The St. Mary’s football team lined up against a second straight Class 3A opponent Friday night at Turpin Stadium, but this time, the Class A Tigers were the superior team, bottling up Buckeye’s Panthers 38-6.
Abbeville’s Wildcats, the season-opening foe, had abundant talent and looked like a team poised for its best season in over a decade on Sept. 3 in a 43-23 victory over the TIgers.
But in the season’s second contest, SMHS kept visiting Buckeye bottled up all night and took control just before halftime with a couple of scores sandwiched around a fumble recovery by Kolton Norsworthy deep in Panthers’ territory. That pivotal exchange over 61 seconds expanded a one-score lead to a 21-0 halftime bulge.
The Tigers (1-1) outgained a much-bigger Buckeye squad by 283-152, and allowed the Panthers only five first downs. SMHS forced five turnovers, including interceptions by Graeme Fidelak and Ethan Busby, while Logan Watson and Peyton Mitchell had the other fumble recoveries.
“I thought our defense played a hell of a game. Apart from the last minute of the ballgame, we shut them out,” said St. Mary’s coach Aaron York. “Our defense played very physical.
“Drake Griffiin, Mixon Bankston, Kolton Norsworthy and Graeme Fidelak really stood out on the defensive side. Apart from one or two long runs, Buckeye didn’t sniff a thing. They were big and they tried to lean on us, but we handled it.”
Griffin led the Tigers with 6.5 tackles while Fidelak had 4.5 and both of Bankston’s stops were tackles for loss. Norsworthy collected five tackles and Ben Bienvenu made four.
“We played a little bit better this week, and I didn’t think we played badly last week,” said York. “We definitely weren’t dealing with the same caliber athletes as Abbeville had last week, but it is always good to beat a Class 3A school.”
Tigers’ tailback Jadyn Jackson got the Tigers out front early in the second quarter, scampering 20 yards for a score 10:44 before halftime. Payne Williams drilled the first of his five extra-point kicks for a 7-0 lead.
Quarterback Adam Parker capped a methodical drive on a 3-yard keeper at the 1:46 mark with Williams making it 14-0. Norsworthy’s fumble recovery shortly afterward gave SMHS a short field in the waning seconds, and Griffin slammed across with 45 ticks remaining to pad the spread to 21-0 after Williams’ PAT kick.
St. Mary’s again put two TDs together in a tight package in the middle of the second half. Parker tossed a five-yard scoring strike to Fidelak with 1:34 to go in the third period, and Jackson’s 1-yard TD three seconds into the fourth quarter boosted the home team ahead 35-0.
Three minutes later, Williams made it a 17-point burst when he booted a 38-yard field goal for a 38-0 spread. Buckeye (1-1) averted the shutout with a touchdown in the game’s final minutes.
“We ran the ball fairly well, and our offense was a lot better overall,” said York. “We played fast on both sides of the ball. We spread ‘em out and that gave their defense some fits. We were able to run our counters and our zones very effectively.
“The kids played a lot harder tonight (than in the opener). Last week was kind of an eye opener – they saw real game speed, and now they’ve adapted to it. We’ve picked up our pace on our side of the ball.”
A very distinct advantage is the leg of Williams. Along with perfection on his placement kicks, the sophomore had three touchbacks with booming kickoffs.
“That’s a plus when you’re pinning the other team on the 20 over and over,” said York.
The comfortable margin allowed the Tigers to empty their bench in the final 12 minutes.
“Everybody got to play tonight, so younger and inexperienced guys got some valuable experience and that gets us better every time out,” said York.
Next time out, St. Mary’s heads south on I-49 for a rivalry game with Holy Savior Menard in Alexandria.
That matchup next Friday had the Tiger coaches forgoing the “24-hour rule” that generally allows a day to savor a victory before beginning extensive work on the next game.
“We’ve got about a 24-minute rule,” said York. “Our staff is looking at Menard right now.”
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