Tigers draw first blood, but Kittens nearly purrfect in victory

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By Trent Friedel, exclusive to the Times

Saint Mary’s entered post-season play as the 16th seed in Division IV and headed out to Baton Rouge to play the number one seed Southern Lab Kittens. The Kittens play home games at Southern University’s Mumford stadium. The Lab school is packed with talent including two LSU commits. Lineman Kardell Thomas is one of the best in the nation and running back Tyrion Davis also will be wearing the purple and gold. Saint Mary’s won the coin toss and elected to receive the ball.

They began play at the 30 and the offense goes to work. On third and long, Andrew Godfrey hits Jasen Elie on a quick screen opposite of a unique formation with three linemen to the far left side of the formation. Elie rushes 50-plus yards to the Kitten 18. On third down, the Tigers benefit from a pass interference call in the end zone. The penalty sets up third and short and the Tigers convert the play to get first and goal from the six. Godfrey hits Brock Zeagler in the right flat and he runs the short distance to get the score for Saint Mary’s. The PAT is no good but Saint Mary’s has the early lead on the number one team. The Tigers remain unconventional and kick an onside kick. The Tigers get a good bounce but the kittens recover the ball.

The Tiger defense has a good couple of plays before Southern Lab lets loose and gains first down yardage and more to the Tiger 15. The Kittens only need a couple more plays to score on a pass from Myles to Johnson. The point after attempt fails and the score in knotted at 6 with about half of the first quarter clock expired. The ensuing kickoff is taken in by the Tigers who start to crumble under the Kitten pressure defense. Saint Mary’s has to punt from their end-zone giving Southern Lab good field position. The Kittens score on a jump ball thrown into double coverage in the end-zone.

Johnson is the receiver and the PAT is good this time, Lab 13 – Tigers 6 in the waning moments of the first. The kick off after is one of the quirkiest things ever. The kick hit the helmet of one of the up backs that is retreating from his position toward the deep receiver. The ball bounces to the Kittens and is effectively an onside kick recovered at the Tiger 30. Saint Mary’s defense digs in and denies the Kittens progress forcing a turn over on downs. On the first play of the second quarter, another fortune begets the Kittens. Godfrey has Zeagler set up on the screen pass and wouldn’t you know it, the pass is deflected off Brock and right into the arms of Blanchard who catches the ball on a sprint to the end-zone. The kick fails but the score is now Kittens 19, Tigers 6.

On the first play from scrimmage after the kick, another fluke of a play occurs. Godfrey again sets up the middle screen and this time the ball seems to get hung up on a Tiger lineman and intercepted by the Kittens. Tyrion Davis, the LSU commit, takes the ball 36 yards on the sweep play to the left to pay dirt. The point after kick is no good; add six for Southern Lab. 25 – 6. Southern Lab sends the house on the first play after the kick and Godfrey is unable to escape the onslaught. Saint Mary’s punts from the end-zone on the possession. Unfortunately, it is partially blocked and the Kittens are threatening to score again at the Tiger 14.

Saint Mary’s defense holds the line and takes over on downs. On third down and long, Godfrey can’t escape the end-zone and is tackled there for a safety. Lab 27 – SMH 6. Protocol requires the Tigers to kick to the Kittens after the safety. The short kick gives Southern Lab good field position and again the Tiger defense stops the Kittens for a turnover on downs. On the second play from scrimmage, Saint Mary’s employs the unconventional formation again.

The screen play to Jordan White is quickly read by the Kitten defense and White suffers a brutal hit deemed a targeting penalty. White is injured on the play and carted away in the ambulance that showed late to the game. So with no ambulance available, the officials run the three minutes off the clock to expire the half after the stoppage of play for the injury. Saint Mary’s kicks off to Southern Lab to start the third quarter and they elect to try the onside attempt again. The result of the attempt is not favorable for the Tigers and the Kittens score in short order. Myles hits Roosevelt for a 33 yard strike that results in another Lab touchdown. A two point conversion is successful and Lab takes a 35 – 6 lead. Saint Mary’s goes three and out punting to Southern Lab. The Kittens score a short time later on a nine yard run by Bradley and the PAT is good. Kittens 42, Tigers 6. Saint Mary’s receives the kick and Parker Bankston throws an interception. The quarter expires on this series. The defense comes up big again forcing a fourth down that Lab is unable to convert. Tigers take over on downs. Southern Lab would score one more time in the fourth quarter and make the final count 49 – 6. The Kittens move on in post season play as the number one seed and hope to return to the dome. Saint Mary’s ends their season and will look to improve next season with some bright lights returning.

Parker Bankston will hang up his cleats having thrown for 855 yards this season and rushing for 464. He will lace up his sneakers for basketball season where the Tigers hope to take another shot at a title. Returning to lead this football team next season will be some talented producers from this season. Notably Fidelak, Elie, White, LeGrande, Nelson, Messenger and others.