After a kickoff return of about 90 yards by Christian Fauntleroy to open the second half, the Patriots took their foot off the gas and coasted to the final horn, playing second and third-string players — and maybe more — after their first true offensive series of the half.
“We played our whole roster,” Patriot coach Tommy Byler said. “Every phase of the game worked. It’s fun when everything clicks.”
There couldn’t have been much fun in the offing for the Panthers, who made it into Patriot territory only twice on the night, and only once inside the 45-yard line.
Berwick’s longest march started in the fourth quarter after Lucas Loya recovered an NVHS punt that a teammate fumbled at the Panther 41.
A series of runs interspersed with short passes took the Panthers as deep as the Patriot 3-yard line, but the home team couldn’t punch in a score and avoid the shutout. A 25-yard pass from Reed Leonard midway through the drive went through Drew Landry’s hands at the goal line, and another Leonard pass hit the turf from 12 yards out when Bobby Boudreaux couldn’t make a diving catch.
The threat ended when Leonard fumbled on fourth down.
“It’s been like this all year for us,” Panther coach Craig Brodie said. “We give away too much field position, too many points, too many fumbles. It’s tough to come back from things like that.”
North Vermilion took control early, holding the Panthers to three plays on their first possession and partially blocking Bryan Hernandez’s punt, which traveled only 8 yards. Seven plays later, the Patriots were on the board with the first of their six touchdowns.
Another three-and-out sequence for the Panthers led to a second score in just two plays, with the touchdown coming on Jeremy James’ 41-yard jaunt.
Another short Berwick possession gave way to a three-play scoring drive for the Patriots. A toss-sweep to Kenneth Johnson for 31 yards gave NVHS first and goal to go from the Berwick 4, where a pass from Joe Duhon to Trey Broussard put seven more points on the board for the Patriots.
James tacked on another touchdown from 3 yards out just past midway through the second quarter, and an interception by Taylor Babineaux at the Berwick 25 set up a touchdown pass from Duhon to Landon Dupuy on the next play.
“Everything worked,” Byler said. “This was the kind of game I preached could be a trap all week. Berwick has played decently at times this year, but turnovers killed them.
“We came out and established ourselves, scoring on those first two drives,” he said. “We played well.”
The Panthers got some spark occasionally from sophomore running back Raheem Colar, who was injured on a play where he picked up 18 yards and a Panther first down. Colar, whose five rushes for 44 yards led the Panthers on the night, was assisted off the field favoring his left leg.
He did not return to the game and was to be assessed by doctors in Thibodaux Saturday.
Boudreaux left the stadium on a stretcher after the game complaining of cramps, which Brodie said he suspected was due to dehydration. Colar’s complaint was his knee, he said.
“I think everyone else is going to check out okay,” Brodie said.
Berwick finished the game with 88 yards of offense, 70 of those on the ground on 36 rushing attempts. The 18 yards of passing yardage came on five completions, all by Leonard. Matt Skelton attempted one pass, which was incomplete.
The Panthers “got another game experience,” Brodie said. “We just have to keep working and get better each week.”
North Vermilion piled up 267 yards, with 194 yards rushing on 30 carries. The 73 passing yards, all by Duhon, came on six completions.
Berwick was not penalized during the game. North Vermilion was penalized four times for 35 yards.