St. Mary’s, Lakeview emotional for different reasons as both seek district win Friday

By Dwain Spillman Jr/Journal Sports  

NATCHITOCHES — An emotional roller coaster. That is the most nominal manner to describe this week’s experience for St. Mary’s nation as they head into this week’s annual homecoming celebration culminating with a District 3-1A matchup with Montgomery. 

Coming off of a stellar performance against Class 4A opponent Peabody this past Friday in which the Tigers put up 385 yards of total offense in their 58-6 blowout of the Warhorses, the SMS faithful were dealt a huge psychological blow in the early hours of Sunday when junior standout Ben Bienvenu suffered serious injuries in a violent car accident.  

Bienvenu spent the night in the LSU-Shreveport Medical Center ICU but was transferred to the trauma unit that afternoon. The best news of the week is that he will recover from his injuries, though it will be a painful and difficult process. The family reported that Bienvenu was discharged from the hospital late Tuesday and will continue recovery and therapy at home in Natchitoches. 

“It’s been really tough,” Tiger head coach Aaron York said earlier this week. “We are just thankful he is still with us. We will definitely be playing hard for him the rest of the season.” 

Combined with not having Bienvenu in the lineup on both sides of the ball for the rest of 2022, Tiger nation is struggling to find its way to celebrate homecoming week. Ahead on Friday’s schedule is an important district matchup with the visitors from Grant Parish. St. Mary’s will bring a 5-1 overall mark into the contest, 1-0 in district while Montgomery (0-7, 0-2) is seeking its first win of the season.  

“We just have to be us,” York said of his Tiger’s mission this week. “It is homecoming, and there is so much that goes with that. When it is time to focus on homecoming festivities, we will do that. When it is time to focus on football, we will do that. This Friday, we will have to be focused and ready to go. This team (Montgomery) is coached very well and are capable of coming in here and beating us if we are not focused and taking care of our business.” 

Lakeview Seeking First District Win 

MANSFIELD – Highway to the Danger Zone. 

We all know that’s a trite reference to one of the most popular movies of 2022. However, that’s exactly where Lakeview is heading Friday by travelling north via Interstate 49 to Mansfield as the Gators meet the Wolverines to continue this season’s trip through the District 3-2A slate. 

“They are very dangerous,” Gator head coach Brandon Helms said of this week’s opponent. “They have a ton of athletes and, realistically, they are one series away from being 2-0 in district. They spread the field both vertically and horizontally, and that provides a huge challenge for us.” 

Helms explained why he believes the Wolverines are so dangerous. Getting their first win of the season this past week after dropping Jonesboro-Hodge 20-12 a week ago, Mansfield’s slate has included the likes of Huntington, Evangel Christian, Ouachita Christian, Calvary Baptist and Many. They played Evangel and OCS to a one-score loss and hung around with Many in the first half. 

“Mansfield has played probably the most difficult schedule of anyone so far,” Helms said. “Their record definitely does not reflect just how good they really are.” 

The Gators (4-3, 0-2) will be seeking their first win in 3-2A after falling to Red River at home this past week.  

Helms said that his team continues to work on key elements of the game in search of returning to their earlier season success in which the Gators won four straight.  

Lakeview committed six turnovers (5 fumbles, 1 interception) a week ago after protecting the ball well all season. Defensively, the Gators saw Red River run 62 offensive plays encompassing 19 series.  

“We just have to take care of the ball,” he said. “Last week we just seemed so anemic on offense. We have to find ways to move the ball and keep the opponent’s offense off of the field. It really took a toll on our defense as much time as we spent on that side of the ball.” 

Quarterback CJ Jones returned from an injury against Red River but wasn’t fully healthy. Jones’ effectiveness will loom large in a bid to obtain Lakeview’s first district win. 

Photo: Elizabeth Yopp/St. Mary’s Media Relations