Controversy ruined the ending of Warren Easton’s 36-34 overtime win against McDonogh 35 on Thursday night.
Minutes before the Eagles defense stopped McDonogh 35 quarterback Willard Cheatam on an overtime rushing attempt at a two-point conversion, the Roneagles thought they had sealed the District 9-4A game in regulation.
Rondell Cruell caught a 23-yard touchdown with four seconds left to tie the score but, on the ensuing two-point conversion attempt, officials ruled Cruell was stopped short of the goal line.
McDonogh 35 coaches disagreed, arguing with officials on the field as they attended to an injured player. They earned an unsportsmanlike penalty, but it wasn’t enough to change the opinion of coach Wayne Reese.
“He fell on the line. He crossed (for a score),” he said. “We understand where it’s coming from because we do not get calls. Officials-wise, it doesn’t matter where we go — we do not get calls. They can fine me. Whatever. We have a lousy officiating crew in Louisiana. I don’t care what side of the ball it is. Black, white or blue (the race of officials doesn’t matter). We have the lousiest officiating in the world, and we get a taste of it every time we play. Not just that play, but plenty of plays.”
The loss dropped McDonogh 35 to 2-4. Warren Easton improved to 7-0.
“I don’t know if seven is so lucky, but I’ll take it,” Easton coach Tony Hull said.
The game marked the beginning of a new chapter in an old rivalry. The schools spent the past two seasons in separate districts after decades of competition. Thursday’s ending certainly made for a memorable return.
Easton scored first in overtime when quarterback Josh Johnson found Tyron Johnson for a 15-yard score. Johnson then connected with Clyde Leflore on a two-point conversion.
McDonogh 35 countered with a 7-yard score by Cheatham, but the two-point conversion proved to be too daunting. Kendall Franklin and Jeremie Francis stopped Cheatam as he tried to leave the pocket and run to his right.
“I fought out of containment and made the play, did it for my team,” Franklin said.
Johnson, who struggled at times to connect with his receivers — other times, they dropped routine passes — finished with 167 passing yards and two scores. His running back, Bracy Gardner, handled most of the workload with 88 yards, including scoring runs of 30, 5 and 2.
The Easton defense sacked Cheatam eight times, including four by linebacker Arthur McGinnis. Cheatam passed for 170 yards and ran for two scores.
McDonogh 35’s Bryan Blunt was a part of both of his team’s first-half scores. He blocked a punt in the first quarter, which teammate Rene Fleury recovered in the end zone. And with 4:30 left before halftime, he scored on a 10-yard pass.
Easton countered with two of Gardner’s scoring runs.