CHURCH POINT —With an undefeated season and a district championship on the line for both teams, it would’ve made perfect sense for Church Point kicker Kian Richard to drill a 31-yard field goal to send an excellent game into overtime.
Instead it was the Livonia special teams — which had already made a huge impact on the game — that stormed through the line and blocked the kick to preserve a 24-21 white-knuckle victory against rival Church Point (9-1, 4-1).
Livonia finished the regular season 10-0, 5-0 in District 5-3A.
“I’m so proud of the guys, of the fight, and I’m talking both teams,” Livonia coach Guy Mistretta. “Both teams should really be proud. Great atmosphere; it prepares us both for the playoffs.”
Livonia took full advantage of numerous Church Point mistakes early to take a big lead, then hammered the Bears for 12 straight running plays on a 75-yard drive to open the second half. Quarterback Cee Jay Powell capped the long drive with a 9-yard touchdown run to give the Wildcats a 24-7 lead.
But Mistretta could feel the momentum starting to turn after Church Point followed with its own 10-play, 50 yard touchdown drive, punctuated by a Christian Veronie 2-yard touchdown on fourth-and-goal.
That’s why Mistretta, faced with a fourth-and-2, called a fake punt on the next possession. But the Bears were ready for it. Grant Sonnier roughed the Wildcats punter to incite the crowd to near riot status.
A spirited Church Point offense scored four plays later, and a two-point conversion made it a three-point game.
“We’ve been a great second-half team all year,” Church Point coach John Craig Arceneaux said. “We knew we had some gas in the tank in the second half. It was important to us to get some stops early to try to gain some momentum.”
But the Bears couldn’t find a way to keep the second-half magic going. Livonia stiffened on fourth down on each of Church Point’s next two offensive drive to set up the late-game drama.
Church Point took over on its own 18-yard line with one timeout and 1:23 remaining. Quarterback Troy Matte went to work, connecting on 6 of his 8 passes to move the Bears down field and set up Richard for his attempt.
Two Wildcats broke through the line on the field goal attempt, and it wasn’t clear who made the block.
“We gave ourselves a chance right there at the end to tie it, we just came up a little bit short,” Arceneaux said.
For Church Point, the first quarter could’ve just been titled, “A series of unfortunate events.” Livonia opted for a pooch kick on the opening kickoff, and it caught the Bears off guard. They couldn’t handle it and Livonia recovered on Church Point’s 20-yard line. Running back Malcom Dedrick punched it in on the ensuing play to give the Wildcats an early 6-0 lead.
After the Bears went three and out on the ensuing possession, unfortunate event No. 2 happened. Livonia came hard after the punt and got a piece of it, giving themselves another short field and resulting in another quick touchdown.
Even when things seemed to be going right for Church Point, like when it responded to the second touchdown with a long drive deep in Wildcats territory, things found a way to go awry.
The Bears’ drive stalled inside deep Livonia territory, forcing the Bears to settle for a short field goal — which they missed wide right. On the next play, Powell found Donovan Robertson in the flat, and he did the rest, racing 62 yards for a score that put the Wildcats ahead 18-0.
The Bears were down, but they were never out of it.
“You’ve got to wonder, without that start, you wonder how the game plays out,” Mistretta said. “I think we relaxed a little bit after jumping up like that, but I think it also had something to do with those guys.”
The game decided the 5-3A title and ended the Bears’ dream of a perfect regular season, but Arceneaux made sure his team didn’t lose perspective of what it accomplished — and what still lays ahead.
“If somebody would’ve told me at the beginning of the season, ‘Coach, you’re going to be 9-1, the district runner-up and the No. 2 seed in the playoffs,’ I don’t think any of us would’ve said, ‘Man, that’s just not good enough,’” Arcenaux said. “This was one of the best seasons in the history of this school.
“We’d love to try to put four wins together and try to play these guys on December 14.”