Gators pick up first playoff win in four years
On Friday night, St. Amant won its first playoff game since 2017, though it wasn’t very pretty.
But then again, it didn’t have to be. As Gator head coach David Oliver said, “There are no style points in November. A win is a win.”
St. Amant drudged through a sloppy first half that was marred by a plethora of penalties, three turnovers and two missed field goals. It equated to the Gators holding just a 14-13 halftime lead over H.L. Bourgeois.
In the second half, they finally cleaned up many of their mistakes. From there, the Gators rolled to a 27-13 victory over a scrappy Braves squad that has had much of its season altered by the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
“Give a lot of credit to HLB. They played tough,” Oliver said. “They’ve been through a lot this year. We went through the flood in 2016, and I think our team was tougher for it. I saw a lot of that in H.L. Bourgeois tonight. A lot of it was their doing.
“But we came out and made some adjustments in the second half on how we were going to use the tight end. Their defensive ends were giving us big-time problems with their speed. When we fixed that, we were able to get the ball downhill.”
Early on, it appeared the Gators would roll to a blowout victory at The Pit.
After Cole Poirrier threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to make it 7-0, St. Amant’s Brandt Zeller recovered a fumble and returned it to the Brave 1-yard yard.
On the very next play, Wjuantaz Paul powered in for a touchdown to make it 14-0 early in the first quarter.
But from there, St. Amant got sloppy.
The Gators fumbled the ball at their own 34-yard line. Six plays later, H.L. Bourgeois scored to cut the deficit in half.
Later, the Braves scooped up another St. Amant fumble and returned it for a touchdown. The ensuing extra point was blocked, making it 14-13.
The Gators also had two long drives stall deep in Brave territory. They tried 30 and 39-yard field goals and missed both.
St. Amant’s offense finally began to click at the end of the third quarter. The Gators put together an eight-play, 52-yard drive.
They extended the lead with a six-yard touchdown run by Joshua Morrise to make it 21-13 early in the fourth quarter.
The St. Amant defense then pinned the Braves deep and forced a short punt, allowing the Gator offense to take over at the H.L. Bourgeois 32.
Four plays later, Poirrier scored on a six-yard run to extend the Gator lead to 27-13.
The Braves tried to answer, driving all the way to the St. Amant 27, but the Gator defense stood tall and turned them over on downs.
In the win, St. Amant only allowed 98 total yards.
“I can’t say enough about the defense. We’re on a three-game win streak against three good teams, and our defense has carried us the entire way through. It’s been rock solid,” Oliver said.
Oliver didn’t think his team’s first-half struggles were due to a letdown following the Gators’ huge win the week before against East Ascension.
“I think it had more to do with HLB,” Oliver said. “Playoff football is a different kind of football. You’re going to take everyone’s best shot, and I think they really brought it to us. They outplayed us in the first half.
Then we came out and said, ‘I guess they haven’t read about us in the old Weekly Citizen, so we may have to show up and play a little bit.’ We started competing, and we came out on top. It’s a good win for our program.”
Poirrier threw for 121 yards and a score. He rushed for 81 yards and an additional touchdown.
Also on the ground, Morrise rushed for 81 yards and score, and Paul added 38 yards and a touchdown.
The Gators will now go on the road to face defending 5A champion Acadiana in the second round.