ASH makes lasting impression in first state championship football game
NATCHITOCHES — Alexandria Senior High made a lasting impression in its first state championship football game.
That it can play with Louisiana's elite.
The No. 6 Trojans (7-3) lost to defending Class 5A champion and No. 1 Acadiana, 35-34, at Northwestern State's Turpin Stadium on Wednesday night.
"I'm proud of my kids," ASH coach Thomas Bachman said. "They're heartbroken and I think when you invest so much into each other and a season, there's been a lot of emotion that been poured out of us over the last few weeks. That doesn't come from winning a ballgame. They worked hard for an entire career."
The Trojans trailed 35-21 with 3:10 left, but rallied as senior Judd Barton threw two touchdowns in a span of 45 seconds to close within a point and a chance to tie the game with a minute left.
ASH decided to go for the 2-point conversion and take the lead. However, the Trojans were flagged for an illegal formation and Barton's pass was intercepted by Laterrance Welch.
The ensuing onside kick was recovered by the Rams (11-1) who ran out the clock.
"I'm just really proud of my guys and I love playing with them," said Barton, who was 9-for-15 for 76 yards and a touchdown. "I wouldn't take anybody else. It didn't go our way, but you live and you learn. We knew it would be a tough one, we'll stick together."
It was that resilience that helped ASH get to this point, starting with comeback win against Zachary in the quarterfinals and a dominant second half against West Monroe in the semifinals.
The Trojans defense stepped up in key moments Wednesday as well to stop Acadiana's patented veer option by forcing and recovering three fumbles.
Senior C.J. Kittling earned Most Outstanding Player honors with 14 tackles a fumble recovery and a pass deflection.
"It's a really good achievement, but I really wanted the win," Kittling said. "But I'll take it."
"He's been doing it all year," Bachman added. "Somebody's going to get C.J. in junior college. He has a high football IQ. Nobody gets to see behind the scenes or what goes on. C.J.'s a competitive kid."
Jarvis Newton led ASH with 72 yards on 12 carries. Senior Jermaine McNeal had a game-high 15 tackles and forced a fumble.
"We fought to the end," McNeal said. "We were down at halftime, but we still came out as a whole. We came up short, but we fought hard."
It was the third straight year the season ended with a heartbreaking one-point loss for the Trojans.
"We came up a little bit short, but like I told them in the locker room, 'If there's one thing that comes out of this, when we walk out of this room, we have to stay glued up and stay together," Bachman said.