Westlake slips past Crowley in shootout
By: Chris Quebedeaux
CROWLEY – It had all the makings for one of the greatest comebacks in Crowley High football history.
The Gents, ranked No. 10 in the latest LSWA Class AAA prep poll, had just rallied from a 21-point, first-quarter deficit and led the Westlake Rams, 54-48, with just under 10 minutes remaining.
But in the end, the Gents and their fans were left not with an historic victory Friday, but instead a heart-wrenching defeat when the Rams stormed back four minutes later to take a 55-54 lead and then held the Gents on fourth-and-8 from the Westlake 18 with 23 seconds left to seal their upset.
“I think our football team fought as hard as they could,” said CHS coach Tommy Tate following the loss. “It was one of those games where every possession was important.
“We had every opportunity in the world (to win); we just came up a little bit short. “
The game wasn’t for the weak of heart.
The two offenses combined for 1,222 yards, 47 first downs and 102 points in the wildest game seen at Gardiner Memorial Stadium since the Gents lost a four-overtime playoff game to Catholic High of New Iberia, 48-42, in 2006.
The drama Friday began on the opening play and didn’t end until the final seconds and the Gents’ final possession.
That possession began after the Gents held the Rams on a fourth-and-short at their own 31 with 2:58 to play.
Starting from there, the Gents began what appeared would be a game-winning drive.
They moved 20 yards on a pass from Tuskani Figaro to Kaleb Cormier and then marched down to the Westlake 18 with 33 seconds to play following runs by Figaro and Davante Bourque.
Suddenly, what had appeared impossible early when they trailed by three touchdowns - victory - was there to be had.
But it wasn’t to be.
A short run after a spike to stop the clock on first down left the Gents with two shots at the end zone for the win.
The way the offense had moved the ball in the second half, it appeared it was a sure thing.
On third down, Figaro lofted a pass to Cormier in the corner of the end zone.
It was batted down.
That set up fourth down.
“I knew where I was going with the ball when we came out of the huddle,” said Figaro.
Taking the snap, Figaro looked right and threw a dart to Cormier on a slant route that went through the receiver’s hands ending the drive and Gents’ come-from-behind attempt.
“If the receiver catches the ball...,” said a relieved Westlake coach Max Caldarera, his voice trailing off. “We might have got a hand in there, I don’t know. I’d like to think we did.”
Westlake took over and ran out the remaining time, setting off an emotional celebration by Caldarer, his squad and the Rams’ standing-room only crowd.
It was win No. 201 for the long-time head coach, whose team has now won three in a row after an 0-5 start. It not only lifted the Rams to 3-5, but it gave them the lead in the District 4-AAA standings at 3-0.
The Gents fell to 5-3, 2-1.
“Crowley has a heck of a ballclub and we knew that,” said Caldarera. “Our kids have been through a gauntlet, though; they went 0-5 and at one point and those five teams were 28-7. And we hung with all of them.
“I knew coming in here that they (Crowley) had’t played that schedule. I told the kids that they have not been playing the people that we played. So all we have to do is get after them.”
Caldarera’s squad did just that, setting the Gents back on their heels from the very start.
Just two plays into the game, running back Devin Eaglin scored on a 52-yard touchdown run. A few minutes later, the Rams put together a 52-yard drive that ended in five plays with Eaglin scoring from one yard out.
Suddenly, it was 14-0.
The Gents finally showed life when Bourque broke loose on one of his six touchdowns for the night - a 76-yarder - to cut the lead in half. But the Rams answered right back with a 4-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Feagan to Eaglin.
Things got worse after a CHS fumble gave the Rams another short field. Feagan didn’t waste time, hitting Justin Nordberg on a 35-yard scoring strike on the first play to make it 28-7.
Bourque inched the Gents closer with a 47-yard scoring run with 1:12 remaining in the first quarter, but Feagan and the Rams offense, operating at will, answered again as the Gents defense continued to struggle.
The payoff came when Feagan hit Tyler Stoddard on a 36-yard touchdown pass to give the Rams a 34-14 advantage.
Frighteningly, there was still 11:07 left in the half.
The Gents finally got a break when Nick Hoffpauir recovered a fumble at the WHS 35 yard line.
They capitalized on the turnover when quarterback Tuskani Figaro hit pay dirt from six yards out to cut the lead to 34-20.
Again there was hope.
But Westlake followed up Figaro’s touchdown with another of their own - a 4-yard run by Eaglin - and went into the half ahead 41-20.
“(My) hat’s off to Westlake,” said Tate. “They didn’t do anything differently than what they’ve been doing. They executed their offense in the first half and we didn’t do a very good job of slowing them down.
“It wasn’t anything that we weren’t prepared for, they just did a heck of a job executing in the first half.”
The Rams rang up 338 total yards in the first half. In the second, the Gents limited Westlake to just 182 yards and two touchdowns.
“We made some adjustments at the half and slowed them down a little bit in the second half,” said Tate.
The Gents’ offense also hit its stride in the second half, scoring four touchdowns in the third quarter and one in the fourth to take their only lead of the game.
Bourque carried the load in the third period, scoring all four touchdows. He opened the second half with a 65-yard touchdown run on the first offensive play of the third quarter before scoring from one and three yards out. His final touchdown was a 51-yard scamper that got the Gents within two at 48-46.
Figaro’s 40-yard touchdown run with 10:55 remaining capped the Gents’ scoring on the night.
Eaglin scored the eventual game-winner on another one-yard touchdown run with 6:53 remaining.
In all, the Gents racked up a mind-boggling 732 yards and 26 first downs in the loss with 521 coming from Bourque and Figaro on the ground.
“We knew that No. 5 (Bourque) and No. 6 (Figaro) were great athletes,” said Caldarera. “We knew we had to tackle well and we just didn’t do that tonight.”
Bourque led all rushers on the night with a season-high 360 yards and six touchdowns on 30 carries, also a season high. Figaro followed with 27 carries for 161 yards and two touchdowns.
Figaro also completed 11 passes for 204 yards. He connected with Tonori Boutte five times for 72 yards and Cormier twice for 65. Andre Mills had two receptions for 31 yards while Danny Malbrough and Nick Cavell had one reception each for eight and seven yards, respectively.
Westlake also put up impressive offensive numbers. The Rams amassed 520 total yards (321 rushing and 199 passing) and logged 21 first downs.
Eaglin led the charge with 29 carries for 188 yards and three touchdowns. Stoddard had 72 yards on six carries and Nordberg had 60 yards on eight carries.
Feagan also completed nine passes for 199 yards and four touchdowns. Nordberg was his main target with four receptions for 97 yards. Stoddard had three catches for 65 yards and Trey Johnson had one for 33.
“We had a heck of a night offensively,” said Tate. “Unfortunately, Westlake had a great night offensively, also. We couldn’t stop their running game in the first half and they ran a lot of clock and limited our possessions. We made the most of our possessions in the second half, took a lead and had a chance to win the football game.”
The loss for the Gents could be costly in terms of their power rating, but Tate said his team can’t dwell on the defeat.
“It’s a disappointing loss, but we have to put it behind us because we have a good Eunice football team that we have to play next week,” said Tate.