Defense paves way in Crowley’s playoff victory
By Chris Quebedeaux
CROWLEY – It wasn’t exactly the offensive performance Crowley High’s Tommy Tate was looking for.
But defensively, it was a different story.
While the CHS offense struggled - particularly in the first half - the defense shined, sparking the Gents to a 20-0 first-round playoff victory over Livonia Friday in front of a near-capacity crowd at Gardiner Memorial Stadium.
The victory sends CHS (9-2) to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2006. The Gents will travel to Baton Rouge Friday to take on No. 2 seed Parkview Baptist, 40-8 winners over Marksville in its first round game.
“Offensively, we couldn’t really sustain anything and that was frustrating,” said Tate, whose team managed just 88 yards and two first downs in the first half.
“Our defense pretty much carried us tonight. It seemed like they were on the field all night long. But they were having fun out there.
“They were flying around and making plays. We gave up a couple of big plays, but we had so many negative yardage plays... It was just an outstanding effort by our defense. Putting a goose egg up in the playoffs is big.”
The Gents’ aggressive defensive play led to four fumbles and two interceptions by Livonia, a team that had beaten Class 4A power Jennings earlier in the year.
Also playing a huge role in the Gents’ victory was its special teams play, which supplied a spark when the offense could not.
It’s first contribution occurred on the opening kickoff when D’Myrus Daniels’ line-drive kick hit a Livonia player on the front line. The loose ball was recovered by CHS’ Drew Legros, giving the Gents the ball at the Livonia 42-yard line.
From there it took just two plays for the Gents to get on the board. Daniels broke off a 32-yard run on a quarterback draw on the first play and Tonori Boutte finished the drive off with a 10-yard scoring run on the next play.
Two series later, Crowley’s defense came up with its first big play of the game.
After the Gents fumbled away a punt, Livonia drove down to the CHS 23-yard line and they appeared poised to tie the game.
But defensive back Donavon Morris stripped the ball away from Justin Mougeot on the next play and raced 77 yards for a touchdown. Nick Hoffpauir’s second PAT made it 14-0.
“That was a big play for us,” said Tate of Morris’ fumble recovery for a touchdown. “You know, they (Livonia) are driving the football and it’s 7-0. We get a big strip, pick up the ball and go 77 yards with it and score on defense. That was really a big play in the game. It gave us a little bit of a cushion.”
Livonia mounted another drive on its ensuing possession, marching down to the CHS 25.
But the Gents’ defense was up to the challenge again.
First, CHS’ Tuskani Figaro sacked quarterback Brentan LaCour for a 5-yard loss. Following a short run and an incompletion, Travoris Robinson then sacked LaCour for another 5-yard loss and forced the Wildcats to turn the ball over on downs.
Midway though the second quarter, Livonia threatened again after blocking a punt and getting the ball back on the CHS 9-yard line. But another Figaro sack followed along with a run for a loss, leaving the Wildcats with a 34-yard field goal attempt that fell short.
Not to be outdone, Crowley’s special teams came up big one more time late in the second quarter when Livonia bobbled a punt and Jacob Soloman recovered at the LHS 14.
From there it took just one play for the Gents to cash in.
The payoff came when Daniels hooked up with Morris streaking across the middle of the end zone for a 14-yard scoring strike to give the Gents a 20-0 lead.
That, it turned out, was way more than the Gents needed.
“Special teams were big for us,” said Tate. “We got good field position with special teams and that enabled us to put some points on the board.”
Crowley defensive back Kristian Allen also had a big game for the Gents, thwarting two potential scoring drives in the second half with interceptions. He also had a number of pass breakups that aided in the shutout.
Allen picked off a LaCour pass just past midfield with just under 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and then recorded his second interception about four minutes later with a leaping grab in the end zone.
“We created some turnovers with the interceptions,” said Tate. “Kristian really made some great plays out there and had a heck of a game.”
Livonia’s normally potent rushing attack also had trouble, especially in the second half. The Wildcats racked up 65 yards on the ground in the first half but they were limited to just 26 in the final 24 minutes.
“I thought our defensive front was very active tonight,” said Tate. “We kept pressure on them and we shut the running game down. Tackle to tackle, we shut the inside running game down and I thought that was a big key to the game.”
Although Crowley didn’t put any points on the board in the second half, Tate was pleased with team’s play.
The Gents limited the Wildcats to just three possessions in the final two frames and ate up over 18 minutes off the clock with their offense.
“We kept a little possession in the second half,” said Tate. “That was good. First downs were big. And for the most part, we protected the football.”
Offensively, the Gents racked up 215 yards and 10 first downs on the night.
Daniels led the ground game with 11 carries for 67 yards while Boutte picked up 62 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.
Daniels also completed nine of his 15 pass attempts for 85 yards and a touchdown.
Morris finished with five receptions for 59 yards and a touchdown and Boutte had four catches for 25.
LaCour led Livonia with 13 carries for 53 yards. Justin Mougeot followed with 18 totes for 35.
LaCour also completed seven passes for 66 yards. Jordan Armstead hauled in four passes for 52 yards, Mougeot had two catches for eight yards and Daruin Gougisha had one for six.
“We kind of got that monkey off our back tonight,” said Tate. “We got that first playoff win in a while. That’s really a compliment to our coaching staff and our players for just preparing well all week and coming out and playing hard. We didn’t play perfect by any means but we played hard.
“We still have a lot of room for improvement, but it was a good win for us and now we move on to the Sweet 16.”