THE POST-SIGNAL / Chris Quebedeaux
Church Point’s Khaled Babineaux makes a leaping grab on a 50-yard touchdown pass from Andy Briceno Thursday during the Bears’ 37-27 victory over St. Louis.
Bears rally for 21 points in fourth to beat St. Louis
After giving up three unanswered touchdowns, the Church Point Bears were desperately in need of a big play Thursday in their showdown with the St. Louis Saints.
With the Bears trailing by 11 (27-16) and just over 10 minutes remaining, Gavin Richard provided that much-needed spark.
Richard hauled in a kickoff at the Church Point 21-yard line, weaved through traffic and barreled through a pair of defenders near the 30-yard line en route to a 79-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
That play energized the Bears, who added a few more big plays down the stretch to rally for a 37-27 victory over the Saints.
“We were in trouble right there (down 11 in the fourth quarter) and one thing we preach every day at practice is that special teams can change the outcome of a game,” CPHS coach John Craig Arceneaux said later.
“Gavin did just that. We got enough bodies down there; he broke a couple tackles and then he outran everybody to the end zone. That really got us back into the game.”
Richard’s return inched the Bears (2-0) closer, but it was sophomore Tylon Citizen who made possibly the biggest play of the game on St. Louis’ ensuing possession.
On third down near midfield, St. Louis quarterback fired a pass to the near sideline and Citizen, who was playing safety in place of the injured Andy Briceno, stepped in front of it and snagged it out of the air, returning it to the Saints’ 32-yard line.
Citizen then took a handoff on an inside reverse on the Bears’ first play of their offensive series and picked up a 19-yard gain.
Quarterback Dylan Stelly then hit Armstead Mouton on a big pass at the 2-yard line and Richard took it in from there on the very next play.
Stelly ran in the two-point conversion and just like that, Church Point’s 11-point deficit turned into a 3-point lead at 30-27.
“A sophomore who hadn’t gotten a bunch of reps (at safety) stepped up and made a huge play that swung all of the momentum back in our favor,” said Arceneaux of Citizen’s interception. “That’s a kid who didn’t get any reps at safety in the scrimmage and didn’t get any reps on defense in Week 1; and he stepped in there and made a huge play.”
The Bears drove the nail in the coffin after a big defensive stand that gave them the ball back with just under five minutes remaining.
Starting at their own 29-yard line, the Bears served St. Louis a heavy dose of runs by Richard and Citizen as well as a 20-yard burst by Jalon Reese to get just outside of the red zone. Stelly took it in from there on a keeper to the outside, scoring from 23 yards out.
Chandler Guillory added the extra point and the Bears took a 37-27 lead with 2:01 remaining in the game.
The Bears’ defense gave up one first down on St. Louis’ final series before the Saints turned the ball over on downs with 25 seconds remaining.
“We practiced in helmets two days this week and we only practiced two days last week and our game got canceled ,so our kids were ready to play,” said Arceneaux. “I was really concerned about our conditioning and we wore down in the second half, but we found enough energy to win.”
The Bears also had a pair of highlight reel plays in the first half to take a short -lived 16-14 advantage.
The first of numerous big plays for the Bears occurred early in the second quarter when Khaled Babineaux out jumped a defender on a deep pass from Briceno and snatched the ball out of the hands of a St. Louis defender and then rambled 10 more yards for a 50-yard touchdown.
“That was an unbelievable play and he does that every day at practice,” said Arceneaux of Babineaux, who is a senior. “This is his first year playing football and he just does special things like that at practice. He could have been a special high school player with four years under his belt, but he’s going to make more plays for us as the year goes.”
The other big play in the first half was turned in by Ethan Castille, who made a leaping interception at the Saints’ 22-yard line and ran it in from there to put the Bears up 16-7 with just over two minutes remaining before the intermission after a two-point conversion run by Richard.
The Saints answered just before the half with a 29-yard touchdown run by standout running back Evan Joubert to give the guests a 16-14 advantage.
The Saints took their first lead of the game late in the third quarter on a 10-yard scoring strike from Cooper Miller to Chase Wilson and then added another score early in the fourth on a 21-yard run by Joubert.
The Bears racked up 180 yards on the ground during the victory, with Citizen leading the way with six carries for 83 yards . Richard totaled 76 yards, including a few key first down runs in the fourth quarter, and two touchdowns on 15 carries.
“In crunch time, he’s going to get the football and people know he’s going to get the football,” said Arceneaux. “But he understands the offense, he knows where to stick his foot in the ground and he did that late in the game and got us some big first downs.”
Stelly completed two of seven pass attempts for 30 yards and Briceno hooked up with Babineaux for a touchdown on his only pass attempt before his injury.
Babineaux’s lone catch went for 50 yards and a touchdown. Mouton and Richard each had one reception for 15 yards.
“The biggest thing is that we have to continue to gain experience on offense and we have to continue to get better ; I feel like we did that today,” said Arceneaux. “We put some drives together when we needed to.”
Things don’t get much easier for the Bears.
After two tough games against quality opponents (Kaplan and St. Louis, the Bears will travel down the road to Iota to take on the Bulldogs next Friday in the District 5-3A opener for both teams.
“Whoever wins that game is going to put themselves in position to be the district champion and it’s going to be a huge game,” said Arceneaux. “They (Iota) are very good on offense, they’ve switched to a 3-4 on defense and they always do a good job of getting after you.
“So we’re going to have our hands full , It’s going to take a good week of preparation and it’s going to be another good high school football game.”