Iota slips past Oakdale

BY HOWELL DENNIS

LSN STAFF WRITER

IOTA – In a huge win for the Iota football program, the Bulldogs overcame “a week of adversity”, a 133-yard effort by star Oakdale running back Damien Ward, and a late comeback by the Warriors to emerge with a 32-22 victory.

This one will be talked about for quite some time.

Bryant Fantroy, who was playing cornerback last week, rushed for 161 hard fought yards on 31 carries. Defensive end Brenten Lantier was all over the field making big stops on defense, blocking kicks, and even rushing for 28 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Ben Thevis rushed for a touchdown and completed a critical 15-yard fourth down pass to Bryce Zaunbrecher during the game-winning drive.

And perhaps most importantly, the turnover problems that the Bulldogs had been suffering for the past four games were reversed as Oakdale quarterback Lance Hardman threw three interceptions compared to only one fumble for the Bulldogs.

“This was a total team effort,” said Iota coach Marcus LeJeune. “Our backs were against the wall and we could have folded our tents but our boys never quit.”

Iota received the opening kickoff and drove the ball down the field in a methodical drive ending in an 11-yard Fantroy touchdown. The extra point failed giving the Bulldogs a 6-0 lead with 5:45 remaining in the fourth quarter.

The Warriors received the ensuing kickoff and seemed to be mounting a drive of their own when Hardeman threw an interception to Iota defensive back Ethan Navarre who returned it to the Warrior 33-yard line.

“That first interception seemed to ignite us,” said LeJeune whose team came out extra fired up to start the game.

On the ensuing Iota possession, quarterback Ben Thevis dropped back to pass and looked to be in trouble as he found nobody open. As he rushed to his right side, he pumped faked the ball causing a Warrior defensive player to lose track of him as he rumbled 28 yards for a touchdown with 9:41 remaining in the first half. The Bulldogs missed the two-point attempt leaving them with a 12-0 lead.

However, as soon as the Bulldog faithful were beginning to feel comfortable, Oakdale back Damien Ward, who coach Kevin Manuel referred to as his best player, broke off a 79-yard run to bring the Warriors to within 12-6.

After an Iota three and out, the Bulldog center snapped the ball over the Iota’s punters outreached arms. Rather than falling on the ball, he smartly kicked the ball through the endzone for a safety rather than give the Warriors the ball on inside the 10-yard line with 1:46 remaining in the half leaving the score 12-9 at the break.

At the start of the third quarter on Iota’s first possession, defensive end/running back/kicker Brenten Lanthier finished off an impressive drive by pounding in the ball for a one-yard touchdown run. Again the extra point failed and Iota led by a score of 18-9.

After the Warriors stopped the Bulldogs during a fourth quarter drive, Oakdale blocked an Iota punt to give them excellent field position. They responded by riding the lightning-quick legs of Ward down the field which resulted in a nine-yard Ward touchdown with 7:40 remaining in the game. The Warriors missed the extra point pulling them back to within 18-15.

“It was scary every time that guy got into the open field,” said LeJeune. “He is a really talented back.”

The next time the Warriors got the ball they once again pounded Ward against the Iota defense. Bryan Guidry finished off the drive with a 5-yard run to give the Warriors their first lead of the night at 22-18 with 4:13 remaining in the fourth quarter.

That’s when the Bulldogs decided to go on their biggest drive of the year.

After a first down run by Fantroy to the Warrior 44-yard line. The Bulldogs were stopped three times on runs by the Oakdale defense and were faced with a 4th and 11. On what may have been Iota’s biggest play of the year, Thevis completed his only pass of the game to Zaunbrecher, who made a nice reception on a ball that was thrown slightly behind him for 15 yards. The Iota sideline nearly exploded.

What followed shortly afterward was a 22-yard touchdown run by Fantroy to give the Bulldogs a 25-22 lead with only 1:30 remaining. However, given the quickness of Damien Ward and the fact that Oakdale still had three timeouts left, it almost seemed as though Iota may have scored too soon.

However, Iota defensive back Ethan Navarre made another excellent catch and a nice return for the Bulldogs third interception of the night. A ten-yard Fantroy touchdown run gave him his third touchdown of the evening and sealed the deal for an emotional Bulldog team.

“This was a really big win for us,” said LeJeune. “This has been the best week of practice since I’ve been here and our seniors really pulled us together.”

“It was a hard fought game,” said Oakdale coach Kevin Manuel. “That fourth down play really hurt us. You can’t give up plays like that. We’ve lost three close games this year and I have a young team (Ward is only a sophomore) so hopefully we can learn from this and it will help us in the future.”

The Bulldogs travel to Kinder next week for another tough 5-2A contest, however, it was obvious that they would take a little time to enjoy this win.

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