The Daily Review
BOURG- One play call can completely change a game’s outcome.
Thursday night against the Morgan City Tigers, the Ellender Patriots discovered just how meaningful one play call can be.
When Tiger quarterback Hoang Nguyen found the end zone from eight yards out with one minute to play in the game, it appeared as though the two scrappy teams would continue their duel into overtime.
But as the special teams unit for the Tigers came on to attempt the potential tying extra point, they abruptly audibled into a modified shotgun formation to try for the win.
Nguyen took the ball but failed to get a clean grip, just as the Patriots’ Justin James barreled through the line to knock Nguyen to the ground and preserve the 32-31 District 8-4A win for the Patriots.
It was the first district win for Ellender (4-3, 1-1) since 2008. Ironically, that win came against the Tigers as well.
“If you make, it you’re a hero, if not, you’re the goat,” Morgan City head coach Brandon Nowlin said of the call. “We don’t play to tie. We play to win. It’s something we kept in our back pocket; we thought we could get it.”
For Ellender head coach Terry Washington, the win pulled his team one step closer to its ultimate goal – postseason play.
“That was a gutsy performance for Morgan City tonight,” Washington said. “I have to give credit to my defense for keeping their composure and really clamping down.”
He continued, “This is a signature win for us. If we can stay composed and win a couple more, there is an opportunity there for us.”
Early on, however, it appeared the Tigers would spoil the Patriots’ homecoming as Morgan City came out of the gates with a 17-point lead.
After an Ellender fumble on the opening drive was returned to the Tiger 16 by Trent Thomas, The Tigers offense struck first.
Keyvan Marsh (14 carries, 35 yards, one touchdown) found the end zone on a run from three yards out to put the Tigers (4-2, 0-1) ahead 7-0 with 8:48 to play in the opening quarter.
Another Patriot turnover, this time an interception by the Tigers’ Brett LeBouef, was returned 49 yards to the Ellender 5. However, the Patriot defense held, and the Tigers settled for a 27-yard Sergize Flores field goal with 6:16 to play to increase their lead to 10-0.
The Tigers added another score in the quarter after blocking a Patriot punt.
Thomas scooped up the loose football and returned it to the Patriot 11 to set up Morgan City’s next offensive possession.
Two plays later following a false start penalty, Jacolbi Francois (12 carries, 32 yards, one touchdown) found pay dirt on a 16-yard run to put Morgan City ahead 17-0.
Ellender answered on the ensuing kickoff with a 95-yard touchdown by Kevin Lucien with 4:18 to play in the first quarter to cut the Tiger lead to 17-6 following a failed extra point.
Following an Ellender interception, and a Morgan City fumble, the Patriots inched even closer with another score at the 8:24 mark of the second quarter.
Patriot quarterback Dustin Creppel (18-for-32, three touchdowns, two interceptions) found Dan Mitchell from 12 yards out to make the score 17-12.
Creppel followed that with a 58-yard strike to Lucion (three catches, 88 yards, one touchdown) on the Patriots next possession to give Ellender its first lead, 18-17, with 6:08 to play in the second quarter.
The Tigers added a score with 48 seconds to play in the half when Nguyen (11-for-19, one touchdown) found Travion Jones (3 catches, 22 yards, one touchdown) from 10 yards out, to put Morgan City ahead 25-18.
Ralph Singleton (82 yards rushing, two touchdowns; 58 yards receiving) accounted for all the Patriots’ scoring in the second half, finding the end zone from two yards out with 2:02 to play in the third quarter to cut the Morgan City lead to 25-24.
Singleton’s second score, and ultimate game-winner, came on a fourth-and-goal from the three. Singleton ran in unscathed prior to the successful two-point conversion attempt to put Ellender ahead 32-25 with 7:53 to play in the game leading up to the dramatic finish.
The Patriots outgained the Tigers in total offense 387 to 254.
Jaylen Jones led the Tigers with 108 yards on four catches.
Kyle Carrier is a sports correspondent for the Houma Courier