The last time Catholic High and Archbishop Rummel met in a title game in 2015, it ended with a dramatic game-winning field goal for the Bears.
And it looked like second-seeded Catholic was poised to take the top-seeded Raiders down again when Jackson Thomas completed a 43-yard touchdown pass to Josh Parker with 3:09 to go in the game.
But this time, Rummel made the last big play.
Donovan Kaufman returned the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for a TD with 2:56 remaining, lifting Rummel to a 14-10 victory over Catholic in the Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Division I title game played Friday night at Tulane’s Yulman Stadium.
Kaufman, who scored two go-ahead touchdowns in the game, also had an interception in the final seconds and an early fumble recovery. He was voted the Outstanding Player for the Raiders.
Parker, who ran for 78 yards on 15 carries and also had three catches for 47 yards, was the Outstanding Player for the Bears (12-1).
With the win, Rummel (13-0) wins its first title since 2013. After the game, Catholic coach Gabe Fertitta managed to push aside his emotions in order to note his team’s accomplishments. It was the third straight title-game appearance for the District 5-5A champion Bears.
“It was a battle from the start to the finish and it certainly didn’t disappoint,” Fertitta said. “I’m really proud of these kids and how hard they have worked. They took on all comers. These guys never batted an eye, and they battled down to the last heartbeat.”
But Feritta admitted he was not comfortable with a 10-7 lead after Parker scored, simply because of Rummel’s play-making ability.
Parker added: “They are a really good team, and so are we. We both made plays. They had the last one.”
Talk about the dominant defenses of the teams was a key part of the build-up to the game. And they did not disappoint. Catholic limited Rummel to just 36 yards of offense in the opening half and held a 3-0 lead through three quarters.
The Bears had three scoring chances in the first half. Yulman’s goal posts were college width, which turned out to be a factor as Kylan Dupre just missed on field-goal tries of 30 and 34 yards.
Catholic drove to the Rummel 4-yard line midway through the second quarter on an 11-yard run by Parker. But the Bears got no closer, thanks to two tackles behind the line by Rummel. Dupre’s 23-yard field goal with 5:42 left in the half gave Catholic a 3-0 lead that would stand until the final 11 minutes of the game.
“We played a pretty poor first half and were only down 3-0,” Rummel coach Nick Monica said. “That was our deal at halftime. We told them not to panic and that we would play better. When we got to the fourth quarter, we told our kids this has been our quarter all year.”
And it was. Kyle Wickersham’s 34-yard completion to a wide open Koy Moore jump-started a Rummel offense that had been dormant much of the night. A 6-yard by Logan Diggs and facemask penalty against Catholic put the ball at the CHS 9. Kaufman took a wildcat snap and ran straight into the end zone to give Rummel a 7-3 lead with 10:50 remaining.
The Bears responded minutes later with Thomas completing 29-yard pass to Tré Benson before Parker’s TD catch gave Catholic a 10-7 lead.
Thomas finished 17 of 24 for 187 yards on the night.
“(Kaufman) is a really, really talented football player,” Fertitta said. “We knew he would be trouble on defense, and we knew they would put him in on offense and he would run the ball. And we knew he would be difficult on special teams.”