Slidell coach Larry Favre knew it would require maximizing his team’s offensive output to stay with fourth-ranked Ponchatoula on Friday night.
That’s why, after winning the coin toss, he elected to receive.
But it wasn’t until the final five minutes of the game before the Tigers crossed midfield and not until 2:01 remained before they scored in a 26-7 loss to the Greenies in their District 6-5A game at L.V. McGinty Stadium.
“Our kids played hard and they believed they were going to win this game,” Favre said. “And I thought our defense played outstanding.
“But we’re very young on offense, and you’re not going to win it if you can’t score until there’s just two minutes left. We just didn’t have enough offense to play with theirs.”
Indeed, the Tigers (4-3, 1-3) contained Ponchatoula (7-0, 4-0) about as well as anyone has this season, although Greenies quarterback Christian Campbell had his usual impressive showing, rushing for 201 yards and all three of his team’s touchdowns.
But the Ponchatoula defense proved too much for the Tigers — at least until the game’s waning minutes when Kain Mitchell made a leaping catch of a fourth-and-12 pass by Wayne Griffin at the visitors’ 3. Justin Leiger carried over on the next play.
Before that last drive, which covered 57 yards, the Tigers had only 78 yards for the night.
“We wanted a shutout and thought we were going to get it tonight,” Ponchatoula senior defensive end Reggie Walker said. “But they kept coming after us, and that catch he made was a really good one.”
Anyone facing Ponchatoula is going to have to do better than seven points to beat the Greenies.
Campbell, a Georgia Tech commitment, executed the option as effectively as he usually does, drawing in the Slidell defense until either keeping it himself to the outside or finding his way through the defense thanks to the blocking of his big offensive line.
“He’s one of the toughest kids I’ve ever seen to bring to the ground,” Favre said. “He’s great vision, and he’s just so strong up top.
“You have to go to the legs to get him. Not only is he going to keep doing it for Ponchatoula, but he’s going to do it at the next level as well.”
Still, the Tigers made Campbell and the Greenies work for their yardage and points, particularly in the first half, which ended with Ponchatoula leading 10-0.
A hard rush by Terry Baham forced the Greenies to settle for a 30-yard field goal by Aaron Malik at the end of their opening possession after they’d converted on their first three. It took a tipped pass intercepted by Jovard Mitchell at the Slidell 30 to set up Campbell’s 13-yard TD run with 1:40 left in the first quarter.
A fumble recovery by Zachary Acosta stopped Ponchatoula at the Slidell 46, and a stand after the Greenies reached the Tigers 31 resulted in a missed 47-yard field goal attempt by Malik.
However, Campbell opened the third quarter with a 61-yard TD run and scored from 17 yards out early in the fourth period.