Country Day falls just short in double-overtime loss to St. Thomas Aquinas _lowres

Advocate staff photo by SHERRI MILLER St. Thomas Aquinas' Ralph Haynes is brought down by Country Day's Charlie Livaudais (13) and Mccoll Simons (5) during the first half of Saturday's game in Metairie.

There were no Under Armour All-Americans wearing the blue jerseys on Saturday in Metairie.

Chances are, none of the guys in the Country Day uniforms will ever play on Saturdays in the Southeastern Conference either like their opponents.

So it’s understandable why the Cajuns fans gave their team a standing ovation, despite their team’s 42-35 double overtime loss to St. Thomas Aquinas in the Division III quarterfinals.

Don’t get it confused. The better, more talented team won. But the little engine that thought it could almost did.

Almost.

But it’ll be St. Thomas Aquinas advancing to the semifinals for the first time in school history, prompting St. Thomas Aquinas coach John White to call his team the “new kids on the block” in the postgame interview.

Country Day is getting there.

At least that’s what first-year Country Day coach Joe Chango said he thinks about what the Cajuns got done in this groundbreaking season.

The Cajuns began the year with seven straight wins. They then hit a three-week road bump against Newman, Riverside and St. Charles. The latter two teams are still playing, and one is guaranteed to be playing in the Mercedes Benz Superdome in two weeks.

Country Day bounced back from the skid and went on the road last week and upset Ouachita Christian, erasing a 14-point deficit.

They couldn’t quite duplicate that magic again Saturday.

The Cajuns finished 8-4, which is actually similar to last season’s 7-4 mark.

But remember this: Country Day moved up from 1A to 2A, so Chango knows progress was made this season.

And while the record may look the same, the mindset is definitely different, which explains why seniors like William Boyd were still trying to make the tears go away.

15 minutes after a game that most people didn’t think the Cajuns would win anyway.

Boyd is one of 14 seniors on the Country Day roster that laid the foundation.

“The seniors are going to be hard to replace on the field and the locker room,” Chango said. “A lot of people see what we can do here now. If we can keep the momentum going, we feel like there is no limit for us.”

Guys like junior quarterback Christian Kerut will be left to carry the torch.

“The coaches came in with a different mindset than we have ever witnessed,” Kerut said. “They brought this attitude and mindset that we have never had, and we really fed off of it. I think we really laid the foundation this year. This is the beginning of a legacy.”

St. Thomas Aquinas, which features two SEC-bound players in Under Armour All-American defensive lineman Edwin Alexander (LSU) and two-way star Cameron Dantzler (Mississippi State) were impressed with the gritty Cajuns.

“They were the toughest team we’ve played all year,” Dantzler said. “They gave us a good fight.”

Keep in mind that undefeated St. Thomas Aquinas’ résumé this season includes a win over Class 5A Chalmette, which shared its district title with Landry-Walker and John Ehret.

Country Day was one of just two teams (Brusly was the other) to play St. Thomas Aquinas to within single digits.

Country Day showed just how tough it was in the fourth, stopping St. Thomas at the goal line and then driving 99 yards to tie it and force overtime. They scored six plays after having to watch teammate Chandler Wynne get carried off on a stretcher with a leg injury after a reception.

But on this day, it wasn’t enough.

Kerut described St. Thomas Aquinas best.

“They were really tough,” he said. “They were big and fast and good.”

But on this day, even that almost wasn’t enough to beat Country Day.

Chango’s voice cracked while talking about his team’s efforts after almost slaying Goliath.

Where did this effort rank to Chango, who spent last season as offensive coordinator on Jesuit’s state championship team. “It ranks up there,” he said. “This obviously is not as fun as winning the state championship last year. But it’s up there.

“However the outcome was, it was just the guts my guys showed against a pretty damn good 12-0 football team. It was a phenomenal.”