KAPLAN – A stoic Stephen Lotief stared off into the night – reliving all the missed opportunities in Kaplan’s 13-8 loss to No. 1 ranked Lutcher in the 3A playoffs at Ed Douglas Memorial Stadium on Friday night.
“We didn’t have to beat them five million times,” he reckoned. “We just had to beat them once. We had an opportunity and we didn’t get it done.”
Just minutes before Lotief prowled the sidelines the enthusiasm of a drum major, urging players on and off the field like a maestro in his own symphony.
The Pirates final attempt at an upset almost came to fruition as they marched inside the Bulldogs’ 25-yard line with 1:30 left. Aided by a personal foul call and some hard running by Julius Johnson, the Pirates faced a 3rd-and-10 at the 24.
Lotief dialed up a rare pass.
Daniel Lotief, filling in for an injured Jade Herpin, dropped back and lofted the ball toward the end zone. Two Lutcher defenders bracketed Ridge Herpin who leapt for the ball.
However, it was LHS’s Gabriel Bland who came down with the ball – all but sealing the game with 1:01 left.
“We should have got a call right there on that last pass,” Lotief said. “The guy (LHS defender) grabbed us. He grabbed us with two hands. Should have been a flag, first down inside the 10.”
Lutcher committed 15 penalties for more than 100 yards, negating multiple touchdowns. Kaplan forced three straight punts by the Bulldogs in the third and fourth quarter, including a 4th-and-one stop that helped set up their last drive at midfield.
“We played great defensively,” Lotief said. “We bent, but didn’t break.”
The Pirates opened the second half with an onside kick, setting them up with excellent field position at the Bulldog 48.
“It’s a squib kick that we practice all the time,” Lotief said. “It’s an onside, but it’s not an onside – the guy just stepped in the way.”
The Pirates powered the ball down to the goal line in seven plays. Johnson capped the drive with a two-yard plunge. Herpin added the two-point conversion, diving into the end zone off the left side (13-8).
Johnson finished the night with 81 yards on 25 rushes.
“We didn’t play a great first half of football,” Lotief said. “We pepped them up at halftime and told them ‘If that’s the best they’ve got, then we’re going to win the game.’”
Kaplan played ball control in the first half, keeping possession of the ball for more than a full quarter.
However, the Pirate defense couldn’t contain the big plays from the Bulldogs on third-and-longs.
First, Jontre Kirklin threw a bubble screen to Tariq Belvin. Belvin ripped is legs away from the initial tackler, then juked the next attempt before racing down the side line for a 53-yard score (7-0).
The next Lutcher score came on 4th-and-6. Kirklin found Gregory Clayton over the middle for a 26-yard strike (13-0).