It seemed for much of Saturday afternoon and into the evening that St. Augustine versus Shaw was a football game that might not end.
In reality it didn’t.
Not at least until school officials for both sides agreed Saturday night to let St. Augustine’s commanding 29-3 lead with 11 minutes, 6 seconds remaining stand as the final score in a District 9-5A Catholic League game suspended by lightning and heavy rain spawned by the pending arrival of Hurricane Nate.
St. Aug led 29-3 when play was suspended at 1:20 p.m. at City Park’s Tad Gormley Stadium. Kickoff of the game already had been moved up 3½ hours to 11 a.m. in an attempt to avoid Nate-related weather issues.
That forward thinking was spoiled when a brief, but intense squall-like band of heavy rain that made visibility difficult swept across Gormley and was followed by a lightning strike that prompted game officials to suspend the contest three plays into the fourth quarter.
It was five hours later when St. Augustine and Shaw officials agreed to end the game at its point of interruption rather than try to complete the contest by a midnight Monday deadline imposed by Louisiana High School Athletic Association rules.
“I just respect the decision,’’ St. Augustine coach Al Jones said. “We both had to agree on it. Now we just move on and get ready for our next opponent.’’
In St. Augustine’s case, that involves a key showdown against reigning Catholic League champion John Curtis in a battle of District 9-5A unbeatens scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday in Metairie.
St. Augustine (5-1, 3-0 in 9-5A) enters the contest riding a four-game winning streak after protecting a No. 7 ranking in the New Orleans Advocate’s Super 10 for large schools.
Curtis (5-1, 2-0) also enters having won four straight after defeating Jesuit, 56-28, Friday night at The Shrine. Curtis is ranked No. 1 in the Super 10 and No. 2 in the state in Class 5A.
Shaw (0-6, 0-3) next hosts Salmen in a non-district pairing scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at Hoss Memtsas Stadium.
Shaw coach Tommy Connors initially said before leaving Gormley that he wanted to complete the game given the amount of time remaining. Neither Connors nor Shaw athletic director Tom Alef could be reached for subsequent comment.
The two schools can complete the game from its interrupted point by no later than midnight Monday. The schools can agree to declare the contest a “completed game’’ from its interrupted point without resuming play. Or, if the two schools cannot agree, the district principals then are tasked with determining how to resolve any issues.
St. Augustine dominated from start to finish thanks in large part to a suffocating defense that offset a sporadic performance by the Purple Knights offense.
St. Aug’s defense produced a safety and fumble recovery for a touchdown by defensive end Christopher Confident in moving out to a 23-3 lead through three periods when the severe weather moved in as the sides switched ends of the field.
Confident then blocked a punt in the end zone and defensive back Nikiya Sullen Jr. recovered the football for a touchdown on the third play of the final quarter. But the extra point kick by Kyle Sims was not attempted as game officials halted play due to a lightning strike.
Senior running back Garland LaFrance ran 2 yards for a first-quarter touchdown after the middle of the Knights defense stuffed Shaw running back Blake Billiot for a 2-yard loss and safety three minutes into play.
The Purple Knights increased their cushion to 16-0 when wide receiver Broderick Martin hauled in a 25-yard scoring pass from Dwayne McGill Jr to convert fourth-and-8 and Sims kicked his second of three successful PATs. The scoring pass capped a nine-play, 80-yard possession with 4:34 remaining until halftime.
St. Aug defenders forced and recovered two fumbles in addition to holding Shaw to minus 44 yards rushing and minus 8 yards overall, while the Knights offense totaled 201 yards via 95 yards rushing and McGill’s 106 passing.
McGill completed 13 of 21 passes in making his first start of the season in his third appearance since suffering a high ankle sprain in the St. Augustine jamboree.
Shaw’s lone score came on a 21-yard field goal by Patrick Leonard with 1:46 left until halftime.
“Our offense sputtered a lot, but our defense played great, again,’’ Jones said. “Offensively, we’ve just to get into a rhythm.
“(Today) was all about us being prepared and our kids keeping their focus. We knew the hurricane was coming, and our kids stayed focused. I’m just glad we got most of the game finished.’’