Battle of the big cats concludes in breathtaking ending

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St. Mary’s Tiger Parker Bankston stops a run attempt by Logansport with linemen Damon LaGrande and Jeremy Friedel closing in to support. Photo by Ashley Froust

By Trent Friedel

The Saint Mary’s Tigers took to the road Friday night to play the undefeated and reigning District champion and class 1A champion, the Logansport Tigers. This contest would determine Dist. 3-1A supremacy and had all the hype that could surround a high school football game. Pick your cliché for a hard fought contest and it certainly applied this night. Fireworks started the contest both literally and figuratively. The pyrotechnical kind fired skyward outside the stadium and the psychological type on the field. Both units broke their banners and met at midfield in a virtual stare down and big cat swagger, taunting each other before the first play, which drew flags from the officiating crew.

Saint Mary’s won the toss and elected to receive the opening kick. They took the ball and drove to the Logansport 35 before Aaron Howell fumbled on a run off right tackle. Logansport could not capitalize on the good fortune and went three and out punting to Saint Mary’s. The punt was a short one and gave the visiting Tiger’s the ball at their own 45-yard line. They are subsequently forced to punt on their own three and out. The Saint Mary’s punt off the toe of Shelton is much better and the kick rolls out at the Logansport 22. Tresmin Brown and the home Tigers find the end zone on the first play after the punt. Brown takes the pitch from Shaw and goes the distance for over 80 yards.

Austin Edgar adds the point after and Logansport takes the early lead 7-0. Luke Gallien takes in the ensuing kick and pitches it back to Shelton who returns it the Saint Mary’s 35. The offense is unable to make any forward progress and Howell is sacked on second down. Saint Mary’s is obligated to punt and give the home Tigers the ball at their 34. Logansport methodically drives the ball to the Saint Mary’s 7 before the visiting Tigers put a paw in the dirt and halt them. Saint Mary’s comes up big on defense and stops Logansport on third and goal to go from the 7. Logansport looks to the toe of Edgar to score on a field goal. Add the 3 points and the score is Logansport 10, Saint Mary’s 0 as time expires in the first quarter. The teams switch ends of the field for the kickoff after the score. Saint Mary’s starts on their 19 in hopes of getting the offense jump started. The offensive engine just won’t crank and the visiting Tigers punt to Logansport. Logansport strikes rather quickly after the punt going 87 yards on 5 plays. Quarter back Dalton Shaw hits John Stephens who easily out jumps Slade Bienvenu for the reception and score. The point after kick is blocked by Matt Nelson and the score stands at Logansport 16, SMH 0. Saint Mary’s takes possession at their 30-yard line. From there, Saint Mary’s moves the chains once before punting to the home team. Logansport fails to sustain a drive and punts back. With time becoming a factor in the first half, the SMH offense finally pumps life into the scoring engine. The drive starts at the Saint Mary’s 20. Howell on first down seems to be wrapped up for a short gain but breaks out and runs 40 yards to the Logansport 40-yard line. Nelson goes 15 yards on two carries to the 25.

On second and 10, Howell passes to Bienvenu who dives for the ball propelling himself into the end zone for the first Saint Mary’s score of the night. The coaching staff elects to go for 2 and Howell strikes Jay Parker on a slant to convert the attempt. Logansport 16 – SMH 8. Only a minute and some change remain in the first half and it appears Saint Mary’s will only trail by a score. Hold your hat though because Logansport is not done. A well executed screen advances them to the Saint Mary’s 20. On fourth and eight with only seconds on the clock Shaw again throws the jump ball to Stephens who uses his 6 foot, 5 inch frame to tower over the defenders and catch the touchdown pass. The PAT kick is no good and Saint Mary’s faces a 22-8 deficit heading to the locker room.

Saint Mary’s kicks off to Logansport to begin third quarter action. The home Tigers immediately strike, or so it would seem. Tresmin Brown runs 80 yards off right tackle but the play is nullified by a block in back penalty. The penalty puts the ball on the Logansport 8. Saint Mary’s defense tightens and Zach Harrell sacks Shaw at the 10-yard line on third down. Austin Edgar stands at the one as he punts to Saint Mary’s. Howell and the offense have a short field to work with since the kick only goes 20 yards, first and 10 Saint Mary’s at the Logansport 30. Three plays later Matt Nelson capitalizes on the good field position and runs up the gut on third down reaching the end zone and cutting into the Logansport lead. The 2 point pass from Howell to Bienvenu is good and the score rests at 22-16. Logansport is unable to put together a drive and goes three and out punting to SMH. The kick is a good one and after a positive bounce is downed at the Saint Mary’s 1. Pinned down deep in their own territory the visiting Tigers gain some breathing room with some running plays but only advance to the 20 before stalling and punting the ball away. Logansport has control at the Saint Mary’s 48. On the third play Madrid Johnson runs 41 yards to pay dirt. Johnson lines up in the wildcat for the two point conversion and is successful in the attempt. Logansport 30, Saint Mary’s 16. After the kick, Saint Mary’s goes three plays and punts to Logansport. The fourth quarter would start one play later and what an exciting one it would be. Remember that cliché that you conjured up earlier, it would play out here in an exciting quarter of action.

Saint Mary’s is penalized on the punt from Logansport and starts out on their 14. On fourth and 1 and needing to convert to keep the drive alive, Howell hands off to Matt Nelson who does the rest slicing through a hole on the left side created by the pulling Matthew Thibodaux. Nelson would go the distance of 63 yards to the end zone. The two point conversion attempt is good on a pass from Howell to Bankston and the score tightens with Logansport leading 30 – 24. Logansport gets the kick with just under 8 minutes of regulation play remaining. The kick off to Logansport is brought in at the 35 by #52 Devin Gabriel. He returns the kick to the Logansport 49 but the visiting Tigers are penalized and the ball is placed at the Saint Mary’s 37. The penalty would prove costly as Madrid Johnson takes the ball to the end zone on hard running eluding would be tacklers.

The two point conversion attempt by Shaw is incomplete on another jump ball pass to Stephens broken up by Gallien. Logansport 36, SMH 24. Saint Mary’s gets the ball back after the kick on their 30 with in excess of 7 minutes to try and fight back. They begin a drive from there that includes good running by Howell and Nelson to get the ball into Logansport territory at the 35. On third and 15, after two plays of lost yardage, Howell finds Bienvenu wide open and hits him in stride as he trots into the end zone. Hold on a second Tiger fans, Saint Mary’s is penalized for an illegal man down field. It’s now third and 20, ball at the Logansport 45. Howell finds running room up the middle on the quarterback draw and makes it to the 28 setting up fourth and 3. The next play is a repeat of the last with similar good results as Howell picks up the first down. The collective heartbeat of the Saint Mary’s athletes and fans quickens as first down yields a sack of Howell. Incomplete pass on second down and precious little time remains. A tough home Tiger team protecting a lead would drop Howell again on third down. It’s now fourth and 21. Howell takes the snap in the pistol formation, drops back and looks to throw. Aaron has plenty of time but initially no receivers. He finally locates Bienvenue at the three and delivers a pass as Slade eludes a would-be tackler to score. The two point conversion pass attempt fails but the Tigers are within a touchdown of tying the score. Logansport 36, Saint Mary’s 30 but only 48 seconds remain. Everyone knows the kick will be an onside try.

Jordan White tees it up and kicks the ball towards the Logansport return team. The ball bounces off the chest of a home team tiger and is covered by Zach Harrell. Exhale if your dare, Saint Mary’s has the ball. A pulse and less than a minute to try to tie this game or win. First and 10 from their 48, Howell to Gallien incomplete pass. Second down, Howell to a streaking Bienvenue down the sidelines, catch at the 15 and into the end zone score Tigers or so it seemed. Saint Mary’s called for illegal formation and backed up five yards. Repeat second down and take a breath. Howell quarterback draw behind Nelson gain of 17, ball at the Logansport 39. Exhale. Matt Nelson executes a draw play up the middle for 24 yards to the Logansport 16. Inhale. Howell looks to pass and has no one open before scrambling to the 15-yard line and gets out of bounds to stop the clock. Exhale. No time outs are in the pocket of the SMH Tigers to stop the clock and only four seconds to go.

Inhale.

One shot at the end zone and the Saint Mary’s coaching staff elects to try the draw play again to Nelson. Exhale, and realize that time has expired in a thriller of a game. The home team Logansport Tigers have evaded a surging visiting Saint Mary’s team and remain undefeated and district 3-1A champions final score 36-30.

In the victory Logansport head coach said, “It just doesn’t get much better than this.” Coach Aldridge said, “Our kids wouldn’t quit, we fought hard and just came up short.” Saint Mary’s will look forward to post season play and likely go on the road for their first game.