Defense and special teams – the noted hallmarks of St. Charles Catholic football – came through in the end.
On the surface, a 43-42 final might not seem indicative of those traits – but like so many times over the years, they came through when it counted most – sending the Comets to the Division III state championship game.
The Comets (11-1) , the No. 3 seed, will take on top-seeded Lafayette Christian at 6 p.m. next Saturday at Cajun Field on the campus of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
“I’m tickled to death. Our players put in a lot of time and effort. Everybody puts in a lot of time and effort but it’s good for your program. It’s good for your younger kids to see that because it helps give them a goal for the future. It gives them a future reference. It shows too, that it pays to work hard,” said St. Charles coach Frank Monica, who has been marching up and down football sidelines for a half century.
“Making it to the state championship game, I’ve been wanting this ever since the eighth grade when I joined this team. I’ve been trying to give it my all. We always came up short in the semifinals but this year is going to be different. We are going to go to the championship and win it,” said defensive lineman Mason Narcisse, who had a big hand in the Comets’ win.
“Ever since the eighth grade, we never got over the hump once. Now we’ve gotten over the hump. I am really thankful for my teammates, the coaches, and really, God. You don’t know how much I’ve been praying for this moment, ever since August to be in this position,” St. Charles quarterback Justin Dumas.
The Comets seemed only seconds away from elimination in Friday night’s semifinals against visiting Catholic High of New Iberia (9-3).
With the score tied 28-28 in regulation, the Panthers faced first and goal from the St. Charles Catholic 3-yard line with 17 seconds left and needing only a field goal to win.
K.K. Reno took the handoff from quarterback Trenayvian Amos right up the middle but the St. Charles defender Kaiden Jones, forced and recovered a fumble with 10 seconds left in the fourth quarter, sending the game to overtime.
“We were hoping to stop them on the play. We figured they were trying to line up for the field goal and I was going to take a timeout after the play to ice the kicker, but it just so happened they fumbled on the play,” Monica explained.
CHNI got the ball first in overtime, starting at the St. Charles 10-yard line. After no gain on first down, Amos rolled to his right for the touchdown.
The Panthers lined up to kick the extra point but Layni Lipari, the CHNI holder, ran in for a two-point conversion, giving Catholic High a 36-28 lead.
Now, the Comets needed a touchdown and two-point conversion to keep their season alive.
“A couple of times, it looked like we were done, especially when they scored and got the two-point play off the PAT. The way it unfolded, it was just a phenomenal, phenomenal win for our program the way the kids fought back. It looked we were done several times but we kept resussating ourselves,” said Monica.
It came down to fourth down from the 1-yard line. Phillip Tran, getting the ball out of a Power-I formation, scored to get SCC to within two points.
Tran took a pitch from quarterback Jason Dumas and ran to his right and threw the ball into the end zone. The pass fell incomplete, but the Panthers were penalized for defensive holding.
On the second attempt, Dumas tossed to Logan Forsythe just behind the right front pylon of the end zone to send the game to a second overtime.
“Just coming out of there, after the fake, the play wasn’t looking (good) at all and I had to extend it, and I just told myself, ‘go get it, go get it.’ Logan made a good catch and that sent it to the second overtime,” said Dumas.
“Dumas ended up extending the play and makes a great throw right at the pylon. The kid (Forsythe) makes the catch with his toes inbounds,” Monica said.
This time, it didn’t take the Comets long to score once again.
On the first play of the second overtime, Dumas threw to his left to a wide-open Tran for the touchdown. The extra point kick was good, giving St. Charles a 43-36 lead.
On second down of CHNI’s possession, Amos tossed to Reno, who ran in for the touchdown.
All the Panthers now needed was an extra-point kick to send the game to a third overtime.
Special teams sent the Comets to the state championship game when Narcisse, a Tulane commitment, ran right up the middle to block the kick for the 43-42 final.
“He broke through the line and he was not to be denied,” said Monica. “I don’t know if the ball got up enough but because of his penetration, he made the guy peak and that was the big difference in the game.”
“I’m just happy I had it in me. I felt like my team needed me to do something great. I just felt like I had to do this. It was in my blood.
The teams traded scores throughout regulation.
CHNI used up more than five minutes of the clock to score on its opening possession of the game, capping the drive on a 13-yard run by Amos.
St. Charles countered on a touchdown pass from Dumas to Kendell Harris to tie the game at 7-7 with 3:10 remaining in the first quarter.
An interception by SCC’s Cade Prejeant sent up the Comets’ next score, a 3-yard run by Tran, putting St. Charles on top 14-7 with 1:03 remaining in the first quarter.
The Panthers tied things up again when Amos scored on a 21-yard run less than a minute into the second quarter.
CHNI regained the lead on a 35-yard run by Amos for a 21-14 Panthers advantage with 5:52 left in the second quarter.
The Comets made it 21-21 at halftime when Tran scored on a 2-yard run with 2:22 remaining in the second quarter.
“We saw we could move the ball and score on these guys. It gave us confidence that we could trade scores with them but that’s not exactly how you want to win the game. You like to play on a short field and you like to be able to run the ball to kind of control the game,” said Monica.
After neither team scored in the third quarter, CHNI pulled head on Amos’ fifth touchdown of the game. This one from a yard out to cap a 13-play, 74-yard drive, made it 28-21 with 8:24 left in regulation.
St. Charles used a trick play for a touchdown that would prove to be the final score of regulation.
Dumas handed the ball off to Keenan Gauff, who then pitched to Tran. Tran then threw to Dumas for a 47-yard touchdown that tied the game 28-28 with 6:08 remaining in regulation.