NEW ORLEANS — By the time St. Charles Catholic coach Frank Monica slowly walked to midfield after the Comets’ 9-8 victory over Amite in the Class 3A state championship, the raucous celebration full of football players in blue and yellow jerseys at midfield had long begun, and the team’s yellow pompom-waving fans were cheering themselves into frenzy.

Part of the reason for Monica’s delay in the festivities was Father Time, and another part of the reason was that this game was worth savoring.

It took a tired defense to make big play after big play. It took running back Lazedrick Thompson, playing with a partially-torn anterior cruciate knee ligament, to run for a clutch first down late in the game.

But the wait for a state championship is over for Monica and St. Charles Catholic (15-0).

The victory against Amite gave St. Charles Catholic its first state football championship. The title was the first LHSAA title for the 63-year-old Monica since 1978 and the first championship for him since he led Riverside to the Louisiana Independent Schools Association title in 1983.

“It’s good to be the state champion,” said Monica, who won his third state championship in six attempts. “I wanted them (the St. Charles fans, coaches and players), before the good Lord takes me, to experience this and to see what it’s like.”

Amite (12-2) made St. Charles work extra hard for the victory.

Trailing 9-0, the Warriors finally got the St. Charles Catholic defense to crack in the fourth quarter.

Amite drove 55 yards on three plays for a touchdown and two-point conversion to make the score 9-8 with 8:46 remaining in the game. Quarterback Reginald Porter ran up the middle for a 5-yard touchdown then threw a two-point conversion pass to running back James Oden Jr. after the Warriors were penalized twice on two prior conversion attempts on the possession.

Amite had one last possession, which started at its 5-yard line with 4:19 left. The Warriors only gained one yard in three plays and were forced to punt.

After a 12-yard return by Marcus Hall, St. Charles took over at the Amite 20-yard line with 3:31 remaining. The Comets drove nine yards on three plays to the Amite 11. Then, on fourth and one, Thompson muscled his way up the middle for a 3-yard gain for the first down. The first down allowed St. Charles Catholic to run out the clock.

“My leg was hurting a lot, but it was the state championship game, and I had to show up for my team,” Thompson said.

St. Charles did all of its scoring in the first quarter. Comets defensive tackle Taylor Cochran, a 6-foot-3, 350-pound junior, set up the first score of the game when he barreled his way up the middle and blocked an Amite punt on the first possession of the game. The block gave the Comets the ball at the Warriors’ 33-yard line.

“We thought we could put some pressure on the punter,” Monica said.

Six plays later, fullback Brandon Zimmer plunged into the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown to make the score 6-0. St. Charles Catholic’s Patrick Juneau missed the extra-point kick.

Juneau made up for his extra-point miss when he kicked a 29-yard field goal to make the score 9-0 in the first quarter. The score was set up when St. Charles Catholic strong safety Ross Authement returned an interception 34 yards to the Amite 8-yard line on the Warriors’ second possession of the game.

“I was going to for it (on the field goal play), and coach Ty Monica, my son, he said ‘No, kick it,’” Monica said. “Thank God I listened to him.”

Amite settled down after its first-quarter mistakes and only trailed 9-0 at halftime.

The Warriors had a chance to score in the second quarter, but St. Charles linebacker Dante Scarpero sacked quarterback Reginald Porter for an 8-yard loss on a fourth-and-eight play from the Comets’ 42-yard line with 1:24 left.

Amite drove 64 yards on 11 plays to the St. Charles Catholic 11-yard line on its first possession of the third quarter, but the drive ended when Comets’ free safety Connor Western intercepted a pass in the end zone from Amite quarterback Reginald Porter and returned 11 yards.

Then, came the fourth quarter.

“We had opportunities to win the football game, but we didn’t take advantage,” Amite coach Alden Foster said.

Sometimes it’s tough to stop a drought from ending.