Leonard Fournette dreamed of playing his last high school game in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Instead, Fournette’s final game came at Joe Yenni Stadium on Saturday night.
He fell one game short of playing for a state title, thanks to Rummel’s gritty 31-28 upset of the top-seeded Purple Knights.
When the scoreboard clock hit zero, Fournette dropped to one knee and bowed his head for a moment. The tears soon followed. Then he got up and walked around while being consoled by coaches and friends.
He could have walked off the field after that. Instead, he “manned up” and walked toward all the media members who wanted to interview the guy considered the No. 1 senior in the country.
“It hurts,” he said. “It hurts a lot. I really can’t put it into words.”
Fournette, in his final high school game, rushed 15 times for 126 yards and had two touchdowns. He ran for one touchdown and caught another. He also was in on a couple of tackles when he lined up on defense.
But his most impressive effort, the one most folks in the packed stadium didn’t see, came on the final play of his high school career.
It was just after teammate Toi Jackson threw an interception that sealed the Purple Knights’ fate. It was Jackson’s second interception in the final two minutes.
Fournette immediately walked up to Jackson and threw his arms around him.
“Those type of things happen in games like this,” Fournette said. “I know he feels like the whole world is on his shoulder. But it’s on to the next now. I’m proud of Toi, and I’m proud of this whole team. It was a humbling season, and we made history for ourselves.”
For the season, Fournette finished with 1,793 yards on 194 carries. That’s 9.2 yards per carry, including highlight reels runs that made their way on “SportsCenter.”
Opposing players, like Rummel running back Ivan Phipps, showed their respect for Fournette afterwards.
“He’s a great player,” Phipps said.“I watch his highlight films and try to pick up some of his moves.”
Apparently Phipps watched well. It was his Fournette-ish run that was the game-winning touchdown.
Phipps ran to the right and appeared to be trapped but somehow reversed field and sprinted into the corner of the end zone to send the Raiders faithful into a frenzy.
“I don’t know how I got out of that, but I did,” Phipps said. “I’m thankful I did. Once I got away, I just turned on the jets and got to the end zone.”
Phipps stands just 5-foot-5 and is listed at 165 pounds. Fournette, meanwhile, is 6-2 and 225 pounds, blessed with an amazing blend of speed, power and agility.
And that’s why basically every recruiter in the country has made his way to New Orleans to try to land Fournette’s signature in February on National Signing Day.
Fournette will now have to turn his attention to recruiting and where he will play next. Most think LSU and Alabama are the frontrunners.
Time will tell.
But on Saturday, Fournette reflected on a career and a 9-2 season that included a victory over perennial power John Curtis.
“We created a legacy overall by beating John Curtis,” he said.
Fournette created his own legacy as well but, as usual, he didn’t want to pat himself on the back.
“It’s not about me,” he said. “People always say ‘Leonard Fournette this and Leonard Fournette that.’ I can’t do all of this by myself. The team helped me. And the coaches helped me, too.”
So perhaps it would be better to ask St. Aug coach Cyril Crutchfield about Fournette’s legacy.
“He meant everything,” Crutchfield said. “I sure hate he had to go out like this in his last game. He really wanted the state championship.”
Now Fournette says he’ll be rooting for Rummel in the Division I championship game against Byrd.
“This was a humbling experience,” Fournette said. “Rummel was prepared for us, and my hat goes off to them. I hope they win the state championship. … Things happen. Maybe it just wasn’t our year. But I’m still proud of the team. It hurts not going to the Superdome.”
Chances are, Fournette will get his shot in the Dome one day.
Perhaps in college. Or even more likely in the NFL.
But just not in his St. Augustine jersey, which he used to wipe away tears Saturday night as an amazing career came to an end.