BY MATT VINES, Journal Sports
METAIRIE – St. Mary’s didn’t trail until the final ticks of the third quarter in Friday’s quarterfinals matchup, but St. Martin’s Episcopal reaped the benefits of its explosive rushing attack late.
The No. 4 seed Saints (11-1) took the lead for good midway through the fourth quarter en route to a 29-25 win Friday in the Division IV Select playoffs.
The No. 5 seed Tigers (9-2) led throughout the first two-and-a-half quarters, but two turnovers, including a fumble on St. Mary’s final drive, sealed the result.
Running back Harlem Berry rushed for 256 of St. Martin’s 339 yards and all four touchdowns to prevent St. Mary’s from advancing to its first semifinals since 2017.
Berry scored from two yards out with seven minutes remaining, negating what St. Mary’s coach Aaron York thought was a goaline stand.
“The defense put us in a position at the end of the game on what I thought was the best defensive goaline stand of the year, but the officials didn’t see it that way,” York said. “We had a chance with less than a minute in the game when Adam Parker hit Payne Williams down the sideline, and everyone in blue thought it was a catch, but the officials didn’t. But take nothing away from our kids, they are competitors. I thought our kids competed about the best I have seen this program compete since I’ve been here.”
The Tigers snatched their final lead when receiver Ethan Busby snatched a 12-yard touchdown from quarterback Adam Parker as St. Mary’s built a 25-21 edge with 10:38 remaining. St. Mary’s converted the two-point attempt when Parker completed a pass to Braylon Normand.
Parker was efficient through the air on a night when the Tigers’ rushing attack wasn’t at its best, completing 16-21 for 189 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
Parker had a hand in all three of St. Mary’s touchdowns, starting with a five-yard touchdown toss to Busby early in the second quarter for the game’s first score.
Busby corralled a team-high eight passes for 78 yards and two touchdowns.
Running back Joe Metoyer, who didn’t have positive rushing yards, contributed a team-high 83 receiving yards as the offense’s best option for explosive plays on a night when the Tigers had to piece together scoring drives.
“Offensively, I thought we moved the ball well,” York said. “We didn’t convert on a fourth down going into the end zone, and we were on the 1-yard line and had a bad snap that pushed us back. I thought our boys played lights out on offense, defense and special teams.”
St. Martin’s feasted on the big play, starting with a Berry 78-yard touchdown run to answer St. Mary’s early score and knot the score at 7-7 in the second quarter.
St. Mary’s kicker Payne Williams drilled a 27-yard field goal with 2:18 before halftime to give the Tigers a 10-7 edge heading into the locker room.
The Tigers grabbed what appeared to be a commanding 17-7 lead midway through the third quarter on a Parker 1-yard touchdown run, and St. Mary’s appeared to be in position to advance given how dominant the defense has played this season.
But a Tigers defense who had held seven of its previous 10 opponents to single-digit scoring couldn’t plug up Berry and St. Martin’s rushing attack in the final quarter-and-a-half.
Berry struck from 55 yards to slash St. Mary’s lead to 17-14 and plunged in from 2 yards out late in the third quarter to give the host Saints their first lead at 21-17 with 14 seconds left in the third quarter.
“You will never be able to stop an athlete like they have, you just hope to contain him,” York said. “But I thought our defense did a great job of keeping him in check.”
The Tigers had an answer as Parker found Busby for the second time of the night, but Berry’s fourth and final touchdown put St. Martin’s up 29-25, a lead they would not relinquish.
The Saints’ offense found a way to extend drives by converting 7-12 on third down and its lone fourth-down attempt.
St. Mary’s drives stalled in key places, converting just 3-8 on third down and 1-3 on fourth down to pair with its two turnovers.
Drake Griffin anchored St. Mary’s ground game with 78 yards on 13 attempts to add to Parker’s 46 yards on 17 carries.
St. Mary’s suffered its last loss in the opener to Abbeville, reeling off nine straight wins before the loss to St. Martin’s Episcopal. The winning streak is the longest since its 13-game streak in 2015 that included an undefeated regular season and a run to the Division IV state championship, a game which St. Mary’s lost to Southern Lab but was later forfeited.
The Tigers won their first playoff game since that 2017 semifinals run with its defeat of Hanson Memorial in the second round.
PHOTO CREDIT: Elizabeth Yopp/St. Mary’s Media Relations