half TD on a 1-yard run. St. Mary’s drove into the red zone and got as close as 4-yard line after Howell completed a 44-yard pass to Ohnoutka.
The Tigers turned the ball over on downs, and that eventually led to a safety when SLHS punter Jonard Robinson stepped on the back line of the end zone. But for Robinson, a New Orleans native who moved to Baton Rouge after Hurricane Katrina, it was a perfect homecoming.
Robinson and others talked about Southern Lab being as much a family as a football team.
“This senior group has done so many things for this school,” Randall said. “They’ve done so many things for so many people. Bringing this championship home just sealed the deal for those guys. They’re leaving a legacy.”