LAFAYETTE – It was a championship celebration.
In the moments following Thursday’s 10-7 victory over Kinder, fireworks lit up the night sky above Cougar Stadium while “Thunder” by Imagine Dragons blared over the loud speakers. The St. Louis Catholic players lept to their feet out of the end zone and ran towards the hundreds of fans in the home stands.
The Saints had every reason to celebrate.
No, the team didn’t win a state championship but for the Saints, and its blue and orange-clad fans in attendance, the game served as a massive sigh of relief and a welcome distraction from the massive devastation that Hurricane Laura inflicted on their school and city.
“It felt surreal,” senior wide receiver Chase Wilson said. “A few months ago, I would have never thought that we were getting out here. Just the determination from our coaches, our players, our school is amazing. They promised that one day we would back out here. Today is like a dream come true.”
“We didn’t expect them,” added senior linebacker John Reina of the firework celebration. “We just coming in from out of town and to have those fireworks and all these fans here to support us it was great. It is just an amazing feeling.”
That celebration was in doubt in the first quarter.
St. Louis quarterback Cooper Miller was hit hard from behind as he threw on the very first play of the game and Kinder defensive lineman Brandon White picked it off and returned it to the one-yard line.
Tylan Ceasar — a transfer from Barbe — took the ensuing handoff for the Yellowjackets and scored the one-yard touchdown. The extra point was good and the Yellowjackets held a 7-0 lead.
After a few good runs by Evan Joubert, the Saints' second drive stalled around midfield and the Yellowjackets stopped the fourth-and-one play resulting in a turnover on downs.
Kinder’s offense though was unable to take advantage of the field position and went three-and-out but a St. Louis ran into the punter and gave the drive more life. Kinder drove all the way to the 18-yard line but a fourth-down pass was broken up and the Yellowjackets came away with no points.
Kinder's defense once again answered as James Roberts picked off Miller on a deep pass around midfield. In the first quarter, Kinder's defense snagged two interceptions and forced a turnover on downs.
Despite the offensive miscues, St. Louis found themselves down only 7-0 at the end of the first quarter.
“It was an exact replica how we started things last November when we were here,” said St. Louis coach Chad Lavergne referencing the team’s Division II semifinal loss to St. Thomas More. “This was nothing for us to overcome.”
The game turned in St. Louis’ favor in the second quarter.
Kinder drove into the red zone early in the second but the drive stalled and the Yellowjackets had to settle for a 29-yard field goal attempt which they missed.
Kinder's defense kept putting pressure on Miller on the ensuing drive, sacking the Saints quarterback twice but the second sack was costly. Kinder was called for unsportsmanlike penalty but its wasn't enough to pick up the first down.
St. Louis though went for it on fourth down and Miller found Wilson for a 17-yard completion down the right sideline.
“Before they called the play, I knew that I was picking up the first down for the team,” said Wilson who had six catches for 62 yards. “That was the only thing on my mind.”
St. Louis would end the drive with a 29-yard field goal by Jack Watson.
After the defense forced a punt by Kinder, St. Louis start attacking through the air as Miller completed five of six passes on the ensuing drive, including a 10-yard touchdown to Wilson with less than 30 seconds to go before halftime.
“I wasn’t worried at all,” Wilson said. “I know what we are capable of. We just started off a little slow. I knew once we got it all going that we would be fine.”
That touchdown was all the scoring the Saints would need as the defense would shut out the Yellowjackets for the final three quarters. Kinder managed just 213 yards and Cesar was held to 79 yards on 23 carries.
“Our mindset was that we got to really keep playing these downs,” Reina said. “Everybody has to do their job and that’s what we did. We stopped them the three last quarters and we played a great game of defense.”
“We had to have fun out there,” junior defensive back Marcus Duhon added. “We know if we had fun and do our job that we would stop them.”
With defense pitching a shutout, St. Louis’ offense did it’s part by eating up clock and setting off a championship celebration and give the players and their fans a sense of normalcy during difficult times.
“We’ve looking forward to this for a long time, even before the storm,” Lavergne said. “Back then they were taking if we were going to play due to COVID and then the storm happened. A lot of people thought that was a knockout punch. I can honestly say from the diocese, our administration to our coaches we never thought if, we were saying when.”
Reina added, “To be able to come out here and help our brothers out and have their back, getting our minds off of everything that has been going on and get this win together is special.”