Just how close was momentum to finding a nice comfy place on the Live Oak High School sideline Friday night against University High?
A few inches.
With the underdog Eagles a whisker away from the Cubs' goal line in the opening minute of the second quarter of a scoreless tie, Live Oak had a chance to jump in front and apply some pressure.
Quarterback Cole LeBlanc plowed ahead on a sneak, kept pumping his legs and stretched the ball out. That was when linebacker Hunter Bankston swatted the ball free, Tim Williams batted it in the air and Tristan Cooper cradled it and bolted 99 yards the opposite direction to propel the Cubs to a 37-6 triumph.
"When Tim tipped that ball to me, instinct just took over," said Cooper, the oldest son of LSU secondary coach Ron Cooper. "As soon as I saw it, I grabbed and just took off. I wasn't going to let anybody catch me."
With that turn of events, the Cubs (5-0) seized command and never looked back.
U-High coach Chad Mahaffey turned the offense over to quarterback Kyle Crifasi and freshman running back Nick Brossette most of the rest of the night and those two helped the Cubs generate 337 yards.
Brossette hammered the Eagles (2-3) for 160 rushing yards on 23 carries, 106 in the second half, and scored three touchdowns.
Crifasi shrugged off a pair of interceptions deep in Live Oak territory and finished with 172 total yards, capped by a 16-yard TD scamper.
"We gave them a couple of big momentum swings with the turnovers (four), but we didn't let them get anything out of those," Mahaffey said. "I was real pleased in the second half when we got the running game going. That let us wear them down and control the clock and that's a credit to our offensive line."
The Cubs churned out 247 total yards in the final 24 minutes, anchored by touchdown drives of 71, 50 and 51 yards. Meanwhile, the defense limited Live Oak to three-and-outs on three of its first four possessions and never allowed the Eagles to cross midfield after halftime.
"We had some things working offensively, but we just couldn't finish series off or get first downs when we needed to," LOHS coach David Dykes said. "We spent way too much time on our own side of the field and that's tough to do when you're playing from behind."
Early U-High mistakes kept Brossette on the sideline much of the first half and allowed the Eagles to hang around.
Live Oak's Ricky Fuller swiped a Crifasi pass at the 3-yard-line to snuff out the Cubs' first drive of the night. Then just before the first quarter ended, a bad snap in punt formation resulted in a 38-yard loss and set Live Oak up with a first down at the U-High 11.
With the Cubs reeling, the Eagles struck quickly when LeBlanc rolled right, knifed through an opening inside and bolted 10 yards inside the 1-yard-line - tantalizingly close to a touchdown.
But Cooper blew up the idea of an early Live Oak lead when he grabbed the loose ball and sent U-High on its way.
"That was a huge momentum swing," Cooper said. "We didn't want to fall behind."
Live Oak did manage to get on the board right before halftime. Wesley Fuller smothered a muffed punt at the 17 and LeBlanc zipped a 7-yard TD pass to Beau Forrest to close the gap to 13-6.
But the Cubs got a 60-yard kickoff return from Jarrod Franklin and turned that into a 21-yard Christian Garon field goal as the first half expired for the 16-6 cushion.