The Catholic League is regarded by many as the best district in Louisiana, and St. Augustine and Shaw have experienced its harsh realities first-hand. The two teams came into Saturday’s matchup at Tad Gormley Stadium with zero 9-5A wins in nine tries, but that meant someone was about to get off the snide on a brisk, sunny afternoon.
Neither squad was able to take significant advantage of the other in the first half as St. Augustine held a slim 7-0 lead. The Purple Knights finally began to separate themselves late in the third quarter scoring a pair of touchdowns in a 9-minute span to walk away with a 20-0 District 9-5A victory on their homecoming.
“It’s the first district wins and it’s good for the kids,” said St. Aug interim coach Kenneth Dorsey Jr., whose team nearly upset still-undefeated Rummel last week falling 16-12. “They know we can win in the district now and we’ve just got to come out and play hard every week and go from there.”
The Purple Knights’ (5-4, 1-4) first game-swinging play of the second half came late in the third quarter when Shaw (2-7, 0-6) was forced to punt from its own 3-yard line.
St. Aug senior linebacker Jabaz Myles made the most of the short distance between himself and the punter bursting into the backfield for a big block. Senior defensive back Tahj Adams then pounced on the football just before it slid out of the back of the end zone for his second touchdown in as many weeks.
The ensuing extra point was missed, but St. Aug still led 13-0 with 2:35 left until the start of the fourth.
“We had them pinned back and I just had to go get it — nothing else to it,” said Adams who came into the week tied for second in the league in interceptions with three while scooping up two fumbles. “I didn’t have a good year last year, so I just went back to work and got ready for this year.”
Adams and the rest of the Purple Knight defense put in a ton of work on Saturday holding Shaw to just 49 yards of offense while forcing two turnovers. One of those takeaways came on the possession following Adams’ touchdown recovery when Lucius Tillery intercepted a pass near midfield, but St. Aug then lost a fumble inside Shaw’s 5-yard line.
The St. Aug defense proceeded to force its fourth three-and-out of the game, though, giving the offense optimal field position to start their next drive. This time they would capitalize as senior running back Mahmood Bailey caught a pass for 15 yards, then had runs of 7 and 11 yards with the last tote resulting in a 20-0 lead for the Purple Knights.
It was a welcome sight for St. Aug as they’ve had a total of six trips to the red zone over the last two weeks that resulted in 0 points.
“We’ve got to clean that up,” Dorsey Jr. said. “The guys on offense are going to continue to put our brains together to figure out how we can make it happen in the red zone. Going into the playoffs we have to capitalize on those opportunities.”
St. Aug didn’t have to worry about red zone struggles on its first touchdown drive, though.
Senior receiver Jaheim Walters caught a short pass over the middle and evaded one defender while outrunning the rest for a 40-yard touchdown. It was his second week in a row getting St. Aug on the board first following a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown last week against Rummel to start the game.
“I just caught the ball off the slant, made the first guy miss and it was a house call,” explained Walters, who also noted the team’s desire to finish the regular season on a high note as they begin to get into playoff mode. “It felt good getting our first win (in the Catholic League) and it gives us a little extra motivation heading into next week. It’s the last game of the season and we’ve got to finish it with a bang.”
The Purple Knights will wrap up their regular season against Holy Cross (4-5, 1-4) Saturday at Tad Gormley at 2:30 p.m. Shaw will finally get a break from Catholic League play stepping out of the district to take on 1-8 H.L. Bourgeois.
The Eagles had a good showing on defense tying their season-low in points allowed, but the offense just couldn’t find any sustained success. Their longest play of the day was an 11-yard run by running back Rayon McGrew on the first play from scrimmage, and a formidable St. Aug pass rush coupled with a stout secondary and at least four drops by the Eagle receiving core didn’t make for a very successful day.
“Our youth showed…but hats off to St. Aug, they played a good game and didn’t give up big plays,” Shaw coach Tommy Connors said. “But it was a competitive game and both teams played hard. We can learn a lot from this.”
Shaw: 49 yards of total offense (50 rushing, -1 passing)
St. Augustine: 242 yards of total offense (143 rushing, 99 passing)
Rushing: Rayon McGrew, 9-17; Zach Delger, 5-13; Angelo Dolce, 4-12; Clint Langford Jr., 1-4; Dorian Lewis, 1-4; Tyler Nichol, 2-0.
Receiving: Isaiah Barnes, 1-0; Michael Williams, 1-(-1).
Passing: Tyler Nichol, 2-22, -1 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT.
Rushing: Justin Doyle, 16-63; Mahmood Bailey, 8-26, 1 TD; Kendell Sampson Jr., 12-25; Albert Quest V, 4-19; Kyren Price Jr., 1-8; Keilon Pritchett, 1-5; Josh Harris III, 2-0; Carl Singleton Jr., 2-(-3).
Receiving: Jaheim Walters, 2-51, 1 TD; Tylie Keasley, 2-18; Mahmood Bailey, 3-16; Justin Doyle, 1-14.
Passing: Kendell Sampson Jr., 8-17, 99 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs.
St. Augustine — Jaheim Walters 40 pass from Kendell Sampson Jr. (Kenneth Bickham kick), 10:20, 0-7.
St. Augustine — Tahj Adams 0 blocked punt recovery, block by Jabaz Myles (kick failed), 2:35, 0-13.
St. Augustine — Mahmood Bailey 11 run (Bickham kick), 7:47, 0-20.
NEXT UP: St. Augustine wraps up its regular season against Holy Cross Saturday at Tad Gormley Stadium at 2:30 p.m. Shaw will do the same hosting H.L. Bourgeois Friday at 7 p.m. at Joe Zimmerman Stadium.