At some point, most football teams have a game like the one Southern Lab had Friday morning. Nothing goes right, no matter what you try. Unfortunately for the Kittens, “that game” was a state championship game.
Ouachita Christian pounced on just about every mistake SLHS made. The Eagles also made plenty of plays while running away with a 52-6 victory over Southern Lab in the Division IV title game that opened the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Prep Classic.
Southern Lab coach Nick Mitchell refused to offer excuses and vowed to bring the Kittens back to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in 2015.
Senior linebacker Javahn Ferguson offered an honest assessment.
“Being in the state championship game is a lot of pressure. We only have three or four seniors who started,” Ferguson said. “Once we got all the nerves out, it was too late. As a football player, you’re supposed to play every down like it’s 0-0. That’s not easy.”
The win gives OCS (11-3) its first state title since 2012 and sixth overall. Southern Lab, making its first title-game appearance since 2000, finished 8-6.
While the Kittens had their struggles, it was the game of a lifetime for OCS quarterback Chance Clowers, who completed 12 of 21 passes for 204 yards and four touchdowns.
Though the Eagles took advantage of a short field after SLHS turnovers several times, Clowers, who was voted Ouachita Christian’s Outstanding Player, made plays all game long.
How good were Clowers and OCS? They scored on all five of their trips to the red zone.
It started with a 41-yard TD run that opened the scoring. Clowers also tossed a 60-yard TD pass to Jake Slaughter and a 43-yarder to Mavrick Wilhite.
Clowers politely deflected compliments from teammates and OCS coach Steven Fitzhugh during the postgame news conference.
“I tell you, he was in the zone … I mean that,” Fitzhugh said. “We were not completing a lot of passes in our pass scale yesterday without anybody covering us. During warm-ups today, that ball came out of his hand as well as I’ve ever seen a ball come out.”
Running back Darbbeon Profit, who finished with 101 yards on 17 carries and scored his team’s lone TD, was the Outstanding Player for Southern Lab, which saw a seven-game winning streak come to an end.
Both teams displayed some jitters in the early going. Ferguson of Southern Lab had an interception and so did Ouachita Christian’s Wilhite. What happened after Wilhite’s 25-yard return offered a sign of things to come.
After an incompletion, Clowers scored on the 41-yard run to make it a 7-0 game with 8:46 left in the first quarter. Another SLHS turnover — a fumble recovered by Cade Spikes — gave OCS the ball at the Lab 6. Josh Pennebaker’s 6-yard TD run quickly made it 13-0.
Southern Lab did counter. A 39-yard run by Profit ignited a fleeting spark. Profit scored on 1-yard run that made it 13-6 with 3:55 left in the opening quarter.
The Kittens couldn’t escape their mistakes. OCS scored 32 second-quarter points to put the game beyond Southern Lab’s grasp. A blocked punt led to one quick score; punter Jonard Robinson was tackled for a loss deep in SLHS territory which led to another TD.
Ouachita Christian’s most impressive drive was a 68-yarder that started in the first quarter. Clowers tossed a 10-yard TD pass to James Anderson on the first play of the second quarter to begin the Eagles’ offensive surge.
The offensive numbers ultimately didn’t look too slanted, though OCS outgained Southern Lab 273 to 176. The Kittens lost three of seven fumbles, had three interceptions and converted just 4 of 16 third downs. Snaps got past quarterback Bladrick Veal several times, leading to sacks. Ultimately, Veal left the game with an ankle injury.
“In the second quarter, when they scored, we tried to fight back,” Veal said. “We stayed together and never gave up, but it just wasn’t working. We didn’t finish.”
Southern Lab’s Mitchell noted Ouachita Christian’s title-game experience.
“We knew it was going to be a tough ballgame,” Mitchell said. “Them being here is somewhat of a regular thing for their program. That’s what we’re aiming toward.
“Against good football teams, you can’t turn it over, and you have to score when you get the chance and we didn’t.”