There was a moment of clarity for Dutchtown High football coach Benny Saia as he scrambled to fulfill a growing number of post-game interviews.
Saia paused and said, “You know, I thought we had a chance to win. But 42-7? I didn’t think that was in the cards.”
Dutchtown took control of the District 5-5A race definitively with a 42-7 victory over Catholic High Friday night at Olympia Stadium.
How convincing was it? The Griffins (7-2, 4-0) scored the final 42 points of the game, including 28 in the second half.
There was no 100-yard rushing game for Catholic running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who was limited to 78 yards on 12 carries. Three of Edwards-Helaire’s receptions went for negative yardage. The Bears passed for just 50 yards.
The Bears (6-3, 3-1) saw their six-game winning streak end on a night when they lost four turnovers and didn’t get a first down in the second half until there was less than five minutes to go in the game.
“We were ready to execute coming straight out of that first kickoff,” DHS defensive back Coney Durr said. “We built momentum. Coach (Jason) Brown prepared us all week. We knew we had to out-execute them and we did.”
Durr provided the pivotal play, scooping up a fumble by the Edwards-Helaire and racing 80 yards for a touchdown that tied it at 7-7 with 5:06 to in the first half.
Jared Sparks, who completed 10 of 16 passes for 149 yards and two TDs, took over after that. The Southern Mississippi commitment tossed a 10-yard touchdown pass to Cornelius Washington that gave the Griffins a 14-7 lead with 28 seconds left in the half.
Fitell Bolding ran for a game-high 86 yards on 19 carries and scored a TD for the winners. Sparks added 57 yards and two second-half TDs
“It’s just one of those games,” Catholic coach Dale Weiner said. “They outplayed us. I tell you what, if we don’t score on that fake punt, we don’t score. Their defense played lights out, and their offense got better as the game went on.”
The punters played key roles in a first half, which was more about defense than anything else.
Catholic’s Daniel Guilbeau pulled down a high snap after the Bears went three-and-out on their first possession and raced 53 yards for a TD. The Bears held that lead for much of the first half.
Dutchtown’s Cadon Story also had a storyline. He pinned the Bears inside their 5 three times and had another punt go to the CHS 11. Guilbeau also had a 61-yard punt that put DHS at its 2.
Sparks and the DHS offense took over in the second half. The Griffins turned Catholic turnovers into TDs and took advantage of a short field multiple times.
“When there’s a dual-threat quarterback, it can take the heart of you (your defense),” Saia noted when asked about Sparks.
Dutchtown took the second-half kickoff and drove 80 yards in 11 plays, Sparks scored on a 3-yard run after completing a 33-yard pass to Caleb Ricca with 7:25 left in the third quarter.
The Griffins got the ball right back on an interception, and this time Sparks scored on a 1-yard run.
“It was a feel thing and it was also a read thing … to read the defense and try to get the best opportunity for the offense,” Sparks said. “I had to settle down. I was too excited early in the game. We know our capabilities, and when we lock in, we feel like nobody can stop us.”
A 21-yard TD run by Bolding ended the third-quarter scoring with 53 seconds left. Sparks’ 41-yard scoring pass to Jalen Carlin in the fourth quarter was icing on the cake.
Saia deflected questions about next Friday’s game with rival St. Amant (7-2, 2-2).
“I’m not even thinking about St. Amant yet,” Saia said. “I think we’re going to enjoy this one a little while … until tomorrow when we break down film.”