Strong second half propels Saints past Bulldogs
By Howell Dennis
LSN STAFF WRITER
LAKE CHARLES – The Iota Bulldogs season came to an end Friday night as the St. Louis Saints came back from a 7-6 halftime deficit to win 34-14.
The Saints rode the legs of Stephen Sylvester, who rushed for 148 yards, and eventually wore down the Bulldogs in the second half.
“I told the boys at halftime that we just had one more half to extend our season,” said St. Louis coach Mike Johns. “Our boys came out and refused to lose, they showed tremendous heart.”
In the first half, the Iota defense held the Saints to six points. John Simar was all over the field for the Bulldogs recovering a fumble on a muffed punt as well as delivering several bone jarring hits.
Following a field goal by the Saints outstanding kicker James Bice, Iota drove the ball the length the field on some fine running by Blaise LeJeune and quarterback Chad Abshire. LeJeune punctuated the drive with a tough four-yard touchdown run in which he carried two Saint defenders into the end zone.
The Bulldogs appeared ready to take a 7-3 lead into halftime. However, during a punt an errant snap over LeJeune’s arms gave the Saints one last scoring opportunity. Following a couple of incomplete passes, the reliable Bice kicked an 38-yard field goal to bring the Saints to within 7-6.
“We played well in the first half,” said Iota coach Marcus LeJeune. “Our defense was playing well and we had some momentum.’
At the outset of the second half, Iota appeared to gain some steam with a St. Louis interference penalty negating a Saint interception and forcing a punt. The Saint defense held tough, however, and forced Iota to punt. What transpired next was called a turning point in the game by both coaches.
A Saint defender broke through the line and blocked LeJeune’s punt to give St. Louis great field position to start their next drive. The steady Sylvester led the Saints down the field and scored from three yards out. He also ran it in for the two point conversion to give the Saints a 14-7 lead.
“That blocked punt gave them the momentum,” said LeJeune.
The Saint defense, led by Nick Ledet, stiffened up and held the Bulldogs to three and outs on their next three possessions. Saint backs Sylvester, who scored on a 13-yard run, and Craig Romero, who scored from 14 yards out, led the team to an insurmountable 27-7 lead. However, it was a 60-yard run by Saints back Kenneth Rossum that drew the ire of the Bulldog coaching staff.
Rossum took the ball on a sweep to the left and jetted down the sideline for his long score. He appeared to be aided by a block in the back by a Saint lineman. The Bulldog coaching staff screamed their disapproval to no avail and the Saints led 34-7.
Chad Abshire, who ran for 128 yards in the game, broke off a 79-yard run to complete the scoring at 34-14.
An emotional LeJeune was obviously very proud of the Bulldogs playoff season following a 4-6 campaign in 2007.
“We had a good season,” he said. “I coached these kids as they grew up...that’s what it’s all about. I watched them change the face of this program over the last few years.”