DENHAM SPRINGS — In the deciding moments of this emotional District 4-5A opener, the memory of Live Oak High kicker Nathan Holliday was the only thing that was short.
Holliday put aside the extra point he had hooked minutes earlier to beat Denham Springs 16-14 on a 30-yard field goal with 1:10 remaining Thursday night at a jam-packed Yellow Jacket Stadium.
“You’ve got to forget about the last one and keep going,” Holliday said. “I knew I could make it because I make it at practice. I had to relax.”
Holliday’s late heroics propelled Live Oak (4-2) to its first victory over Denham Springs (4-2) in seven meetings with its Livingston Parish rival.
It also wiped out the significance of a missed extra point by Holliday after Khalil Smith’s 4-yard TD scamper made it a 14-13 game with 2:55 left — part of wild final-minutes sequence that left the homecoming crowd at Denham rocking until the final whistle.
A 26-yard kickoff return by Yellow Jackets star Tyre Golmond set up Denham at the Live Oak 49 with 1:05 to go, but a third-down heave by Torez Kinchen was intercepted by Junior Edwards inside the 5 with 20 seconds left.
The visiting bleachers exploded as first-year coach Brett Beard and his players celebrated what might have been their coming-out party.
With only one playoff appearance since moving up to 5A in 2009, Live Oak got on the right side of a series dominated mostly by Denham blowouts.
The Yellow Jackets won 64-20 last year.
“Welcome,” Beard told his team afterward. “You belong here.”
Live Oak controlled the clock throughout, holding the ball for more than 30 of the 48 minutes. The Eagles led 7-0 at halftime after Will Higginbotham scored on a 3-yard run early in the second quarter.
But the Yellow Jackets reeled off 14 straight points to steal back the momentum.
Kinchen connected with tight end Landon Fontenot for a 32-yard score on Denham’s first possession of the third quarter. Golmond capped a seven-play, 75-yard march with a 2-yard TD midway through the fourth.
Then the drama started.
Steadily moving deep into Denham territory on its ensuing possession, Live Oak extended the drive when the Yellow Jackets were called for pass interference on a pass to the end zone on third-and-10 from the 25.
Smith scored what appeared to be the tying touchdown before Holliday yanked the extra point wide of the left upright.
But the Eagles had new life when Brock Williamson recovered Holliday’s onside kick.
Higginbotham reversed field to turn a short completion by Ryan Morris on first down into a 25-yard gain, and the Eagles reached first-and-10 from the Denham 16 on Morris’ 3-yard QB sneak.
Beard showed confidence in his kicker by calling three straight running plays, forcing Denham to exhaust its timeouts in the process.
“He was due,” Beard said of Holliday.
Golmond finished with 120 yards on 19 carries but was held without one of his signature home-run scoring plays. Denham managed just 89 yards through the air.
Higginbotham did his best work in the passing game, with five catches for 72 yards. He also had 59 yards rushing on 22 carries.
“Live Oak earned that victory tonight,” Denham coach Dru Nettles said. “They executed what they needed to do to play a game like this. This doesn’t change who you are as a person, and life goes on. We’ll regroup and keep moving forward.”