Consecutive losses had Episcopal with its back against the wall, but Friday night it showed why it deserved the No. 10 ranking in Class 2A.
Coupling a stifling run defense with a power ground attack, Episcopal surprised previously unbeaten Northeast 31-0 at Episcopal.
T.J. Wisham ran for 123 yards and three touchdowns to lead Episcopal, which improved to 5-2 overall, 1-2 in District 6-2A. Defensively, the Knights held Northeast (7-0, 2-1) to 120 yards, and never let the Vikings into the game after halftime.
The win helps Episcopal shift its focus from simply preparing for the playoffs to positioning itself to host a first-round game.
“This was kind of a program check for our guys,” Episcopal coach Travis Bourgeois said. “They’ve been around winning for the last three years, and they’re not used to losing two in a row. I really thought they focused all week.”
Northeast quarterback Marqueon Minor ran for a team-high 36 yards, but completed just 4 of 16 passes. It was typical of a night in which the Vikings sputtered on both sides of the ball.
Whether they were looking ahead to next week’s showdown against East Feliciana or comparing scores against Dunham, which lost to Northeast but defeated Episcopal last week, in the end it didn’t matter for the Vikings.
“The only positive you can find in something like this is humility,” Northeast coach David Masterson said. “Episcopal did a fabulous job, and all credit goes to them, but tonight, I don’t think you saw the Northeast Vikings that I’ve seen. I think it was a lack of focus, and that’s my responsibility.”
The lack of focus showed up on Northeast’s first series of the game. The Vikings picked up three first downs as they drove just past midfield, and went to punt formation on fourth-and-8. A miscommunication left half the line thinking an audible for a fake punt had been called, and Episcopal took over at the EHS 38.
Episcopal controlled action throughout the first half, running up 217 total yards and 12 first downs. Wisham was the workhorse with 123 yards and three touchdowns.
Northeast managed just 79 yards and five first downs. More importantly, the Vikings were unable to put up any points as they trailed 28-0 at the break.
Episcopal got going after the botched fake punt, and responded with a seven-play, 62-yard drive. Wisham carried four times for 38 yards, the last a spinning 6-yard run for the score.
Late in the quarter, Episcopal started its next series at the NHS 41. The Knights used seven plays again with Wisham’s 5-yard run providing the second score.
After forcing a three-and-out, Episcopal came back with its third consecutive scoring drive.
This time the Knights needed just three plays to travel 65 yards. Quarterback William D’Armond broke a 21-yard run, and Wisham followed with a weaving 37-yard score to make it 21-0 with seven minutes left in the half.
Episcopal cashed in on one more chance before halftime after starting at the NHS 42. D’Armond started the drive with a 17-yard run, and capped the six-play series with a 2-yard sneak for the touchdown.
“I think we all pulled together,” Bourgeois said. “We’ve been successful because of fundamentals and basics, and we went back to that. Our kid bought into it.”