St. Louis closes out Iota's season with loss

Iota's Adam Ardoin (25) leaps over a St. Louis defender Friday night en route to 195 yards and a touchdown on 33 carries in the Bulldogs' lost. (Photo by D. Sexton.)

There are story book endings in sports. St. Louis' Coach Mike Johns had it Friday night when the Saints defeated Iota 35-13, improving the Saints to 3-7 (1-4 in district 4-3A).

Then there is the ending the Iota Bulldogs face. The loss moved Iota to 0-10 on the year, 0-5 in district, play, and it is the same story the Bulldogs have faced since Week One.

“We had some misalignment problems early in the ball game; these are things we worked on and, I don't know, for some reason we came out and we just didn't see it,” said Neal Legé, Iota coach. “They ran the ball well, but we didn't tackle well.

Suffice to say it was not the season Iota and its fans were looking for this year.

“When you're 0-9, it's tough to keep that edge, we had problems with that this week,” said Legé.

Iota's season came to an end Friday, just as it began, misalignment on defense, running the ball for hundreds of yards, committing penalties and turning the ball over.

It has been mistakes. It has been missed opportunities.

But, as always, there was a silver lining.

Iota, which had roughly 100 yards of offense in the first half, finished the game with 335 yards of rushing offense and 22 yards more in the air, that netted two touchdowns.

For Legé, a silver lining was letting his seniors play until the final snap.

“We kept our seniors in, we let those guys play,” he said. “That's what we wanted to do. They played until the last minute.”

That also meant increased touches on offense for Nick Sloane, Tyler Prejean and Michael Thevis, who ran the ball a combined 20 times. The workhorse, however, continued to be junior Adam Ardoin with 33 carries.

“We were able to run the ball well,” said Legé. “We had some missed assignments on some plays that they got us on. They had a good defensive scheme going into tonight. We got third-and-short a couple of times and we jumped early. Same song, all year long. That's been the story all year long.”

Iota also successful stretched the defense twice when Tim Lunson converted two of his passes to Sam Reed (9 yards) and Tristan Fontenot (13 yards).

But it all wasn't enough as St. Louis came in focused, determined to send its coach out on a high note.

In fact, after Iota punted away its first possession with no return, it took seconds for the Saints to score. Seconds and one play. Jared Smith scored his first of several touchdowns of the night with 10:20 remaining in the first quarter. It took one play to travel 56 yards and find the end zone. And with Cullen Richardson's extra point, St. Louis was up 7-0 in the blink of an eye.

Another Iota possession came and went, this time a fumble on an errant option pass gave an already amped up St. Louis the ball at the Iota 28.

This time it took more than one play, but a familiar face was found in the end zone. A four play, 28 yard drive concluded with Smith's 6 yard touchdown run with 6:51 remaining in the first quarter. Richardson added another extra point and it was another blink of an eye and Iota was down 0-14.

“They went up 14-to-nothing like that and we didn't know what to do,” said Legé.

Iota came into a game, unfortunately for the Bulldogs, that St. Louis was destined to win as the Saints said goodbye to a coach that has become a legend in Calcasieu Parish and Southwest Louisiana, someone Legé has known for years.

“Coming in, I knew we had to play well with Coach Johns retiring,” he said. “He was my coach when I did my student-teaching at Sam Houston, so we go back a long way. Back to my McNeese days. I knew they'd have those guys pumped up for him.

The Saints were not done scoring in the first quarter. With 30 seconds left in the first, Connor Cutrera scored from 16 yards out, culminating a seven-play, 76 yard drive, one of St. Louis' longest of the night. Richardson added another extra point and St. Louis led 21-0.

Things would quiet down in the second quarter with Iota holding onto the ball for 7 minutes and 30 seconds of the second quarter on one possession, but the drive fizzled and the Bulldogs were unable to convert a fourth-and-13, from St. Louis 13.

Iota's defense hardened up in the second quarter, as well, forcing a three-and-out, and when the horn sounded 1 minute, 44 seconds later, Iota still stared down a 21-point deficit.

And, whatever, Johns and his coaching staff told the Saints at the half, it worked, and they rattled off 14 more points in the third quarter – a 29 yard touchdown run by DeKeinen Francois with 9:55 remaining in the third quarter and a 1 yard touchdown run by Smith with 52 seconds left. Richardson booted through two extra points in the quarter as well.

At the end of the third quarter, St. Louis was up 35-0 and looked to get some of its younger players some playing time before heading into the playoffs next week.

But, true to form, as they have been all year, Iota didn't stop or give up, and finally, the Bulldogs found the end zone twice in the final frame.

The first came with 8 minutes left in the game. Ardoin ran in from 1 yard out to cap off a 12-play, 80 yard drive. Jarrette Fontenot added an extra point and Iota pulled to 7-35.

On the kickoff, Fontenot's kick to the 30 was muffed by Francois and the Bulldogs recovered, giving Iota the ball back at the St. Louis 15. Four plays later, it was Nick Sloane running in from 2 yards out, however, the extra point attempt was no good and St. Louis maintained a 35-13 lead.

It was there the score would remain until the final horn.

Leading the way for St. Louis was Smith, who had 11 carries for 185 yards and three touchdowns. Cutrera had two carries for 23 yards and a touchdown and Francois finished his night with three carries for 34 yards and a touchdown. Jack Boyer had four carries for 49 yards and went 2-2 for 17 yards and an interception in the air.

For Iota, Ardoin's 33 carries for 195 yards and a touchdown, earned him “Top Dog” honors. Sloane finished with 14 carries for 82 yards and a touchdown and Thevis' four carries for 32 yards and Prejean's two carries for six yards rounded out the running backs' stats. Tim Lunson had seven carries for 20 yards and went 2-8 for 22 yards and an interception.

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