DONALDSONVILLE — Some of the most vivid memories for Central Catholic’s Eagles fans about their squad's loss to Ascension Catholic no doubt will be the squad’s inability to convert late.
But CCHS coach David Fuhrer said it shouldn’t have even come down to that.
CCHS blew a 13-point halftime lead as ACHS used its ground game to move down the field and get itself back in the ballgame.
“I think once we got into contact with them and got seven points down and then took the lead … then our guys started believing, started playing a lot more passionate on defense,” ACHS coach Doug Moreau said. “But they are an unbelievably good offensive football team and they’re a good defensive team too. I thought we did a good job (in the) second half making some adjustments. We didn’t have a lot of plays that worked but the plays that did work, we were able to get it done with them.”
And after ACHS took the lead, CCHS could not complete a comeback with a failed two-point conversion in its 42-40 loss to Ascension Catholic here Thursday.
“I knew they were good,” Fuhrer said. “I knew they did some good things. We executed the game play early on, and then the second half they got a little confidence and they moved the ball a whole lot better.”
While Fuhrer gave the Bulldogs credit for the victory, he said his squad wasn’t helped by injuries, which played to ACHS’ favor in their veer offense.
Trailing 42-34, CCHS quarterback Luke Landry hit Dontrell Brown for a pass and Brown worked his way through the ACHS defense for a touchdown to cut the CCHS deficit to two, 42-40, with 14 seconds left.
The Eagles went for two to tie the game, but CCHS running back Josh Protti was stopped on a run attempt.
“That was a fantastic football play right there,” Moreau said of the stop. “That was a good one.”
CCHS’ onside kick attempt was recovered by Ascension Catholic’s James Martin at the AC 49, and the Bulldogs were able to run out the clock for the victory.
“My hat’s off to them,” Fuhrer said. “Those guys never quit. They kept playing and they got the ‘W.’ We just (will) go back to work, and I think we’ll be better for this.”
The two point conversion attempt was the second time Thursday that the Eagles were stopped short of the goal line in less than a minute.
Trailing 36-34 with 1:15 remaining and a first-and-goal situation at its 1-yard line, Protti took a hand off but fumbled near the goal line, and ACHS recovered the football at the three.
“That was a big play, very big play,” Moreau said of the fumble.
One play later, Wade Bailey took the ball on a running play for the Bulldogs and raced 97 yards down the Eagles’ sideline for a touchdown and a 42-34 ACHS advantage with 0:44 seconds remaining in the ballgame.
It was the second consecutive long touchdown run for Bailey, who led ACHS with 14 carries for 202 yards and four touchdowns on the ground and added two receptions for 30 yards and another score as a receiver.
Much of Bailey’s big yardage came on his last two runs, which totaled 151 yards.
“He’s a good little runner,” Moreau said. “He (is) real good in the open field and made a difference.”
On the previous carry before his 97 yard scamper, Bailey had helped ACHS tie CCHS at 34 with a 54-yard touchdown run with 4:39 remaining.
ACHS quarterback D.J. Latino’s two-point run was good to give ACHS its first lead of the ball game, 36-34.
ACHS’ second-half comeback came following five straight possessions to begin the second half.
The only one the Bulldogs didn’t score on was its final one when it knelt to run out the clock.
Early on in Thursday’s ballgame, it was CCHS that did much of the scoring as the Eagles found the touchdowns on four of its five first-half possessions.
On the last possession, CCHS attempted to put the ball in the end zone with seconds remaining in the first half on a hook and lateral play. However, the Eagles fell six yards short of the end zone when Brown was knocked out of bounds.
Brown led the Eagles’ receivers with seven receptions for 167 yards and two touchdowns.
CCHS jumped out to as much as a 20-0 lead with 37 seconds left when Landry hit Brown for a 25-yard touchdown pass.
Landry completed 14 of 18 passes for 297 yards and scored four touchdowns.
Despite a three-touchdown deficit, ACHS began to chip away with touchdowns by Bailey and Latino in the second quarter.
Landry also led CCHS’ ground game with 13 carries for 86 yards.
For ACHS, Jacquel Wade added 12 carries for 65 yards.
Through the air, Latino completed four of five passes for 92 yards and a score.
Moreau acknowledged the play of Latino in the victory. “He really came of age tonight, I think,” he said.
Matt Reed was the Bulldogs’ leading receiver with a reception for 49 yards.