Second-half surge by Country Day dooms St. Mary’s

St. Mary’s had some stirring second-half performances this season. But Friday night in Turpin Stadium, in the opening round of the state Division IV football playoffs, the final two quarters belonged to Metairie Park Country Day.

The Cajuns scored 33 points after halftime, 20 in a five-minute stretch in the middle of the third quarter, and bounced the Tigers out of postseason with a surprising 47-7 victory.

That was inconceivable when St. Mary’s drew within 14-7 just a minute before halftime on a 1-yard run by Adam Parker and Payne Williams’ conversion kick, culminating a nice drive.

The Tigers had mounted another solid drive to open the game, but failed to convert it into points.

It seemed to forecast a tightly-contested second half. The Cajuns didn’t see it that way.

“We competed in the first half, but in the second half, they were the better team,” said SMHS coach Aaron York. “They beat us. They were bigger, faster, stronger and better after halftime, and we’ve got to learn from it.

“We had chances in the first half. We fought. We said from the get-go of the year, we can’t turn the ball over, and we turned it over. But we rallied, and when we scored at the end of the half, we were in position to make a real game of it.

“Then it unraveled in the second half. They scooped and scored, we faked a punt that didn’t work and gave them a short field they converted, and we allowed a punt return touchdown,” he said.

Cajuns’ quarterback Michael Talbot found Evan Nunez on a 31-yard TD toss with 8:20 on the clock in the third period for a 21-7 advantage. A 15-yard fumble return by fullback/linebacker Scott Isacks with 4:28 showing boosted the spread to 27-7, and just over a minute later, after the gamble trying to generate momentum on the fake punt, Isacks rumbled across from the 19 and it was 34-7.

A 31-yard punt runback with 8:06 remaining lit up the scoreboard again, and a 35-yard TD run closed out the carnage. Isacks totaled 151 yards rushing on 15 carries.

“Top to bottom, we didn’t play our best,” said York. “They were impressive and you have to give them their due. Their quarterback, he ran hard, and he was better than advertised. Their running back was as good as we expected. They didn’t make many mistakes.”

The Cajuns had 23 first downs to eight for their hosts. St. Mary’s lost two fumbles and suffered an interception. Grame Fidelak collected the Tigers’ only turnover, an interception, and led with 7.5 tackles including a sack. Ben Bienvenu had 5.5 stops.

Country Day outgained St. Mary’s 438-195. Seven different receivers caught passes from Parker (20-32, 130 yards), led by six Fidelak grabs for 54 yards.

The Cajuns defense kept the Tigers from explosive plays, however, and Country Day mounted its own eruption after halftime.

“It’s a tough end to a really good season,” said York. “We lose four seniors and they’re going out winners with a very good 8-3 record against the schedule we had.”