Livonia slips past Church Point
CHURCH POINT – They said it was going to be a rout.
They said it would be a minor bump in the road for an undefeated Livonia team on its way to New Orleans and the Superdome Classic.
They said the Church Point Bears didn’t have a chance.
Well, THEY, were wrong.
The No. 9 seeded Bears gave the top-seeded Livonia Wildcats all they could handle and more Friday before falling just short, 27-26, in a Class 3A quarterfinal contest.
The Wildcats will now play host to No. 5 Jennings on Friday in a semifinal matchup. Church Point, reaching the state quarterfinals for the first time in school history, finished the season with a record of 9-4.
“We knew it was going to take a great effort tonight and we just asked our kids for our effort to be greater than theirs and that we leave it on the field. I feel like we did that,” said Church Point coach John Craig Arceneaux afterward.
“You know, a play here or there could be the difference and we had our chances, but unfortunately we came up a little bit short tonight.”
That was an understatement.
The Bears were on the verge of tying the game with just under four minutes to go following a 48-yard scoring burst by Brett Richard. Kian Richard, last week’s hero with a 38-yard field goal to beat Donaldsonville, lined up for the extra to knot the game at 27-27, but his kick was off mark and hit the uprights, leaving the Bears down a point with 3:59 remaining.
Then, when they needed it most, the Bears’ defense came though in the clutch, forcing a punt to give Church Point the ball back with 2:23 remaining at their own 26.
The Bears quickly moved the ball to the Wildcats’ 41-yard line, but their potential game-winning drive stalled out on an incompletion on fourth-and-8.
“It was just a great game,” said Arceneaux. “We made a few plays; they made a few plays. We gave ourselves a chance to win. But, again, it was just a great effort by our kids.”
The Bears, who had dropped a 40-9 decision to Livonia in a Week 10 matchup for the District 5-3A championship, came out the gates firing on all cylinders on the first series of the game.
After a short kick gave them good field position, Richard broke free for a 37-yard touchdown run and the Bears took a 7-0 advantage within less than two minutes gone on the game clock.
Not surprisingly, Livonia answered.
The Cats took over at their own 20 and marched down the field on runs by Russell Farris and Malcolm Dedric as well as two penalties.
Church Point’s defense, however, came up big with the Wildcats poised with a first-and-goal from the 9 yard line. The Bears stopped Farris in the in the backfield on third down and forced the Cats to settle for a field goal with 6:42 remaining in the first quarter.
A Church Point fumble on its ensuing possession at midfield gave the Cats their next opportunity and they took full advantage of it.
A pass to Darious Hammond and another big pickup by Farris set up Dedric for a 2-yard touchdown run. Church Point’s Frederick Williams got in on the extra point and blocked the kick to keep the score at 9-7 in favor of the Cats.
The Bears took over with good field position following another short kickoff, but another fumble thwarted a potential scoring drive and gave the Cats the ball back at their own 28-yard line.
“We had two turnovers in the first half, but I’m glad they happened early because it gave us an opportunity to overcome them and we didn’t give up a bunch of points off of them like we did last time,” said Arceneaux, whose team fumbled three times and gave up 20 points in less that two minutes in their last meeting with Livonia.
“The second one (turnover) was big because we had a drive going with the score 9-7. But it’s part of the game and, again, it just shows the resolve of our kids. They didn’t crack under that and they continued to fight and battle.”
Neither team was able to put points on the board in the second quarter.
Livonia threatened late in the quarter, but Church Point’s Tyler Wheeler made a leaping interception at the Bears’ 8-yard line to thwart a potential scoring drive.
The Cats added to their lead early in the third quarter when Henry Frech drilled a 34-yard field go to push the score to 12-7.
Livonia also had an opportunity to pull away after forcing the Bears to punt on their next possession.
Dedric blocked the punt and was on his way to the end zone for a scoop-and-score touchdown, but he started to celebrate a little too early and was stripped of the ball at the goal line.
The Bears’ recovered the loose ball in the end zone and took over at their own 20.
That was just the spark the Bears needed.
James Bellard got the hosts going with a 27-yard run and Williams later capped the 80-yard drive with a 3-yard scoring run. Church Point attempted a pass for a two-point conversion, but it fell incomplete, leaving the Bears with a 13-12 lead.
“That’s the effort I’m talking about,” said Arceneaux. “We could have given up on that play, but Trae Lavergne, the punter, ran him down and knocked the ball out of his hands and, luckily, we had kids hustling down the field to have bodies there to recover it.”
Unfortunately, the lead did not last long.
Following a 72-yard kickoff return by Diante Bridgewater, Ferris took over and weaved through the Bears’ defense for a 28-yard touchdown run. Kerry Savoy then added the two-point conversion on a quarterback keeper to give the Cats a 20-13 lead.
The Bears eventually caught a break near the end of the third quarter when they fumbled on third and long and Livonia recovered. However, the Cats returned the favor while trying to advance the fumble and the Bears got the ball back at the LHS 42 with a fresh set of downs.
Four plays later, Brett Richard took a direct snap and raced 19 yards for a touchdown to tie the score at 20-20.
“That was a package that we had put in when we played them in Week 10 and we were going to use it in the second half. But the game got away from us so quickly,” said Arceneaux of his wildcat package that he calls Grizzle.
“We were going to use it in the first round and we didn’t need it; we were going to use it in the second round and didn’t need it so we waited until the second half of this game to use it that way they couldn’t try and make an adjustment at the half. And it worked for us.”
Once again, Livonia answered the call, however.
The Cats started their ensuing possession at their own 25 and marched down the field in just under five minutes before Savoy plunged in the end zone from one yard out. Frech’s extra point gave Livonia a 27-20 advantage.
The Bears went back to the Grizzle package again on their next series and Brett Richard hit the edge and outran the Cats’ defense for a 48-yard touchdown to end the scoring.
Richard finished the night with 152 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries.
“Brett just made some big runs for us tonight,” said Arceneaux. “In our offense, we have plenty of backs and we play a bunch and tonight was his night. He hadn’t had a big night yet and tonight was his night.”
The Bears racked up 375 yards on the ground on the night. Deion Monroe added 92 yards on 16 carries and Bellard had 89 yards, also on 16 carries.
Livonia was led by Ferris with 134 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. Savoy completed nine of 18 passes for 174 yards. He hit Hammond four times for 67 yards.
“You know, Livonia has a bunch of good athletes and they have a bunch of good backs,” said Arceneaux. “They are tough. They are a good football team.”