Holy Cross’ triumphant return through the Catholic League will have to wait until next season, thanks to Brandon Williams’ pass breakup as time expired on St. Augustine’s 33-30 victory on Saturday night.
Williams stepped in front of James Tabary’s pass to running back Darius Rodrigue in the left corner of the end zone at Tad Gormley Stadium to preserve a win which barring any setbacks during the final two weeks of the regular season, will secure the Purple Knights’ District 9-5A title.
“I saw the ball coming, made a play on the ball,” said Williams, a senior. “I realized I made the play when everybody was looking at me, screaming.”
While Holy Cross tried to counter with one of the best passing offenses in the area, it proved to be not be enough as St. Augustine which improved to 6-1 overall and stayed undefeated in district.
Holy Cross, meanwhile, lost its first game of the season, its first year back in Class 5A since Hurricane Katrina.
Williams’ play ended a dramatic and nearly controversial ending to the latest chapter in the two schools’ renewed rivalry.
St. Augustine, which surrendered a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter only to to trail late by three, went ahead with 1:06 left as Toi Jackson found Stanley Morgan for a 17-yard score.
Hoping to force overtime, Holy Cross moved the ball deep into St. Augustine territory with four seconds left before lining up with a 28-yard field goal with backup kicker Gavin Broussard. Two weeks ago, starting kicker Reed Gravolet converted a 35-yarder to beat Jesuit, 16-13.
Right before Brousard’s kick, St. Augustine called a timeout. He still kicked the field goal, which looked awkward, at best. Officials did not signal whether the field goal would have been converted.
It was enough to make Holy Cross Barry Wilson change his mind.
“It was my decision,” Wilson said. “I felt like if we needed to do anything, we needed to do it right then and there.”
So the Tigers went for the win. And Williams went for the ball.
“We needed to make a play, and was able to,” St. Augustine coach Cyril Crutfield said. “Sometimes, that’s what you’ve got to be able to do. We’ll take it no matter how we get it.”
Williams’ play overshadowed Tabary’s late-game heroics, and those of receiver Jerry Cook, who finished with 13 catches for 168 yards and the game-tying score with 6:32 left. Tabary passed for 271 yards and two fourth-quarter TDs.
Just as significant was Leonard Fournette’s performance, the latest weekly chapter in his growing saga as one of the area’s most dynamic high school players ever. Fournette rushed 17 times for 159 yards and two scores and caught seven passes for 118 yards, including a 73-yard TD reception.
He also opened the game with a 59-yard halfback pass to Stanley Morgan, leading his first of three TDs.
Holy Cross rallied late with touchdown passes from Tabary, the second set up after St. Augustine quarterback Toi Jackson fumbled on a run with 8:20 remaining.
The Tigers added a 22-yard field goal from Broussard with 1:42 left to take a 30-27 lead.
But Jackson recovered to led a six play, 65-yard drive highlighted by a 50-yard completion to Morgan to the Holy Cross 17. From there, Jackson placed the Purple Knights back in front when he connected again with Morgan.
Jackson threw for 287 yards and two TDs, but was also plagued with two interceptions and his late fumble.