The Comeaux Spartans' up-and-down regular season finished on a disappointing note on a cold Friday night.
One week after a huge 60-28 victory over Southside — in arguably their most complete performance of the season — Comeaux dropped their 2019 regular-season finale, falling to the Barbe Buccaneers 41-20 in District 3-5A action at Comeaux High School.
"I have always believed that you will play as you practice, and we just have to practice better," said Comeaux head coach Doug Dotson. "The week of practice we had against Southside, the results were there. The week of practice we had this week, you know, we can't go out and have subpar practices and beat somebody of Barbe's caliber.
"You can't just show up and beat somebody like that," Dotson said. "You've got to have great preparation. Our kids know that, but we didn't have that this week.
"We're still a pretty good football team, and I believe in these kids," Dotson continued. "We've just got to work and clean up a few things, like the three touchdowns we had called back."
Comeaux got on the scoreboard on the first play of the game when senior Malik Nabers took back the opening kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown, giving them a quick 6-0 lead.
"The kind of athlete he is, it comes so easy to him," Dotson said of Nabers. "I keep making the comparison to Early Doucet, who I saw up close and personal. When I was at STM, we had three guys who couldn't cover Early Doucet, and Malik is like that."
Barbe answered right back on their initial possession of the game, scoring on a 5-play, 42-yard drive, which was capped off by a 27-yard touchdown run by Dylan Lewis. A successful extra point gave the Bucs a 7-6 lead.
The Spartans answered back with a quick scoring drive of their own when Eddie Flugence completed a 4-play, 89-yard drive with a 27-yard touchdown run, giving them a 13-7 advantage at the 9:03 mark of the first quarter.
In what looked to be a first-quarter track meet, the Buccaneers tied the game on their next possession. Tylan Ceasar scored on an 8-yard touchdown run, evening the contest at 13 at the 5:56 mark of the first quarter.
The Comeaux special teams unit made a mistake in the second quarter when Nabers muffed a punt. Barbe took advantage of the miscue with a 4-yard touchdown pass from Davis Meche to Asa Higginbotham, giving them a 20-13 lead.
The electric Nabers atoned for his mistake on the ensuing kickoff, however, taking it back 82 yards for another touchdown.
"He (Nabers) was mad at himself for muffing that punt," Dotson said. "But he's a great player, and great players are going to make great plays. The last two weeks he's been unbelievable, taking his game to another level, even for him."
But the Spartans made a couple of mistakes toward the end of the half that proved to be costly.
First, a roughing the punter penalty kept a drive alive, leading to Meche's 32-yard touchdown pass to Chandler Ware. The Bucs then scored a touchdown off a blocked punt with only 13 seconds remaining in the first half, giving them a 34-20 halftime edge.
"You know, we had two great stops," Doston said. "We run into the punter, and we muff a punt. Things happen, and tonight things certainly didn't go our way. It's frustrating."
After a scoreless third quarter, Barbe scored the only points of the second half at the 7:56 mark of the fourth quarter. Lewis scored his second rushing touchdown of the night, this one from eight yards away, to extend the Bucs' lead to 41-20.
With the victory, Barbe finished their regular season 7-3, while Comeaux fell to 5-5.
The season is far from over for Comeaux, however, as well as Barbe for that matter.
Both teams are heading to the playoffs, and Comeaux — with wins over Southside, New Iberia and Lafayette High, along with fairly close losses to Acadiana and Notre Dame — feels as if they might be a dark horse.
"I think we can play with anybody," Dotson said. "Whatever our lot is in the playoffs, it can be done. I've been a part of it, and that's what I'm preaching to them.
"We've played with everybody. I believe in these kids, and I believe we can play with anybody."