The Division III playoff game matching eighth-seed Episcopal at home against ninth-seed Newman looked to be a matchup of Episcopal’s ground attack led by running back T.J. Wisham and Newman’s pass-and-catch combination of quarterback Miles Lapeyre and wide receiver Elbert Thomas.
For the first 24 minutes, that’s the way it was.
Then the visiting Greenies found a running threat of their own in sophomore James Poche and their defense took over the game. The result was a 42-21 Newman victory, ending the season for Episcopal (8-3) and earning the Greenies a rematch with district foe and No. 1 seed Riverside Academy in the next round.
“The offense usually gets the limelight, but our defense was spectacular,” Newman coach Nelson Stewart said. “That’s a credit to Ken Lass and our defensive coaching staff. We didn’t do anything different in the second half, just said to stay within ourselves and control the line of scrimmage.
“Offensively, Lapeyre was efficient with the football. Elbert Thomas had his usual good, consistent game, and the offensive line was able to make some good reads.
“Outside of two stops, I thought our offense had a real good night.”
Thomas finished with 167 receiving yards on 13 catches. Lapeyre was 22 of 27 passing for 247 yards.
Stewart said this was Poche’s second outstanding game in a row, and the running back felt the same way.
“At the start of the year, I was just learning,” Poche said. “In our offense the hole can be anywhere, and I’m seeing the whole field a lot better. Miles and I have great chemistry, and I give most of the credit to our offensive line.”
Poche led Newman (8-2) with 142 yards rushing on 20 carries.
Wisham led all rushers with 173 yards on 21 carries.
“T.J. Wisham is special player. We’re really going to miss him,” Episcopal coach Travis Bourgeois said. “I told my guys the scoreboard tonight isn’t the story of our season. For a team to lose its quarterback in the jamboree and come back to have the season we’ve had speaks volumes for them, especially our seniors.
“Newman puts a lot of pressure on you offensively, and you feel like you have to keep up with them. We didn’t score on our first possession in the second half, and then we got behind the chains and couldn’t match their pace,” he said.
The Newman defense had five takeaways, including two interceptions, a fumble recovery on the Episcopal 4-yard-line that led to a Poche touchdown run, and two fourth-down stops.
Lapeyre had a sensational first half, completing 17 of 19 passes for 207 yards and two touchdowns. Thomas was his favorite receiver with 10 catches for 48 yards and both of the touchdowns.
Running back James Poche gave the Greenies a good change of pace, carrying 12 times for 82 yards.
Wisham had 133 first half yards of his own, 73 of them on a touchdown run after Newman had gone up 21-7 on Lapeyre’s first touchdown pass to Thomas. That score came at the end of a 50-yard drive that was set up when the Greenies stuffed a 4th-and-1 run by Episcopal.
Wisham later picked up a tough two yards on another 4th-and-1 with 3:31 left in the first half.
That drive was turned back with a sack of quarterback William D’Armond, forcing the first punt of the half. Lapeyre drove the Greenies down the field, but Episcopal tackled Poche on the Episcopal seven as time ran out.