Best group of gridiron Tigers since the 70s battle for Black Friday ticket to Superdome

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By Trent Friedel

Saint Mary’s and the Tiger family traveled to Ascension Catholic in Donaldsonville to do some Black Friday shopping. The big ticket item would be a victory against a tough bulldog team that came into the action with losses on the year to powerhouse Kentwood and Southern Lab. This Division IV semifinal matchup would have the victor punching their golden ticket to an appearance in the Mercedes Benz Superdome and grant that team a chance for a State Championship. The team traveled Thanksgiving Day to stay the night and avoid having to make the long drive on game day. Game day activities included a trip to the LSU indoor practice facility for a walkthrough. After a gut wrenching, heart stopping win last week in double overtime, could the Tigers find enough emotional capital to win on the road? Tigers lost the coin toss and the bulldogs elected to receive the football to start the action. The power running duo of Williams and Barber wasted no time in exerting their will on the Tigers. Barber breaks free and goes 70 yards to the 5 and Williams scores on the very next play. The point after off the toe of #11 is blocked and it’s an early 6-0 lead for the dogs.

The Tigers get the ensuing kick and are unable to get their game going. They punt to Ascension Catholic and the bulldogs are ready again. The fifth play has Williams going 50 yards off right tackle to the end zone. Bulldogs lead grows to 13 – 0. Six minutes remain in the first quarter. For the second time the bulldogs kick out of bounds to keep the ball away from Shelton. Tigers start on the 25 and Matt Nelson finds a seam and runs 45 yards to the bulldog 20. Aaron Howell is next with a run up the middle and breaks off a would-be tackler to find the end zone. As he crosses the goal line he fumbles the ball. It is recovered by the bulldogs for the touchback. An unfortunate early error by the Tigers. Bulldogs quickly progress to the Tiger 20 after runs by the dynamic duo of Barber and Williams. Barber runs loose and mimics Howell with a fumble in the end zone. The ball is turned over to the Tigers and they are charged with a penalty that stops any drive, forcing the punt. Acencsion takes over and continues to run the ball against the Tiger defense. The clock expired in the first with the bulldogs on the Tiger 35. On the second play of the second quarter, Ascension Catholic feeds their main dog Williams again and he feasts in the Tiger end zone after a 33-yard run. The bulldogs elect to go for two and are successful on the run play making the score 21 – 0. Bailey Shelton has a chance to return the kick but only progresses to the 20. On the second play from there Howell rolls left with Nelson as a pitch man. Howell elects to pitch and it is mishandled and fumbled. The bulldogs recover and advance the ball to the Tigers 3.

The quarterback, Mire, scores on the keeper from there and the point after kick is good. The score is Bulldogs 28, Tigers 0. Saint Mary’s receives the kick and it looks as though they are starting to get things going. The progress is short lived. Howell throws an interception to the dogs. Ascension cannot capitalize on the interception; Saint Mary’s defense tightens things and sacks Mire on third and long backing the bulldogs to their own 5-yard line. The Tigers have about 5 minutes to put points on the scoreboard and narrow the growing deficit. They receive the punt at mid-field and go to work. They take seven plays and four minutes before they put a touchdown in their shopping basket. Howell scores on a run of 8 yards set up by a middle screen pass to Nelson. Bankston’s kick is good and the score sits at Bulldogs 28, Tigers 7. That would end scoring in the first half controlled by the running game of the Bulldogs. Williams and Barber each have over 100 yards rushing. Saint Mary’s gets the kick to start the second half and begin a drive. They make it to the Bulldog 35 before tragedy strikes again. A sweep play to Bienvenu has him looking to pass. He throws an errant pass to the waiting arms of a Bulldog who returns the interception to the Tiger 25. Ascension is unable to progress any further. Clayton Jackson has a sack of Mire on first down and the defense holds. The defensive stand has the dogs punting. The second play for the Tigers has a familiar sound, Howell to Shelton through the air for an 80-yard catch and run. The score is Bulldogs 28, Tigers 14. The Bulldogs advance to the Tiger 29 and face a third and 10. Mire rolls out and throws a pass that has first down yardage but appears to be fumbled and in the hands of the Tigers. It would not be ruled that way and the Bulldogs retain possession. Saint Mary’s just cannot get a call to go their way. The third quarter expires during this drive and the fourth opens up with the Dogs scoring from 5 yards out and the point after is good. Saint Mary’s season is on the line with 11 minutes to try and overcome the 21-point bulldog lead. They receive the kick and are unable to keep the ball.

They turn over on downs after facing a fourth and 12. Ascension returns the favor and turns over on downs also. Saint Mary’s still has some hope but need greater than 21 and only have 8 minutes to work with. On second down Howell connects with Shelton on a tunnel screen that Bailey carries to the Bulldog 31 before being accosted. The Bulldogs are penalized and Saint Mary’s has the ball at the 17. The Tigers face fourth and four when Howell passes to Bienvenu for a first down at the Bulldog 4. Howell runs it in from there and Bankston adds the point after. Score Ascension Catholic 35, Saint Mary’s 21. On the ensuing kick, Jordan White makes a great back angle kick for the on side attempt. It looks as though Saint Mary’s has recovered the ball but once again the Tigers are unable to get a favorable call from the officials. Bulldogs have possession at the Tiger 43 and a two touchdown lead. The Bulldog’s effective running game runs out the clock on the Tiger’s hope for continued post season play.

Saint Mary’s is unable to purchase the Black Friday ticket to the dome. A great run comes to an end for a senior class that has a 39 and 11 record for their time in a Tiger uniform. Two semi-final games and a State Championship appearance leaves large shoes for the underclassmen to fill.

We may have witnessed one of the best groups of gridiron Tigers since the late 1970s.