Two missed opportunities on special teams turned what could have been a narrow Westgate High win into a 19-7 win for two-time defending Division III state champion Lafayette Christian in the season opener for both teams Friday at WHS.
Westgate saw a kick return for a TD negated by a penalty, then got stopped at the 8-yard line on a punt return, and couldn’t convert the ensuing possession into points, two plays that head coach Ryan Antoine pointed to as contributing to his team’s loss.
“I think that was huge, that kickoff return that we had for a touchdown, and not scoring right there on the punt return,” Antoine said. “That’s the ballgame. I think we win the game right there 21-19.
“(Lafayette Christian is) a good team. Coach (Trev) Faulk and them do a good job. You have a couple of shots to be able to make plays, and we had those opportunities.”
LCA, which also won Division IV titles in 2017 and 2018, held a slim 6-0 lead at halftime after scoring on its opening drive with a 12-yard TD run by Dudley Jackson III. A high snap on the point after led to a pass attempt that was intercepted by Tayshaun Fuselier. The TD was set up by a 23-yard keeper by quarterback JuJuan Johnson.
The Tigers made a goal-line stand at the end of the first half to keep the score there, after an interference call made it first and goal at the 1 with 12 seconds left. But Derek Williams broke up a second down pass after the Knights lost two yards on first down, and an incomplete pass following an illegal procedure penalty ended the half.
LCA made it 12-0 on Johnson’s four-yard keeper midway through the third quarter, but the PAT try hit the left upright and bounced back into the end zone. Johnson set up the TD with a 49-yard run to the 4 on a fourth-and-three play from near midfield. Johnson led all runners with 106 yards on 15 carries, more than half of his team’s 200 rushing yards.
Amaaz Eugene returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, only to see that play negated by a penalty that moved the ball all the way back to Westgate’s 14.
The Tigers got on the score board on an 18-yard pass from Danny Lewis to Dedrick Latulas with 11 seconds left in the third period. The point-after by Dylan Bourque made it 12-7.
But missed chances to make plays on defense also hurt the Tigers, Antoine said.
“That big fourth down when the quarterback broke for a big run on us was huge, and then also when they came here on the pass interference call, it was kind of going back and forth, it was 12-7, I think it was a big third down, and they catch the ball and end up going up 19-7 on us right there (a couple of plays later),” he said. “Once again, our defense played too many plays tonight. It was the first game, so it was pretty long for us, but we’ve definitely got to do a better job offensively.”
Lafayette Christian answered Westgate’s score with an eight-yard TD run by Johnson three plays into the fourth quarter.
A couple of series later, Latulas fielded a punt on the Westgate side of midfield and broke loose on a long return but was corralled at the 8-yard line, and four plays got the ball only to the 2-yard line with just over seven minutes remaining, ending the Tigers’ last hopes to pull closer.
WHS lost starting quarterback Brennan Landry to a shoulder injury on a sack with less than three minutes left in the first half. Lewis, who was going to see snaps at the position in any case, according to Antoine, was pressed into action for the remainder of the game. Lewis is primarily a receiver but also works at QB.
“It’s tough, but it is what it is,” Antoine said of the injury in the second quarter. “We prepared for it. I felt like even with Danny back there, I like our chances. Danny’s been playing quarterback all spring and all summer for us. We prepared for it because Brennan had a shoulder injury going into the spring. We didn’t get Brennan back until late July anyway, so we knew some things may happen and it may not go our way the whole time with Brennan, so Danny was going to play a little quarterback tonight anyway, he just went in a little earlier.”
That wasn’t a make or break situation, Antoine said. Lewis made some good throws on the night.
“We’ve just got to do a better job of executing. I knew it would come down to that. It’s a defensive game every time we play Coach Faulk. It’s not going to be a high-scoring game, it’s going to be a tough-nosed, hard, defensive game. We did a good job defensively. We’ve just got to clean up a few things.”
Westgate is scheduled to play at West St. Mary this week.
“We’ve got a strong senior class, and there’s going to be a lot on them to take this team by the horns and take us where we want to go,” Antoine said. “I feel like we’ve got a real good football team. We’ve just got to execute. We’ve got a very good senior class. Guys have been playing for a long time. A lot of four-year starters out of that class. Guys will have to come in and start making some plays and being ready when put in situations to make those plays.”