Time and time again, McKinley High’s defense bent but didn’t break.
The Panthers gave up 210 yards and 15 first downs, but they kept St. Michael out of the end zone until the fourth quarter to claim a 21-6 nondistrict win Friday night at Louisiana Leadership’s Doug Williams Stadium.
“Bend but don’t break. I don’t know why we do that. We do that every week,” McKinley coach Robert Signater said. “It’s like we gotta get punched in the mouth to realize we’re bleeding before we decide to fight. But they fought, and I’m glad they finished it.”
The contest was a sloppy, defensive slugfest for most of the first half. McKinley (2-1) moved the ball well on its first drive, but running back Marcus Hill fumbled on the goal line.
The Panthers had a third-and-1 close to the red zone on their next drive, but a false start penalty killed their momentum. A 49-yard field-goal attempt from Joshua Joseph missed badly, resulting in another squandered opportunity for McKinley.
“We could have been up 21-0 in the first quarter,” McKinley quarterback Euric Larvinette said.
St. Michael (1-2) finally found a chance to score after the Panthers muffed a punt near midfield, but Dwain Varisco missed a field goal.
Quarterback Treylan Sibley fumbled on the Warriors’ next possession, allowing McKinley to take over at midfield. Larvinette hit Rae’quan Powell for a 50-yard scoring strike on the first play of the drive, and the Panthers went ahead 6-0 following the missed point after.
St. Michael had a chance to score before halftime, but Varisco missed his second field goal attempt low.
“We definitely left a lot of points on the field,” St. Michael coach Paul Varnado said. “We missed two field goals that would have made it a little bit closer.”
McKinley’s offense got in rhythm on the first drive of the second half, executing a methodical 59-yard touchdown drive punctuated by receiver Lil John Lewis’ 3-yard score. Joseph, however, shanked the extra point.
The Panthers forced a three-and-out on the ensuing possession. The snap on the punt sailed over Varisco’s head, and he fell on the ball at the 4-yard line.
Marcus Hill plunged into the end zone from 4 yards out to put McKinley ahead 18-0 midway through the third quarter.
The Warriors picked off Larvinette in the end zone and proceeded to move into McKinley territory early in the fourth quarter. Junior receiver Jonavan Pitcher caught a pass inside the 10-yard line and fumbled, but senior receiver Clarence McGarner scooped up the loose ball and scored.
St. Michael missed the point after but narrowed the deficit to 18-6. But the Panthers’ offense ran off most of the remaining time, and Joseph nailed a 34-yard field goal to bring the final tally to 21-6.
McKinley racked up 330 yards of offense and had three players rush for 35 yards or more.
“We were missing tackles early,” Varnado said. “They had a couple big passes that hurt us, but we got their guys in a bind sometimes and we should have had them behind the line. We miss a tackle, and they get a first down. We missed some big play opportunities on our end that could have put them in a hole.”