In a rematch of the 2016 Division IV state title game, the Southern Lab Kittens, ranked number four in this week's LSWA Class A poll, held on to defeat the Ascension Episcopal Blue Gators, 33-31, in Youngsville, Louisiana on Friday night in a non-district matchup.
Southern Lab forced four turnovers in the first half to help them take a 26-0 advantage into the halftime break before a game Ascension Episcopal squad scored 21 unanswered points over the final 5:48, prior to failing on a two-point conversion with under a minute to go, as the Kittens recorded their fifth victory of the season.
Below are five takeaways from the tough two-point setback for the Blue Gators.
Ascension Episcopal, which finished minus four in the all-important turnover statistic, still was only a play away from completing an improbable comeback and send the game into overtime.
"We've done a good job of protecting the football all year," Ascension Episcopal head coach Matt Desormeaux asid. "Credit them making some plays in the first half, but we did a much better job of protecting the ball in the second half."
Blue Gators show heart
The Blue Gators trailed, 33-10, with 5:45 left, but they still almost completed an amazing comeback against one of the best teams in the state, so there's no questioning the heart of this team.
"I know our guys were going to cut that deficit down," Desormeaux said. "Our guys play for 48 minutes, no matter who we're laying, and no matter what the score is. Our guys may not be the most skilled guys all the time, but they're going to give it all they have, and they showed that tonight."
Tale of two halves
Southern Lab not only outscored Ascension Episcopal, 26-0 in the first half but also outgained them by more than 150 yards over the first 24 minutes, before the Blue Gators accumulated over 170 yards of offense in the second half.
"We make some adjustments at half, but we also executed better in the second half," Desormeaux said. "Offensively, we went more no-huddle, making calls from there, but our guys are in such great shape, and I think, physically, we outlasted them a little.
"A big key was our guys getting that first stop in the second half, after not stopping them the whole first half," Desormeaux said. "Credit their guys for making a lot of great plays in the first half, but they didn't make those plays in the second half, and some things went our way. Unfortunately, we didn't get any turnovers, but we did some good things to change the momentum."
Plenty of good in loss
Coaches, players, and fans aren't into moral victories, but Ascension Episcopal has to feel like if they can play the way they did in the second half that they can go a long way.
"We played really well the second half, but you have to put all 48 minutes together to beat these guys and some of the teams we're going to see down the road," said Desormeaux. "I think we're going to learn from this and our guys are going to put those complete four quarters together."
Ascension still improving
Ascension Episcopal is not a finished product. This is a team that has gotten better, but still has room to grow.
"I told my guys that we still have a long ways to go, but this is not Week 11, it's only Week 7," Desormeaux said. "We still have three more weeks to fine-tune some things before the playoffs, but I'm really pleased with how far we've progressed."
With the victory, the Kittens improved to 5-2 on the season, while Ascension Episcopal, a 2A school, dropped to 5-2.