It’s time to party likes its 1982 in Eunice.
For the first time in 36 years, the Bobcats are returning to southwest Louisiana with a high school state football championship.
No. 2 Eunice came from behind to defeat No. 4 Sterlington 59-47 in the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Class 3A title game Friday night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Trailing 34-26 coming out of halftime, the Bobcats (13-2) scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to grab a 46-34 lead.
"We always try to come out fast, but we were bad in the first half," Euince senior linebacker Broki Walker said. "But we didn't stop our energy. We knew we're typically a better second-half team, and I knew we weren't going to let them score more than us in the second half."
Eunice sophomore quarterback Simeon Ardoin drove his team down the field with his legs, which included a 29-yard run around the right side into Sterlington territory on the first drive of the second half. But in the red zone, Ardoin went down with what appeared to be a knee injury and exited for a couple series.
The Bobcats had already come up empty in the red zone to close the first half and could have let the game begin to slip through their fingers, but senior running back Avrey Lee stepped at quarterback.
Scrambling and being swarmed by a host of Panthers in , Lee tossed up a prayer to the back of the end zone, and tight end Tyler Darbonne grabbed it over three members of the Sterlington secondary to pull within 34-32.
"That's not how that was drawn up," Darbonne said. "I was blocking my man, and all the sudden I saw the ball coming in my direction, and I just turned and grabbed it."
After the Eunice defense forced a punt the following drive, the senior pair connected a second time in the end zone from 15 yards out to give the Bobcats the lead for good at 39-34.
The lead grew to 46-34 near the end of the third when Lee scampered 28 yards, fumbled the ball into the end zone and it was recovered by Deon Ardoin for a touchdown.
Darbonne’s third passing touchdown, a 17-yard reception by Simeon made it 53-34. With Ardoin returning to close the final quarter, the Eunice offense managed to extend drives when they needed to and hold off a late Sterlington charge.
With the Panthers showing strength out of the shotgun and on the sweep in the first half, Bobcats coach Paul Trosclair said his coaching staff made a pointed effort to add another defender around the outside, forcing the Sterlington offense into longer throws over the middle in the second half. Though they connected on a few, the Panthers couldn't string enough drives together.
"I thought we'd have trouble stopping them, but I didn't think they'd score that many points," Trosclair said. "But I've coached 40 years, and I've never seen a group like this.
"As young as we are, next year we've got to grow up a bit more as we go up to 4A."
Things got off to a crazy start in the game as both returned kickoffs for touchdowns.
C.J. Calvin took the opening kickoff 91 yards for a score to give Sterlington (12-3) the early 7-0 lead.
Eunice's Jordan Ledet tied it when he took the ensuing kickoff 89 yards for a score.
Ardoin led the Bobcats rushing attack, compiling 151 yards on 10 carries and three scores, including a 59-yard dash down the right sideline toward the end of the first half to pull his team within 27-26. He finished the half 5 of 7 passing with another touchdown.
Lee ran for 87 yards on 11 carries and one touchdown to go with his two TD passes to Darbonne, whose three catches all went for scores.
Sterlington junior tailback Dallas Reagor finished with 154 yards rushing on 29 carries with a pair of touchdowns, while quarterback Hayes Crockett totaled 181 yards on 8 of 16 passing for two scores.