LAFAYETTE — The St. Thomas More Cougars are finally headed to New Orleans.
The STM football program has had a rich history under longtime coach Jim Hightower. The Cougars have claimed more than a dozen district championships and have had numerous deep playoff runs.
Despite all of that success, STM has never scored the ultimate prize: a state championship. In fact, the Cougars never had reached the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
There was the 31-0 defeat to Acadiana in the 2010 Class 5A semifinals, the 10-0 loss to Shaw in 2006 Class 4A semifinals and the 28-22, double-overtime heartbreaker to Northside in 2004.
STM finally broke through Friday night as Hightower’s team held off a furious fourth-quarter rally by crosstown rival Teurlings Catholic for a 28-21 victory in the Division II state semifinals. STM will face Parkview Baptist in the title game at 5 p.m. Friday in the Superdome.
After a scoreless first quarter, Teurlings Catholic (9-4) put together the first scoring drive. The Rebels started from their 37-yard line, marched to the 2-yard line and punched it in on fourth-and-goal as Cole Kelley powered his way in.
Kelley was under pressure most of the first half; he was sacked four times and was hit a handful more.
STM (11-2) responded with a long touchdown drive of its own as William Bellamy guided the Cougars down the field. The majority of the yardage on that drive came from Bellamy finding his favorite target, Trevor Begue, who got behind linebacker Landon Taylor for a 42-yard reception that put the ball at the 7-yard line. A few moments later, Bellamy found Griffin Hebert on a slant route for a 7-yard touchdown.
Bellamy and Hebert hooked up again for another touchdown, the second one for 9 yards.
Teurlings Catholic answered with a quick scoring drive as Jansen Lormand ran it around the left side for a 6-yard touchdown.
With less than 30 seconds before halftime, STM came up big: Chris Primeaux returned the ensuing kickoff 90 yards to the 3-yard line. Evan Trahan took the handoff moments later and ran into the end zone for the go-ahead score.
STM lost some of that momentum when kicker Bailey Raborn missed the extra point. The highly recruited college prospect also missed a 25-yard field goal in the first quarter.
STM started the third with a scoring drive as Trahan picked up his second score of the night on a 28-yard run. The Cougars added the two-point conversion when Bellamy threw a back-shoulder pass to Begue in the corner of the end zone.
Bellamy had a terrific night: He was 16-of-24 for 256 yards and two scores. Begue led all receivers with five receptions for 140 yards.
Teurlings Catholic lost its composure in the fourth quarter. Justin Murray and Alec Robertson were ejected following unsportsman-like penalties. The Rebels also squandered a scoring opportunity in the third.
Kelley connected with tight end Paul Joe Hammes for a 60-yard pass and had the ball at the 9-yard line. Teurlings Catholic was unable to get it into the end zone and came with no points.
Teurlings Catholic did manage to put together a methodical scoring drive late in the game as Kelley scored his second touchdown run.
That made it a one-possession game, and the Rebels recovered the ensuing onside kick, but the season ran out on Teurlings Catholic.
Kelley’s fourth-down desperation throw on fourth down was picked off by Begue. The Arkansas commitment played his final game with the Rebels, completing 24 of 45 passes for 317 yards.