EUNICE St. Edmund coach James Shiver knew it was going to be a tough chore against the Catholic High of Pointe Coupee Hornets in Friday’s District 5-1A title showdown anyway.
But when the injury bug bit as well, his Blue Jays were really behind the 8-ball.
Indeed, the returning Division IV state finalist Hornets proved too powerful in claiming a 35-21 win over St. Edmund to capture the league crown.
“They have great coaches,” Shiver said. “You can’t take anything away from what they do. They’ve been running it for so long, it’s hard to break it.”
The Hornets (6-2, 4-0) collected 369 rushing yards, mostly behind the 1-2 punch of Hunter Beard with 158 yards and the LSU-bound Matthew Langlois with 152 yards and two scores.
“I’ve got to give it to our O-line,” Catholic coach David Simoneaux said. “They always just take ball games over. They did a great job of handling their defensive front.”
On the flip side, the Blue Jays (5-2, 2-1) weren’t able to run the ball with any consistency, settling for just 106 rushing yards.
“We had a lot of injuries on our O-line coming into this,” Shiver said. “It’s a coronavirus season, so we didn’t get the practice we should have gotten and we had a lot of injuries. We had pulled muscles and things like that. I think we’ll be ready for the playoffs, but not this week. We just weren’t ready.
“We had two guys with turf toe that were out. We never got our run established like we wanted to get it established.”
Consequently, Kieran Davis was limited to 27 rushing yards on 13 carries, despite entering the game with 712 yards and seven scores on the season.
“Our kids just love that physicality upfront,” Simoneaux said. “They took it as a challenge for a premier back like himself and a big offensive line. Our kids just played with a chip on their shoulder. Even though I thought we could have tackled a little bit better, I really liked the physicality we brought when we arrived at the football.”
Langlois got Catholic rolling with a 72-yard touchdown run.
“I say I’m a great coach when I just call his number a lot more,” Simoneaux said. “He’s a special talent. He’s a humble kid. Playing 130 snaps on both sides of the ball and special teams – not coming off the field – is special.”
Shutting down Davis, though, was just the first step to success for Catholic’s defense. The next chore was limiting quarterback Henry Brown, who refused to go down at times.
“He (Brown) was the straw that stirred the drink for them,” Simoneaux said. “They couldn’t run the football on us and I thought that guy just did an awesome job of keeping plays alive early.
“Really, I thought that was the key, changing some things up and putting our players in some pressure positions.”
That worked to the tune of seven sacks in the game, but that didn’t diminish Brown’s contribution. Brown finished with 167 yards passing with two touchdowns and ran for 58 yards.
“He’s come a long way,” Shiver said of Brown. “He started the season as our backup quarterback. Our first-string quarterback on the first play (of season) blew out his ACL.
Henry’s been impressive all season.
“Tonight, Henry was a warrior. He did things I wasn’t used to. I saw him play basketball last year – he was a point guard and he does that on the basketball court. He really looked good tonight.”
First, Brown connected with Easton Coleman, who later got injured after catching a two-point conversion, on an 8-yard touchdown pass to cut it to 7-6 in the second quarter. He later hit Luke Trahan on a 41-yard score to cut the lead to 21-14 with 4:31 left in the third.
“We have a good passing game,” Shiver said. “We’ve come a long way since last year. I got started late last year. They hired me in July. We never could get a passing game. There was no 7-on-7. With that COVID, there was no 7-on-7, but the boys took it upon themselves to do a lot of conference calls, zoom meetings and learn the offense and took possession of it.”
But the Blue Jays’ defense just couldn’t stop Catholic’s relentless rushing attack. Not even two holding calls on a critical scoring drive in the third quarter could do it.
The Hornets methodically chipped away, before Langlois broke loose on a 34-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter.
“He bailed them out,” Shiver said of Langlois. “He does that all the time. He’s special. He really is.”
Sophomore Taylor Daire tried to spark St. Ed’s late – first with a 28-yard run, then a 47-yard reception and finally a 99-yard kickoff return.
“We had a running back Taylor Daire catch that long pass at the end of the game, but he didn’t even know where to line up on the next play,” Shiver said. “Poor thing, he’s never played there before. He’s a running back.
“We’re a no-huddle team and it just kind of hurt us when we had some injuries at the end.”