As St. Michael coach Paul Varnado walked off the field at Doug Williams Stadium on Friday night, his back never felt lighter — it was the first time the Warriors had beaten Lutcher in school history.
St. Michael never trailed in the District 6-4A opener against the Bulldogs as they took the game 18-8 with the deficit only slightly closing after a late score from Lutcher.
“We believed and that’s what matters,” Varnado said with a smile as his team celebrated to the chants of “6-0” raining down from the student section. “… Every game is important but we earmarked this one.”
The Warriors needed that confidence in a game that felt closer than the scoreboard led on. St. Michael totaled 279 yards on offense, but 167 of those yards came on just three plays, including what would become the game-winning score on a 77-yard touchdown run by running back Matthew Butler.
Butler was able to break free early in the second quarter as he took the handoff down the right sideline, breaking free from the hard-nosed Lutcher defense. Butler would complete the series with a botched hold on the extra point that he turned into a two-point conversion by diving at the pylon before a load of defenders crashed into him.
That would just about do it for Butler’s night, though, as he proceeded to register only a few more carries for positive yardage on the night. He would finish the game with 78 yards on 18 total attempts.
St. Michael quarterback Jeff Vaccaro was the only other Warrior to crack the end zone when he pushed his way through on a 9-yard run in the first quarter.
“We did well in the first half, but I think one of the biggest things is for us to be more consistent,” Varnado said. “When you have a tough defensive line like they have, especially their nose guard who gave us fits all night — we got our share and he got his share.”
Lutcher nose guard Sully Laiche certainly did his best to ruin the Warriors’ perfect record in the fourth quarter when he stripped St. Michael running back C.J. McGarner at the Bulldogs’ 10-yard line and returned it 90 yards for Lutcher’s only score of the night.
The Bulldogs capped off the touchdown with quarterback Paul Taylor hitting Gregory Clayton in the end zone for the 2-point conversion, but as Lutcher coach Tim Detillier put it, the score was too little, too late.
“I guess it’s gut check time at Lutcher,” Detillier said. “… Right now, we’re just not a good football team. … We never did get any type of rhythm or consistency on offense.”
Detillier continuously gave St. Michael praise for the way they performed Friday night, but couldn’t help but notice how much it hurt to not have starting quarterback Jontre Kirklin under center after sustaining an injury during the week.
Detillier was forced to rotate between backup quarterback Trevor Comardelle and Taylor who Detillier said had to be made into a quarterback out of his normal wide receiver and punter role.
Detillier said prior to the game he wouldn’t back away from the pass, and he stuck to his word as the pair combined for 184 yards on 23 for 33 passing on the night. By comparison, the Bulldogs ran the ball 15 times against the Warriors, but were only able to muster 5 net yards on the ground.
“The mistakes, that was the breaks of the game,” Detillier said. “You can’t just pin it on one position; I’m not going to do that. It was just the breaks of the game.”