For the most part, District 9-3A hasn’t been much of a challenge for Lutcher and De La Salle.
The two schools combined for a record of 12-0 against district foes, with many of those games decided well before the fourth quarter, but they knew when the two squared off in each team’s regular-season finale that it would be their toughest tests to date.
The Bulldogs (9-1, 7-0 in 9-3A) withstood that test and came away with a 21-12 win over De La Salle in a showdown that doubled as the District 9-3A championship game at Victory Field in Joe Brown Park on Friday night.
“We told the team that as long as the game was close, it was to our advantage,” Lutcher coach Tim Detillier said. “My hats off to them, they’ve dominated everybody. But when it comes to close games, we have been there, and I think it showed tonight.”
Lutcher, No. 2 in the LHSAA’s Class 3A power ratings, relied on its ball-control offense and big plays on defense down the stretch to clinch the the team’s first District 9-3A title after previously playing in Class 4A.
Bulldogs quarterback Jontre Kirklin finished 15-of-26 for 150 yards with a touchdown and an interception. The junior also added 84 rushing yards on 18 attempts and two touchdowns.
“We wanted to come in and dominate in 3A the same way we did in 4A,” said Kirklin, wearing a paper crown with the rest of his teammates to celebrate the team’s district title.
“I’m really proud of my teammates and the way we fought all the way to the end. This is a huge win for us.”
After Lutcher took a 14-6 lead late in the third quarter, De La Salle (9-1, 6-1) fought its way back.
The Cavaliers answered with a seven-play, 72-yard drive that ended with Christian Booker finding B.J. Randle for a 23-yard touchdown on a wide receiver pass, but they failed on the two-point conversion and trailed 14-12 going into the fourth quarter.
De La Salle got the ball with an opportunity to take the lead with 5:19 left in the game, but the Bulldogs defense came up with a huge stop on fourth-and-1 to quell a Cavaliers comeback.
Kirklin added a 23-yard score late in the game to seal the win.
De La Salle came in No. 3 in the Division II power ratings and No. 2 among small schools in the New Orleans Advocate Super 10.
The team was off to its first 9-0 start since 1969 and was trying to finish with its first undefeated season since the same year, but coach Ryan Manale said that they should be able to learn a lot from Friday’s loss heading into the playoffs.
“If we can watch the film from this game, build on it and become a better team, we’ll be fine,” Manale said. “It was the first 48-minute game we had to play all year. … They executed, we didn’t.”