LUTCHER — Given their high-powered offenses and competitive nature, St. Amant and Lutcher have provided for plenty of drama and fantastic finishes.
This year was no different.
After holding Lutcher’s offense short of a pivotal first down, St. Amant marched 80 yards in seven plays, capped by running back Cade Nelson’s 8-yard score with 47.2 seconds remaining for a pulsating 36-34 road victory Friday.
“We were behind and facing adversity and had to dig in,” St. Amant coach David Oliver said. “We made a couple of big defensive stops and made a couple of big plays when we needed to down the stretch.”
Lutcher, the No. 1 team in Class 3A, had one final offensive play when St. Amant defensive back Ben Parker intercepted quarterback Jontre Kirklin’s first-down pass to seal the scintillating victory.
“We just missed a first down and a chance to score a touchdown down there on offense,” Lutcher coach Dwain Jenkins said. We didn’t make the play. We’ll go back to work.”
A year ago, St. Amant (3-0) withstood a failed two-point try in a 21-20 win over Lutcher, which went on to win the school’s seventh state championship.
The teams combined for 899 total yards, 499 passing, 50 first downs and five lead changes.
“Our kids were resilient,” Jenkins, whose team fell to 2-1 and had its 14-game win streak snapped. “We’ve already kind of been in some tough situations this year.”
St. Amant quarterback Hayden Mallory completed 27 of 43 passes for 244 yards with touchdown passes to Garett Stephens and Ivan Prejean in the first half.
Senior Briggs Bourgeois topped the Gators with 10 catches for 55 yards and gave his team a 23-13 halftime lead on a 41-yard field goal.
The game turned into a coming-out party for Nelson, who started in place on injured Mark Darby. He came into the game with 13 carries for 55 yards on the season and delivered a career-high 35 attempts for 240 yards and three touchdowns.
“It’s always been a two tailback system and always," Oliver said. “He just came up huge tonight. He’s just a grinder.”
Mallory put St. Amant’s game-winning drive into motion with a 40-yard completion to Jacob Cheatwood to Lutcher’s 29-yard line with 1:07 left.
Four plays later, Nelson banged up the middle of Lutcher’s defense from eight yards away.
Kirklin, an LSU commitment, accounted for 386 yards and 5 TDs on 64 plays from scrimmage.
Kirklin directed Lutcher back from a 10-point halftime deficit to lead 27-23 on a 4-yard run and 11-yard TD pass to Al’Dontre Davis, who finished with seven catches for 106 yards.
Tariq Belvin added four catches for 49 yards and a pair of TDs.
Each team grabbed the lead over the next minute with Nelson scoring from 20 yards out with 33.1 seconds left in the third only to have Lutcher answer with a 22-yard TD pass from Kirklin to Davis to make it 34-30, setting the stage for another fantastic finish.
“I was proud of how they stayed with it and kept coming all night long,” Oliver said.