Instead of having its season totally unravel in the face of two straight losses and the loss of its starting quarterback, the St. Michael the Archangel football team showed it had plenty of fight left.
And because of their resiliency, the Warriors are still on course to achieve a pair of season-long objectives.
Junior Brandon Fields, starting for injured Dash Duncan, passed for three touchdowns and sophomore running back J.T. Mauldin accounted for three scores to help St. Michael to a 40-6 win Thursday over Tara at Olympia Stadium in District 6-4A action.
“We’ve overcome so much adversity in the last two weeks, it’s incredible,” St. Michael coach Eric Held said. “They really showed a lot of character overcoming adversity. It was a short week. We got fresh on three days of practice.”
St. Michael (7-2, 3-2) can put the finishing touches on a school-record eighth victory and first home playoff berth with a win at Broadmoor next week.
“That’s huge,” Held said. “We go 8-2 and maybe get a top 10 seed, and we’re definitely at home.”
Those goals looked well within reach two weeks ago with St. Michael riding the crest of a 6-0 start. The Warriors dropped then games to Lutcher and Plaquemine, the latter which cost them the services of Duncan because of a broken collarbone.
There was no drop-off in productivity with Fields completing 12 of 18 passes for 118 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He twice passed to Bo Aucoin, who had five catches, 46 yards, for touchdowns for leads of 7-0 and 33-6, while Mauldin carried nine times for 76 yards and scoring runs of 33 and 1 yard, the finale coming with 2:20 left in the third quarter.
St. Michael, which reached at least 40 points for the fourth time this season, finished with 271 yards.
“Fields was comfortable,” Held said. “He played well.”
Tara (3-6, 1-4) finished with 210 yards with only 50 coming after halftime. The Trojans ran 10 plays in the second half with two of those coming in the last minute of play. Quarterback John Washington, who scored his team’s lone TD on a 1-yard sneak midway through the second quarter, was 11 of 17 for 133 yards with an interception. Kaelon Stevenson and Darrel Bowie each caught four passes for 70 and 52 yards, respectively.
“We only had the ball for eight plays in the second half until the end there,” Tara football coach Ron LeJeune said. “Special teams killed us, and then we turned the ball over and made mistakes.”
St. Michael turned its 21-6 halftime lead into a commanding 34-point triumph with 19 third-quarter points.
Freshman place-kicker Christopher Reid opened that scoring frenzy with a 47-yard field goal followed by a safety when Logan Patty blocked Tasheen Qaser’s punt through the back of the end zone for a 26-6 lead with 7:28 showing.
St. Michael closed its scoring in the next 68 seconds when Fields connected with Aucoin on a 16-yard TD pass. Scott Welch then recovered the ensuing kickoff and the Warriors scored their 17th point off turnovers when Mauldin scored from a yard out.
“The kids were loose at half and just ready to roll,” Held said. “I could see it in their eyes they felt it.”