The St. Mary’s Tigers completed the first phase of their 2021 football season in typical style Friday night, taking control after halftime against a larger-classification opponent to notch another impressive victory.
SMHS (4-1) dispatched DeQuincy 35-20 at Turpin Stadium, outscoring the visitors 21-7 in the final two quarters. The Tigers remain No. 1 statewide in the LHSAA’s Division I power points rankings after topping their third straight Class 2A opponent, and winning their fourth game overall in a first-half slate that included five bigger foes.
Tigers coach Aaron York is impressed with his team, but isn’t fazed by the No. 1 ranking.
“It’s exciting to see us up there, but it’s not our end goal. Halfway through the season, there’s a lot of football left. We’ll have a target on our backs in district,” he said. “We have the pre-district season, then the district season and then the playoffs. We have to play well in district to give us an advantage and earn home playoff games.”
His players were not fazed when DeQuincy (2-3) nearly erased a 14-0 first half SMHS advantage, missing an extra point 17 seconds before halftime and trailing 14-13 at the break.
One thing we stress is finish, finish, finish. The last three weeks we’ve finished strong. That’s been our problem in the past, but now we’re looking good in the third and fourth quarters, and that makes a coach proud,” said York.
The Tigers jumped on top five minutes into play on a 22-yard touchdown pass by second-team quarterback Mixon Bankston to Ben Bienvenu, and the first of five successful extra point kicks by Payne Williams. Their lead doubled to 14-0 with 8:44 to go in the half on Adam Parker’s 19-yard scoring strike to Ethan Busby.
But DeQuincy got a pair of touchdown runs from talented quarterback Reese Ashworth in the last six minutes of the second period to challenge St. Mary’s.
The Tigers answered the bell. It was Williams with the game-changing play, scooping up a fumble and scoring from 65 yards out at the 7:14 mark of the third period for a 21-13 lead. Drake Griffin, who notched his first 100-yard rushing game (102 on 22 carries), notched the first of his two touchdowns on an 8-yard rumble 1:03 before the end of the quarter to make it 28-13.
“Our offensive line had one of its better games. We ran the ball well when we needed to in the second half,” said York. “We put in a few new wrinkles this week and our kids executed them well.”
DeQuincy finally got on the board with 4:20 remaining in the contest when Ashworth tossed a 22-yard TD to Taige Ceasar, but St. Mary’s responded quickly, making it 35-20 with 2:44 to go on Griffin’s 13-yard run.
Logan Watson, who recovered a fumble, topped the Tigers with 6.5 tackles while Bankston made six. Graeme Fidelak and Bienvenu each had five.
Williams added an interception to his scoop and score, and broke up two passes. His kickoffs were booming, and that combination earned him the Tigers’ player of the game honor.
The Tigers had only one turnover and remarkably, just one penalty for five yards.
“I felt pretty good about all phases Friday night, and once again our kids played hard, played physical, and that’s what we want going into district,” said York.
The Tigers celebrate homecoming on their own on-campus field next Friday night, opening 3-1A play against Northwood-Lena.
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