After getting rubbed the wrong way at Barbe last week in their season opener, the Byrd Yellow Jackets sought a ship-righting win against perennial powerhouse St. Thomas More on Thursday in the Landers Battle on the Border opener.
But it wasn’t meant to be. Plagued by an inexperienced team after losing a multitude of seniors, the Jackets fumbled and bumbled their way to a 31-0 loss to the Cougars, who were playing without several key starters.
STM was dominant from the outset with a beautiful mix of pass and run that seemed to befuddle the Jackets’ defense. Byrd lost two key fumbles, one in the first half and one in the second that the Lafayette visitors turned into quick scores.
Byrd coach Mike Suggs didn’t see much he liked from an offense that never could get untracked.
“I’m trying,” Suggs said when asked what he saw as improvement over the Barbe game. “We have to grow up. We’re making too many mental mistakes, and we will find a way to correct them. We’ve got to get it done.”
The second Byrd fumble came on the Jackets’ second play of the second half and allowed STM to score on a 1-yard run to go in front 31-0. That allowed a Cougar team, missing Louisiana Tech-commit Griffin Hebert and middle linebacker Noah Fontenot, to coast the rest of the way.
“I knew Byrd was decimated this year, losing all those guys, and I’ve been in that position before,” STM coach Jim Hightower said. “I think maybe we had a little more horsepower tonight. Our backs made some big runs to open things up for us.”
And Byrd’s one-dimensional offense did absolutely nothing to assist a defense that was struggling. The Jackets completed just one pass in the first half and just two by the end of the third quarter. So, with that threat gone, the Cougars were able to load up and shut down the running game.
“Offensively, we aren’t a very good football team right now. We couldn’t give our defense a chance,” Suggs said. “Those two turnovers gave them a short field and that took us out of it.”
Meanwhile, STM used running backs Chris Primeaux, William Cryer and Gabe LeBeouf to plow through for big gains with abandon. LeBeouf and Primeaux posted 50-yard runs on the night as the Cougars rolled up over 400 yards of offense.
STM marched smartly down their field on their opening possession but Gabe Pontiff narrowly missed a 37-yard field goal attempt. Byrd quickly picked up a first down, but couldn’t go any further and was forced to punt.
STM then launched into an 8-play, 79-yard scoring drive capped by a 7-yard TD pass from Nate Cox to William Cryer. On the ensuing offensive play, Byrd fumbled the ball over to the Cougars at its own 17. Four plays later LeBeouf plowed in from 1-yard out for a 14-0 Cougar lead.
Following that score, the Jackets got a 75-yard kickoff return from Caleb Barnes to set up shop at the STM 24 but missed a 36-yard field goal try. The Cougars gave Byrd another chance to get on the board on their next series when they fumbled the ball away at their own 37. But Byrd managed just 3 yards in four tries and picked up nothing on fourth down.
The Cougars responded with a 9-play drive capped by a 24-yard field goal by Pontiff. By halftime, Byrd had managed just 4 first downs and 77 yards of offense. STM put up 318 yards with 200 of it coming on pass plays, mostly swing passes that the Jackets couldn’t defend.