It started off as the perfect homecoming for Shaw.
The weather was picture perfect.
Quarterback Matt Keller was on fire.
And the Eagles were going toe-to-toe with heavily favored Jesuit at Hoss Memtsas Stadium.
But shortly after Lindsey Delaune was crowned homecoming queen, Jesuit took over, dominating the second half and pulling away for an easy 49-14 Catholic League victory.
Jesuit coach Mark Songy didn’t credit any special halftime speech or any major coaching adjustments for his team’s second half surge after leading just 21-14 at the break.
“We came out and didn’t play well in the first half and Shaw played well,” Songy said. “We just got on them about playing harder and getting their head in the game.”
It was the sixth straight win for the Blue Jays (6-1, 2-0 in District 9-5A), ranked No. 3 in The New Orleans Advocate Large School Super 10 and No. 6 in the Louisiana Sports Writers Association Class 5A poll.
All of Jesuit’s wins have been by at least 26 points.
It was the hot hand of senior quarterback Trey LaForge in the first half, then a potent ground game in the second half that did the damage in this one.
LaForge completed his first 11 passes and finished the first half 12 of 15 for 193 yards and a touchdown.
“Thank goodness because our defense didn’t play well in the first half,” Songy said.
LaForge finished 15 of 20 for 284 yards and a touchdown, completing passes to six different receivers.
“I had a lot of time in the pocket and the receivers were playing really well,” LaForge said.
Malachi Hull led the receivers with four catches for 122 yards. Tight end Foster Moreau caught five passes for 74 yards and Kalija Lipscomb caught three passes for 71 yards.
“We feel like we put people in a bind a lot of times because it’s real difficult to cover everybody,” Songy said. “When (LaForge’s) feet are working well and he is making his reads like he is supposed to, he is as fine a quarterback as there is around. When they try to cover Foster and Kalija, then they have to vacate somebody from the box and that’s when we are able to run the ball.”
And that’s exactly what happened in the second half as Jesuit gave Shaw a strong dose of Chris Mills and Charles Jackson.
Mills and Jackson helped Jesuit rack up 212 yards on the ground in the second half after running for just 35 in the first half.
Mills finished with 12 carries for 115 yards and Jackson had nine carries for 117 yards. They also had two touchdowns apiece.
And boy was it needed after a solid first half from Keller and the Eagles (4-3, 0-2).
Keller matched LaForge in the first half, completing 10 of 12 passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns.
His first touchdown pass, a 13-yarder to Bryson Simmons, came on the second play of the second quarter. It tied the game 7-7 after Jackson had scored earlier for Jesuit.
He tied it again at 14-14 with a 17-yarder to Trey Ragas, responding to a LaForge-to-Lipscomb touchdown.
But Jesuit took the lead for good when Hunter Robert, normally a defensive lineman, lined up in the backfield and plowed in for a 4-yard score with 1:07 left in the first half.
After a quick three-and-out, Shaw fumbled the snap and Jesuit had a chance to stretch its lead, but Shaw defensive back Kendaul Bailey intercepted a LaForge pass right before the half.
It didn’t matter though.
Jesuit scored on the opening drive of the first half, capped by Mills’ 1-yard run and the rout was on. Jesuit scored on every second-half possession, including a final TD run by Connor Prouet.
“We played pretty well for the first half,” Shaw coach Scott Bairnsfather said. “But they took the wind out of us in the second half. They ran the ball at us and we had a hard time slowing them down.”
Shaw running back Trey Ragas, who entered the game with 982 yards, finished with 75 yards on 21 carries. Ragas also had six receptions for 80 yards.
Songy said he was pleased with his team’s win, especially considering it was a game sandwiched between last week’s win over rival Holy Cross and Saturday’s highly anticipated showdown against top-ranked Rummel at Yenni Stadium.
“It’s hard not to look ahead to next week,” Songy said. “Plus we were coming off exams too, so that’s a rough week at Jesuit. Guys’ brains tend to turn into cottage cheese in a couple days. So I was proud of how we responded in the second half.”