NEW ORLEANS As Calvary grinned and hugged while celebrating their second straight LHSAA Division III title on the Mercedes-Benz Superdome turf Friday, Calvary offensive coordinator Jason Bachman held niece Elizabeth Kate in his arms, asking her, ”Did we win?”
The 4-year-old girl’s hunter green bow bobbed up and down in response, and she added, “We’re in the Dome.”
Calvary, the No. 2 seed, edged a game No. 1 Catholic-New Iberia, 27-24.
The Cavaliers (12-1) topped the Panthers (12-1) for the second time in as many seasons following a 34-33 semifinals win in 2013.
Calvary coach John Bachman repeated his, “You can’t win a Kentucky Derby with a mule,” line, referencing his stable of athletes that made the difference in the program’s second title overall.
“I’ve got me some thoroughbreds, there is no doubt about that,” Bachman said. “You’ve got to have great coaches … and (Jason Bachman) understands who number 1 is (quarterback Shea Patterson), understands who number 7 is (running back Orlando Bradford) and he understands who number 11 is (Shun Brown).
“In critical situations, those three guys touched the ball in some way. If you’re going to go play the big one, you better feed your thoroughbreds.”
Receiver Shun Brown (Arizona commit) caught touchdown passes of 28 and 78 yards, both of which occurred when he beat a Panthers’ defense that appeared to be in position. Quarterback Shea Patterson (national recruit courted by LSU and Alabama among others), patiently threw for 233 yards on 12-of-20 passing as the Cavs scored on five of their six possessions in which they weren’t kneeling out the clock.
Brown caught six passes for 156 yards and adding 23 rushing yards. Running back Orlando Bradford (Arizona commit) completes the offensive triumvirate, and he rushed for 109 yards and started the scoring with a 16-yard touchdown run.
Calvary converted 4-of-9 on third down, both of its attempted fourth-down conversions and made two field goals on two other fourth downs.
On the other sideline, Catholic has just one big-time recruit – Ole Miss commit Jason Pellerin (38 total yards and two touchdowns) at quarterback.
Yet with 2:38 remaining and the Panthers at their own 25, Catholic had a chance to engineer another long drive down 27-24.
But the Panthers fumbled on their last three plays, foiling a comeback after Catholic pushed the talented Calvary bunch for the second straight year.
“This group has been phenomenal,” said Catholic coach Brent Indest. “We have one guy on our football team getting recruited, they have a few guys on their team who aren’t getting recruited.
“This was an athletic mismatch – they were bigger, faster and stronger than us. I was proud to hold these guys to 27 points, and some of that was because our offense used a lot of clock.”
After Bradford opened the scoring with a 16-yard touchdown run, Catholic dipped into its extensive bag of tricks.
The Panthers executed at least three fumblerooski plays, the first of which Andre Bellefontaine took 71 yards to even the score at 7 midway through the first quarter.
The center shuffled the snap under him while Pellerin pretended to have the ball and ran to the right. Bellefontaine came in from the wing to pick up the ball, running all by himself to the left as Calvary’s defense flowed with Pellerin.
“We’ve worked on that play all week, and we executed during the game,” said Bellefontaine, who finished with 84 rushing and 20 receiving yards. “Once I saw the safeties running the other way when I was running down the field, it was a pretty good feeling.”
Calvary marched 67 yards to grab a 14-7 lead. The Cavs converted two third downs and a fourth down, including Brown’s 29-yard touchdown catch on third-and-18.
“For us, it’s about getting guys in open space,” said Patterson, who was voted the most outstanding player of the game. “We knew Catholic would come with a chip on their shoulder, especially the way we won last year.
“We just had to come out and make a statement.”
Calvary stopped Catholic on fourth down because of a botched play, but the Panthers forced a 24-yard Trevor Stevens field goal to increase Calvary’s lead to 17-7 with 3:52 left in the second quarter.
Catholic mixed run and pass to ease down the field before the half, and senior kicker Ethan Poche booted a 24-yard field goal to cut Calvary’s lead to 17-10 at halftime.
Indest said he wanted to “throw up” when he saw Ouachita Christian beat Southern Lab 52-6 in the Division IV championship earlier Friday because he thought Calvary might do the same, but he was “giddy” to be down seven at halftime to Calvary.
In the third quarter, Pellerin tied the game at 17-17 with a 1-yard that capped a 52-yard drive. Seth Pierre set up the score with a 37-yard fumblerooski play. Pierre rushed for a team-high 102 yards, most of them coming inside once Calvary committed to taking away Catholic’s edge runs.
But just two plays later, Patterson chucked the 78-yard bomb to Brown.
“It was just a simple play, we just executed,” said Brown, a senior. “We talked about it halftime, and we just had a chance to run it.
“The two-peat is always great, but as Calvary Nation, we want them to have them to have a three-peat and four-peat. We want there to be a tradition where you don’t want to be the senior class to lose.”
Catholic embarked on a 14-play, 71-yard drive that ended in a Pellerin, 1-yard sneak to tie the score again, 24-24 with 9:21 left.
But Calvary set sail on an trek of its own, running 15 plays for 61 yards that allowed Stevens to make a 26-yard field goal with 2:38 remaining. Patterson appeared to have a third-down touchdown that was wiped out by a block-in-the-back penalty, but Stevens’ second field goal was enough as Catholic fumbled away its comeback opportunity.
“We just watched our keys and played as a unit,” said senior defensive end Justice Henson, who made a team-high 7.5 tackles with three for loss. “The second one is better because it’s my senior year.
“I still had the same bubble guts I had last year … but I’ll always remember these guys as brothers.”