WATSON — As a tie game in the second quarter quickly turned into a Live Oak lead, then a 47-7 blowout of St. Michael the Archangel on Friday, it became apparent to Eagles coach Brett Beard that his team had learned lessons from last week’s heartbreaking loss to West Feliciana.
“We came right back to Monday practice after a tough game, and we got things corrected,” said Beard, referring to a 28-27 loss to the Saints in which the Eagles blew a 27-12 lead.
Indeed they did. Instead of letting the opponent back in, a game that was competitive into the second quarter quickly got out of hand as the Eagles (2-2) turned up the heat, scoring 19 unanswered points after St. Michael tied it to take a 26-7 lead at halftime, then quickly put the game away in the third quarter.
This time, Live Oak finished the job with gusto.
It started with senior running back Will Higginbotham, who rushed for 186 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. Both touchdowns were of the highlight-reel variety — an 11-yard scamper where the 150-pounder ran over a tackler on the way to the end zone and a 33-yard yarder where he cut on a dime to escape from a crowd and dash into the end zone.
“He’s a good player,” Beard said. “We need to get more creative with how we get him the ball, throw him the ball, get it to him out in space.”
On this night, it wasn’t necessary. Live Oak rushed for 300 yards, with Khalil Smith adding 130 yards and two more touchdowns on 18 carries. And while Live Oak rarely passed, when the Eagles did, they hit gold. Ryan Morris completed just three passes, but two were for 80 yards’ worth of touchdown bombs.
One was an impressive 46-yard heave to Nick Cacioppo to give Live Oak a 19-7 lead in the second quarter. Nine snaps later, he hit Hayes Legendre for a 34-yard touchdown on the last play of the half for a 26-7 lead.
While Live Oak was delivering the knockout blow, St. Michael was losing its composure.
“That’s what I just got done telling my team,” said Paul Varnado, head coach of the 1-3 Warriors. “Once we started getting down, I think our confidence dropped and we stopped executing and lost our composure. You can’t lose your composure and let the game get away. We’ve been down before and came back and won. Tonight, we lost our composure.”
The Warriors showed promise early. Treylan Sibley completed 7 of his first 10 passes and engineered a 76-yard scoring drive that ended with a 3-yard Jacob Lacour touchdown run in the second quarter, tying the score at 7.
But the St. Michael offense shifted to neutral after that. Sibley threw six straight incompletions before completing his last pass of the night. And the Warriors finished with five fumbles, losing three.
Sibley passed for 88 yards and added a team-high 87 rushing yards on 11 carries.