When Brett Beard accepted the job at Live Oak High, he knew there would be a learning curve.
Did anyone see the curve Beard’s Eagles threw at the LHSAA’s Class 5A playoffs coming?
My guess is no. After all, 25th-seeded teams aren’t supposed to go on the road and win.
Especially when the school in question has never won a football playoff game.
But Live Oak did it, edging eighth-seeded Ouachita Parish High 33-28 Friday night. Some will argue that the Eagles’ win is not the biggest local 5A playoff upset ever. I beg to differ.
Central, a No. 32 seed, did beat top-seeded St. Paul’s by a similar 35-28 score to open the 2011 playoffs. Those teams had a history with each other. History is the one thing Live Oak didn’t have.
But making history is only part of the story, said Beard, who moved to LOHS after a short, successful stint at Woodlawn.
“The one thing people around here keep track of is what are the firsts,” Beard said. “There was a first win over Denham Springs, the first win over Central and the first playoff win.
“Next week it’ll be the first home playoff game. These guys have enjoyed all that, but it’s not what they’re about. They have really understand what being a team is about and more than anything else, they don’t want this to end.”
And who could blame the Eagles. Live Oak hosts No. 9 John Ehret (9-2) at 7 p.m. Friday. Beard understands why others see this game as a daunting task. The Patriots have a host of talented players led by linebacker Michael Divinity, an LSU commitment.
But after taking a win over Ouachita, a program that has played in its share of title games over the years, why not just go for it?
Actually, the Lions did go for it and failed to convert a fourth-and-2 near the goal line on the final play of Friday’s game. That’s a key part of Live Oak’s growing confidence.
And yes, chalk one up for the Eagles and their defense. Beard said what the offense brought to the table Friday night was just as important. LOHS rushed for 284 yards with half of its quarterback duo, senior Dillon Wang, rolling up 151 yards on 21 carries, including the game-winning TD with 3:08 left.
The offense kept the ball away from Ouachita but ultimately, it came back to the Live Oak defense.
Beard said the Eagles put lessons learned in losses to Zachary and Scotlandville to use. Playing against Zachary’s Lindsey Scott Jr. and Scotlandville’s Levi Lewis prepared LOHS to play Ouachita quarterback Devion Warren.
Warren did break loose to convert a fourth-and-long play before the goal line stand. During a time out, Beard encouraged his defense to stand their ground.
“With the game on the line, there was no doubt this was the group we wanted on the field,” Beard said.
“I told them it (giving up the first down) was OK. I told them they got themselves into this and to get out of it.”
Skeptics might consider the Ehret-Live Oak game to be another playoff mismatch. Not the Eagles.
“Ehret has a lot of talented players and a great team,” Beard said. “Why wouldn’t you want to play a team like that? Why wouldn’t you want to say I lined up against that guy (Divinity) some day? It’s an opportunity.”
And when opportunity knocks, sometimes the favorite gets knocked off. Live Oak already knows this.