By MATT VINES, Natchitoches Parish Journal
Down two scores to a Glenbrook program that contended with the likes of Haynesville and Homer this year for a district title?
That situation didn’t cause panic on the St. Mary’s sidelines at Turpin Stadium, and the No. 6 seed Tigers reeled 30 of 37 points in one stretch to knock off the No. 11 seed Apaches, 30-27, Friday night in the second round of the LHSAA Division IV Select football playoffs.
“We just needed to settle down from the start and get into a game flow,” said St. Mary’s coach Aaron York. “Defensively, we needed to make alignment adjustments.
“Offensively, we were moving the ball – we just turned it over with the interception and a fumble at the 1-yard line. Once we held onto the ball and made defensive corrections, we were fine. I felt like once we could get a stop, our offense could score.”
St. Mary’s advanced to the quarterfinals for the second straight season with the win.
Glenbrook nearly knocked off eventual D-IV Select champion Ouachita Christian this past year, and now it’s the Tigers turn to head to OCS for a chance to prevent the Eagles from another state title run. That happens next Friday. Pardon St. Mary’s fans if they savor the Tigers’ second-round win as much as their Thanksgiving feasts.
The Apaches’ quick start Friday began with a Cade Vining 1-yard touchdown run before Chase Sentell intercepted St. Mary’s quarterback Mixon Bankston that led to a Sentell 16-yard touchdown run.
Glenbrook led 12-0 just more than six minutes into the game.
After St. Mary’s kicker Payne Willams connected on a 29-yard field goal to close the gap to 12-3, both teams traded fumbles with St. Mary’s fumble coming on the goal line.
But by that time, the Tigers’ defense entrenched itself, making adjustments to Glenbrook’s early success.
Williams scratched the scoreboard as a receiver this time, hauling in a 21-yard touchdown pass from Bankston. Williams worked his way back to the quarterback during a scramble, then raced past three defenders for the score. Glenbrook’s lead shrunk to 12-10 early in the second quarter.
The Apaches appeared to regain the momentum with just 16 seconds left in the first half, widening the lead to 19-10 with an Easton Sanders 6-yard touchdown pass.
But St. Mary’s owned the second half, scoring three straight touchdowns to surge to a 30-19 advantage.
Williams caught his second touchdown of the night on a 34-yard gain. He caught three of Bankston’s six completions for 79 yard of Bankston’s 97 passing yards on top of his field goal.
The running game is what paced St. Mary’s. Bankston chewed up 125 yards on the ground to complement John Paul Thibodaux’s 70 rushing yards.
“The biggest thing that changed was ball control – we controlled it on the ground,” York said. “It’s the best game for our offensive line yet. The new roles for everyone has taken offensively is helping out – moving Drake Griffin to the offensive line, Ben Bienvenu to tight end and getting John Paul healthy at running back.
“That’s allowed our quarterback to stay on his feet more because he’s getting better protection up front.”
Bankston’s first of two rushing touchdowns put the home team ahead 23-19 on a 16-yard run.
His second rushing score appeared to salt the game away with his 9-yard touchdown on a keeper, with SMS going up 30-19 with less than four minutes remaining.
The Apaches didn’t slink away quietly, notching a 6-yard Sanders run with just 44 seconds left, and the two-point conversion hacked St. Mary’s lead to just 30-27.
But St. Mary’s jumped on the onside kick and ran out the clock to secure its second straight trip to the quarterfinals.
“Special teams played a big role for us,” York said. “We certainly needed the points from Payne’s field goal, and our hands team saved us at the end.
“Payne’s kickoffs int the end zone helped flip field position, and that unit did a great job overall.”
Glenbrook’s balanced offense outgained St. Mary’s 404-321 with 210 passing and 194 rushing yards, but the Tigers cashed in on money downs, forcing the Apache into 3-of-9 on third down and 0-for-3 on fourth down.