St. Michael slips past Crowley Middle in annual Rice Bowl

CROWLEY – Crowley Middle gave it a run but in the end, St. Michael’s Shea Zaunbrecher proved to be too much for the junior Gents in their annual homecoming game at Gardiner Memorial Stadium.

Zaunbrecher scored on a 4-yard run with 4:22 remaining in the game and then thwarted two CMS drives with a fumble recovery and an interception to help lift SMS a 20-14 victory in the annual cross-town rivalry.

“Shea came up big tonight,” said SMS coach Brannon Trahan of Zaunbrecher who racked up 135 yards on 18 carries. “He works hard and he takes a lot of pride in his team. He runs the ball hard and he prides himself in not being brought down on the first hit.

“We ask him to go both ways and he comes in and plays the same way on defense as he does on offense.”

Zaunbrecher gave the Gents fits in the first half, breaking off big runs in both of the Saints’ first two scoring drives.

“He was a man amongst boys,” said CMS coach Kelly Mills of Zaunbrecher.

The Saints scored early in the first quarter on a quarterback keeper by Joe Faulk. They added to the lead in the second frame on a run by Lance Bertrand and a two-point conversion pass from Faulk to Jordan Owens.

The Gents climbed back into the game in the third quarter courtesy of a stingy defense and two fumbles by the Saints.

They first recovered a fumble near midfield early in the third quarter and took just two plays before quarterback Jacquo Price scored on a long run. Tyvon Griffin’s two-point conversion run cut the lead to 14-8.

The Gents then forced another fumble at the Saints’ 45-yard line and, on the first play, Griffin took the pitch and raced to the end zone. The touchdown was called back, however, due to a block in the back, but on the next play, Price broke a run down to the 1 and Destyn Robinson scored on the next play to tie the game at 14-14.

Zaunbrecher’s eventual game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter capped a 70-yard drive that took nearly five minutes off the clock and included a key fourth-and-six conversion on a pass play from Faulk to Pete Brown.

“(On) that drive, we just wanted to power it down the field,” said Trahan. “Joe made some big throws and Shea just took over running the ball.”

Crowley got the ball back with just over four minutes to go, but Zaunbrecher forced and recovered a fumble on the Gents’ second play.

The Saints ran the clock down to under a minute before giving the ball over on downs.

Crowley’s last hope for a dramatic come-from-behind victory ended on the first play when Price was intercepted by Zaunbrecher.

“We had made some adjustments at half to stop the run and I thought we did a good job of executing that in the third quarter,” said Mills. “We just kept our defense on the field too long in the fourth and we couldn’t sustain a drive on offense.”

The victory gave the Saints their second straight Rice Bowl title. They defeated the Gents, 20-13, in the 2010 showdown.

“It was just another hard-fought game,” said Trahan. “That’s the way we try to play. We try to wear you down and get to the fourth quarter. They (Crowley) were very athletic and really big.”

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