LAFAYETTE — The first half couldn’t have gone much better for the No. 5-seeded Dunham Tigers in Friday’s Division III state semifinal game at Lafayette Christian’s Knight Field.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, very little else went Dunham’s way, suffering a 49-14 loss to the top-seeded Knights.
“Their defense is outstanding,” Dunham coach Neil Weiner said. “Their defensive front gave us fits the whole night. Our offensive line has been phenomenal for us all season long and we couldn’t get a whole lot of push off those guys. So hats off to them. They’re disciplined and sound and played aggressive."
On LCA’s first two possessions, Dunham linebacker Nic Suire recovered fumbles to end both drives. After the second one, the Tigers’ offense got all the way to the LCA 1, but was denied on a turnover on downs at the LCA 2.
That apparently was all the Knights needed to get their offense going, scoring touchdowns on their next three possessions to seize a 21-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
Then came that good ending of the first half for the visiting Tigers. Dunham drove 90 yards on eight plays in 3:43 to get on the board. A 52-yard stop-and-go pass to Jordan Dupre ignited the drive that ended in a 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback Anthony Safford with 2:06 left in the half.
After forcing a punt — that only covered 22 yards — Dunham covered 48 yards in 38 seconds to draw within a touchdown at the half. A 14-yard Safford run set up a 14-yard Safford touchdown pass to Gabe Hitzman on the final play of the first half.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” Weiner said. “They weren’t about to quit and pack it in. The defense did a great job of making stops the whole first half. Our offense put them in bad situations.
“It was a great drive right there at the end to go ahead and score and make it a game. But I think we might have upset them because they came out on fire in the second half.”
That late rally lessened the blow of LCA’s punishing running back Logan Gabriel. The Knights’ first score came on a 31-yard touchdown pass to Ethan Laing, but then Gabriel took over.
First came a 22-yard reception over the middle to set up a bruising 11-yard touchdown run with 7:22 left in the second quarter.
On the next drive, Gabriel’s 20-yard touchdown run made it 21-0.
LCA, which will play St. Charles at 6 p.m. next Saturday at Cajun Field in the state finals, made sure the second half started out better than the first by scoring two quick touchdowns for a 35-14 lead.
This time, it was the Sage Ryan show, first with a 46-yard touchdown run and then a 31-yarder for the three-touchdown lead with 8:22 left in third quarter.
Dunham attempted to get back into it midway through the third by getting to first-and-goal at the LCA 10. The Tigers appeared to throw a TD pass to Kalante Wilson on fourth down, but it was called back because of an illegal man downfield.
On the next play, Safford was sacked for a 10-yard loss to turn it over on downs for the fourth time in the game.
Part of Dunham’s issues on offense was the loss of tight end Rhett Guidry to a concussion in the first quarter.
“That kind of put a damper on calling plays,” Weiner said. “That was a big part of our game plan. We wanted to be able to run the ball and we just weren’t able to do that.”
Wilson finished the game with 32 yards on 15 carries, while catching three passes for 58 yards.
Dupre finished with two catches for 76 yards. Safford finished 10-of-24 passing for 153 yards and a touchdown, in addition to rushing for 42 yards on 14 carries.
Gabriel finished with 115 yards and three touchdown on 19 carries, while Ryan had 132 yards rushing and two touchdown on eight carries.