Tigers don’t tire, push away late to prevail at Oakdale

The St. Mary’s football team took the lead two plays into Friday night’s game at Oakdale, and never trailed, but the Tigers weren’t breathing easy against the Warriors.

For the second straight week, St. Mary’s grabbed the upper hand in the fourth quarter and rode home happy, scoring 10 points in the final 3:02 to turn a one-point edge into a 30-19 victory.

The Tigers (3-1) conquered a foe from a larger classification for a third straight Friday. They overcame a lot, said coach Aaron York, for their second consecutive road win.

“We made too many mistakes. We had a lull until when it was a tight ballgame in the fourth quarter, and our kids made the plays to win. I don’t think our emotions were there, although all week we talked about not having a letdown (after prevailing with a second-half comeback 31-17 last week at rival Menard).”

Oakdale (2-2) played power football, rushing for 324 yards and adding 112 passing, and maintaining possession with a series of onside kicks and a plodding offense. The Warriors ran 53 plays to only 31 for the Tigers.

“We couldn’t sustain a drive, and their offense just pounded away, trying to wear us down. The stats don’t stand out for us but we made plays when we had to and we won the fourth quarter,” said York. “We’re finishing games in a physical manner, in good shape, and that goes back to our conditioning and mental toughness.”

The Tigers roared out of the gate. On the first play from scrimmage, Adam Parker connected with Ben Bienvenu on a long pass that set up Parker’s 2-yard touchdown run – his first of three TDs — on the next snap. Payne Williams’ conversion kick lifted St. Mary’s up 7-0 just 47 seconds into the game.

Oakdale tied it 8:23 before halftime. A quarter later, Drake Griffin rumbled 15 yards to put the Tigers back up, despite a blocked extra point kick, 13-7 under three minutes into the third period.

The Warriors finally got across the goalline again with 9:30 left to play, but missed the go-ahead conversion kick. The Tigers quickly regained the lead, moving downfield for a 15-yard Parker TD run and Williams’ conversion boot, taking a 20-13 edge with 7:28 to go.

Oakdale answered with Cedrick Allison dashing 76 yards at the 6:08 mark, but for the second straight try, the extra point failed, leaving the Tigers on top 20-19.

The visitors responded like winners do, moving downfield for a 32-yard Parker TD run with 3:02 left. Williams banged through the PAT, and after the Tiger D got a final stop, St. Mary’s clinched it with 50 seconds left on Williams’ 24-yard field goal.

“We went into fourth-quarter mode, grinding it out like we did at Menard,” said York. “It was the Drake Griffin and Adam Parker Show. Adam is such a competitor. The last five minutes, he pulled us through on the offensive side.

“Defensively, we made the play when we needed it. Mixon Bankston (5.5 tackles) again had a great game, and Logan Watson (a team-high seven stops) came up big for us. He made a real nice play sniffing out a screen late in the game. On both sides of the ball, up front, Cole Fisher and Gavin LaGrange had great games,” said York.

The Tigers got a lift from the people behind them, he said.

“We had a heck of a fan base. We may have had more there than they did, and our team fed off that,” said York. “If we’re gonna make a run in the playoffs, you have to learn how to play and travel and win. We’ve done that two weeks in a row.”

The Tigers get a welcomed home contest next Friday, wrapping non-district play against a third straight Class 2A foe, DeQuincy, in Turpin Stadium.