Warren Easton's weapons too much for St. Amant

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
St. Amant's Christia Schmitt tries to take down Warren Easton receiver and top Louisiana recruit Tyron Johnson. Photo by Furlow's Photography.

The St. Amant Gators played their hearts out in their home opener Friday night but in the end, Warren Easton just had too many weapons.

The Gators put up huge offensive numbers and furiously fought back from a 16-point fourth-quarter deficit but with a game that featured over 1,000 yards of offense, it was the Eagle defense that made the biggest play.

They stuffed Nathan Taylor on a fourth and inches as St. Amant threatened to tie the game late. The huge stand allowed 4A's No. 1 team to escape with a thrilling 40-32 shootout victory.

"I'm proud of our team," Gator head coach David Oliver said. "We fought until the last fourth and inches. If we make the play there, we get the first down or a touchdown, and it might be a different outcome, but I'm extremely proud with how we played. We hung in there all night and kept battling."

Not only was Warren Easton the top-ranked 4A team coming into Friday, but they were also nationally-ranked and led by ESPN's top-ranked 2015 Louisiana recruit in receiver Tyron Johnson.

Johnson torched the Gators early and often, but it was quarterback Deshawn Capers-Smith that had the biggest game.

The Texas A&M commit started his assault early. Trailing 3-0, he broke loose on a 70-yard touchdown run off of an option-keeper to put the Eagles up 7-3.

After a Tyler Dixon interception, Capers-Smith hit Clyde Criss on a slant to put the Eagles up 14-3.

Just when it looked like things were slipping away for St. Amant, the Gators scored 14 unanswered points to take the lead. Both scores came on the ground--one from Dixon and another from Richard Williams.

Warren Easton responded quickly to start the second quarter as Capers-Smith hit Johnson with a perfect throw down the sideline for a 49-yard score.

After Dixon scored on an option-keeper to regain the lead for St. Amant, the Eagles got their offense rolling once again.

They put together an 11-play, 80-yard drive to close the half. On a fourth and goal at the Gator 12, Capers-Smith hit Johnson on a slant for the touchdown to put Warren Easton up 28-24 at the break.

In the second half, the defenses finally settled in and started making some stops but not until the Eagles scored on their opening possession.

Capers-Smith hit Johnson on a short pass, and the nation's 24th-ranked recruit did the rest. He made defenders miss and raced down the sideline untouched for a 62-yard touchdown. The score gave Warren Easton their biggest lead of the game at 34-24.

The lead lasted until late in the fourth quarter when Bracy Gardner added a 24-yard touchdown run to put the Eagles up 40-24.

It looked like it was time to turn off the lights at The Pit, but the Gators never quit.

They responded quickly as Dixon hit Ethan Babin down the sideline, he made defenders miss and sprinted 59-yards for the touchdown.

After Dixon hit Justin Duhon for the two-point try, St. Amant trailed 40-32 with 4:53 remaining.

Warren Easton seemed unfazed. Capers-Smith hit Criss for 62 yards to put them inside the Gator 5-yard line, but St. Amant got a huge break when Capers-Smith fumbled a snap. St. Amant pounced on it at their own 1.

Feeding off of the momentum of the huge stop, the Gators got down the field quickly--getting 19-yard runs from both Dixon and Taylor.

They stretched the ball close to the Eagle goal line, but that's as far as they would go. Warren Easton's defense valiantly made four straight stops--forcing the Gators to turn the ball over on downs and earning them the wildly-entertaining 40-32 victory.

The lethal Eagle attack chalked up a booming 614 yards of offense. Capers-Smith accounted for 532 of those yards as he went 18-38 for 382 yards and four touchdowns through the air, and he carried the ball 25 times for 150 yards and a score.

Johnson was his No. 1 target as he collected eight catches for 194 yards and three touchdowns.

"It was a well-played game on both sides," Oliver said. "I feel like we have a really good football team, and it's going to take a team to play a near-perfect game to beat us. They had very few penalties, so we were hoping they would make a few more errors, and they didn't. They did just enough to win."

St. Amant had 459 yards of offense with Dixon leading the way. He went 20-36 for 295 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He also had 16 carries for 80 yards and two scores.

Taylor added 62 yards on the ground, and Babin led all receivers with four catches for 89 yards and a touchdown.

Even though the loss hurts, Oliver is very happy with how his team has played so far against top-notch competition.

"We've come out of the gates playing Acadiana--who was ranked No. 1 in 5A, and we played Warren Easton--who was ranked No. 1 in 4A, so now we just need to keep our focus and keep getting better every week," Oliver said. "I feel like I know a lot about our football team. I feel like we're going to be in every game that we play. We just have to get better finishing."