It looked like a turnover would do sixth-ranked Catholic High in. The Bears fumbled a kickoff and Zachary quarterback Keilon Brown dashed 46 yards up the middle for a touchdown with 2:09 to play.
The second-ranked Broncos had a 30-23 lead and Brown, a returning all-state player, accounted for 351 yards on the night. The magic number for the Bears was nine.
Quarterback Cameron Dartez completed eight straight passes, including a 34-yard TD pass to Solomon Singleton with 22 seconds left to complete an 80-yard drive and pull the Bears within 30-29.
The ninth completion was wide receiver Gregory Martin’s 2-point conversion pass to Forrest Roy that gave Catholic a pulsating 31-30 come-from-behind win Friday night at Memorial Stadium in front of more than 4,000 fans.
Martin took a pitch from Dartez, juked a Zachary defender and calmly fired a strike, touching off a celebration was turned into elation when the Broncos held Brown and the Broncos for the final 15 seconds.
“We practice it all the time,” Martin said of the 2-point play. “I knew there was a chance we would run it and I was little nervous. But we executed. If there was time on the clock, I knew we had a chance.”
The lead changed hands six times in the game that matched the two defending LHSAA champions. Dartez completed 19 of 22 passes for 164 yards and the final TD for Catholic (2-0), the defending Division I champion. Brown led defending 5A champion Zachary (1-1) with 113 rushing yards on 18 carries. He was 11 of 17 for 238 yards passing and two TDs.
“I said this was going to be a great high school football and it was,” Catholic coach Gabe Fertitta said. “It is a real shame someone had to lose. Both teams played their hearts out, and those guys deserved to win as much we did. We got the last score.”
The first half had a little of everything. Brown hit Chandler Whitfield in stride going down the center of the field. The Nicholls State commitment raced 78 yards to the end zone, giving Zachary a 7-0 lead with 9:30 left in the first quarter.
Catholic countered with Joshua Parker’s 3-yard TD run. Parker had 53 yards on eight carries with two TDs. Whitfield blocked the PAT kick by the Bears’ Matthew Goodson, leaving the Broncos with a 7-6 lead with 5:20 left in the first period.
Jonathan Mestayer’s interception and return to the ZHS 18 set up Catholic to score on a 1-yard run by Dartez midway through the second quarter.
An 80-yard drive that ended with RJ Allen’s 3-yard TD run put the Broncos ahead 14-13 with 52 seconds left in the half. Catholic countered again — this time with a 28-yard field goal by Goodson on the final play and the Bears led 16-14.
Zachary played without two starting linebackers sidelined by injuries — Wes Brady and Maverick McClure — and lost a third linebacker during the game. Though Catholic was able to exploit some things in the center of field, the story of the game was each team making play after play.
Whitfield had 5 catches for 151 yards, but it was Khris Simmons who caught a 33-yard strike from Brown to give the Broncos a 20-16 lead in the third quarter. A 2-point PAT try, failed which would loom large.
“It’s tough to lose one like this, but there were good things,” ZHS coach David Brewerton said. “We have a first-year kicker who not only made all of his PATs, he also made a field goal. They (Catholic) made more plays when they absolutely had to.”
Parker’s second TD run put Catholic up 23-20 with 9:44 left in the game. Zachary mounted a 15-play drive that ended with kicker Ethan Patrick O’Brien’s 29-yard field goal at the 2:28 mark.
Next came the fumble and Brown’s nine-second race that gave the Broncos the lead one last time.
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