PONCHATOULA — More things went wrong than right for Ponchatoula senior kicker Aaron Malik on Friday night.
But the one that did go right mattered most.
After two missed field goals and with another thwarted by a bad snap yet to come, Malik delivered on a 39-yarder early in the fourth quarter that proved to be the difference in the Greenies’ 24-21 victory against Jesuit in the season opener for both teams at The Swamp.
“The only thing that was on my mind was that I couldn’t miss this one,” Malik said. “I wasn’t going to let my team down again.”
Malik’s field goal came with 8:15 left and put Ponchatoula up 24-14.
Jesuit, playing its first game under Mark Songy, closed to within three with 4:52 left on Trey LaForge’s 5-yard TD pass to Foster Moreau. It was one of 18 completions for 220 yards for LaForge.
It was their second TD connection of the game, and the Jays got the ball back at their 12 with 2:01 left after a bad snap on what would have been a 30-yard attempt by Malik.
The Blue Jays reached Ponchatoula’s 35 with 38 of the yards coming on LaForge’s 38-yard completion to Malachi Hull with 55 seconds left.
But they could get no closer as Matthew Pines intercepted LaForge’s fourth-down try as time expired.
“I was proud of the way our kids fought all of the time, but we made a lot of mistakes,” said Songy, who coached the Jays from 1992-94 but had been out of coaching since 2001. “You can’t do that against a team that controls the ball like they do.”
Indeed, with Georgia Tech-bound quarterback Christian Campbell operating the Greenies’ option attack, Ponchatoula had three scoring drives that took longer than five minutes.
Campbell rushed for 146 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries and the Greenies effectively controlled the line of scrimmage. He also was in on defense on the final drive and broke up one of LaForge’s throws.
“We should have gotten the ball in the last time we had it, but we had confidence in our defense,” Campbell said. “We came out like we knew how tonight.”
The Greenies also got two big breaks on their opening possession of the second half.
First, Campbell, who attempted only seven passes, drew a roughing call on a third-and-5 incompletion from the Jesuit 35.
Then, Malik’s second field goal try from 32 yards out (he’d missed from that distance in the first quarter) went wide right, but Jesuit was flagged for running into the kicker.
Brian Rogers went over from the 5 on the next play to give the home team a 21-7 lead.
The Blue Jays put themselves in an early hole when Chris Mills fumbled on the first play from scrimmage with Cordell Jones recovering for the Greenies.
Three plays later, Campbell kept over the left side for the TD.
Jesuit then responded with a 12-play, 80-yard drive that featured LaForge completing all four of his passes, the last of which covered 9 yards to Moreau on a play-0action rollout.
It stayed that way until late in the half when Campbell scrambled for the final 24 yards of an 80-yard drive.