For the Jays, a Howling Good Time
Jesuit Dominates, Then Falls Behind, Only to Come Back in Final Two Minutes to Beat St. Paul’s, 17-14
It was 9:32 p.m. Friday when pretty much everyone in metro New Orleans could hear a gargantuan gasp and a loud whew — sounds that spewed simultaneously from City Park’s Tad Gormley Stadium, the scene of an epic two and a half hour battle royal between Jesuit and northshore rival St. Paul’s of Covington.
The vast gasp emanated from the Wolves’ side of Gormley. Their fans had held their breath longer than Tom Cruise does in his latest Mission Impossible movie. The resounding whew that was quickly followed by a raucous (ok, rogueish) celebration, came from 11 exhausted Blue Jays on the field — and another 104 on the sideline — as well as hundreds of their delirious fans who got their money’s worth and witnessed a thrilling 17-14 Jesuit victory, their first of the new season.
In the aftermath of last week’s tough 26-21 loss to Warren Easton, the Jays grew up — they grew up a lot. In winning their first game, Coach Mark Songy’s Blue Jays certainly did not make it easy, but nothing ever is when two good football teams knock helmets. Of course, it can be said that the sports pundits didn’t think Jesuit stood a chance of beating St. Paul’s, which spanked Karr, 34-7, in Week 1. The prognosticators had widely predicted that the defending state champion Blue Jays were next in line for a spanking by the Wolves.
Oh, how wrong those nattering nabobs of negativism.
For the second week in a row, Jesuit’s opponent won the coin toss. The Wolves chose to defer and kicked off to Jesuit before a crowd, most of whom were draped in plastic ponchos (the colors of their respective schools) to ward off the expected wet weather. The weather peeps got that wrong, too. It didn’t rain a drop during the entire game, but the dampness that hung over City Park was heavier than Morgus the Magnificent’s famous humidity rag.
The Wolves were in for a big surprise. Domination. Total domination by the Blue Jays the entire first half, although the 10-0 Jesuit lead could easily have been 21 or 28-nothing. The Jays’ 10 points were all in the second quarter, the first six the result of a determined Connor Prouet banging his bionic self into the Wolves’ end zone on fourth and two from the three-yard line. In the blink of an eye, the Jays were threatening again, but settled for a 34-yard field goal from Crew Jacobs, a senior kicker whose diminutive frame belies his big right foot. Jacobs tacked on the extra point after Prouet’s first TD.
Jesuit’s offensive line — mainly John Sewell, Austin Reed, Nick Gauthé, Cameron Maheu, Fletcher Lavie, Evan Slattery, Corey Dublin, and Zack Robert (playing defense, too) — consistently opened the traveling lanes that seemed as wide as Carrollton Avenue. It looked like a human version of the running of the bulls for Prouet, a 6’, 210-pound bulldozer of a junior who had to be dragged down by two, three, and four defenders. He was simply too much for a solo tackler.
On Jesuit’s second possession, Prouet ran 25 yards for what would have been the team’s first touchdown, only to have it nullified by a holding penalty, the first of seven that the refs flagged against the Jays. Seven holding penalties against the Jays in a single game might be a dubious record, who knows? The penalties slowed if not stopped drives by Jesuit’s offense, but the red flags also strengthened the Jays’ resolve.
The halftime stats were telling, no, shocking: the Jays compiled 286 yards of offense versus 29 yards for the Wolves. Prouet went to the locker room at halftime with 100-plus yards, 110 on 14 carries to be exact. Jesuit quarterback Peter Hontas, looking much sharper and more confident than last week’s shaky debut, completed 13 of 18 passes for 153 of those yards.
Jesuit’s defense kept St. Paul’s offense in check and off-balance the entire first half. After the Wolves regrouped at halftime and made some adjustments, the Blue Jays’ defense retained much of its stoutness while finally relenting 45 seconds into the fourth quarter. On fourth and one from the one-yard line, St. Paul’s punched in their first score, making it 10-7. The Jays got the ball back and made a couple of first downs, but Jacobs had to punt.
With just under six minutes left in the game, the Wolves were howling once again at the Jays’ doorstep. On first down from Jesuit’s four-yard line, St. Paul’s rammed in their second TD and the Blue Jays’ lead suddenly evaporated. Down 14-10, Jesuit’s offense answered, marching down the field with Prouet stepping over and running over any Wolf in his path, giving the Jays several first downs. He was unstoppable as he slipped several tackles on his way to the end zone, a 23-yard touchdown run with 2:15 left on the clock. With the PAT by the sure-footed Jacobs, the Jays were back on top, 17-14.
But the Wolves didn’t fold with their tales dragging on the artificial turf. They took the kickoff and moved down the field, aided by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the Jays that was like manna from the sky. Eyes from both sidelines were fixed on the clock, the Wolves needing more time, the Jays trying to erase the seconds to reach 0:00. With 35 second remaining and facing fourth and five, St. Paul’s attempted a 26-yard field goal. It would have been true had it been long enough. One ref was seen about to raise his hands as if the kick was good. He stopped himself just in time and both refs under the goalposts signaled the kick was no good.
All Hontas had to do was take one snap from center Sewell and the Jays had themselves their first win of the 2015 season.
“I can’t say enough about Connor,” said Coach Songy. “The first guy didn’t take him down often tonight. Our defense played lights out most of the night. St. Paul’s is a really good football team. We grew up a lot tonight and I’m happy
about that. It was a gigantic drive to come back and win the game. Earlier in the night we had a couple of opportunities to go ahead and we didn’t. But a young team growing up, we’re going to make some mistakes like that. We came around and overcame turnovers. I was unhappy about the turnovers, I was unhappy about some other things.
“We played hard the whole 48 minutes and we didn’t stop until it was over,” Songy continued, admitting he was surprised that St. Paul’s managed only 14 points. “I’m ecstatic, I think we got a little bit more personality tonight, we discovered our identity a little bit better. We grew up a little bit. This is a completely different football team from a year ago, but it’s got great potential. I like the fight we have in us. We’re just going to approach each game as its own season and each opponent with great respect. Hopefully, we’ll be in the groove again next week.”
For all his success running and scoring Jesuit’s two touchdowns, Prouet handed off all the credit to his offensive line. “I’d get the ball and I’d look up and see six-yard, seven-yard wide holes to run through,” he said with an amazed look etched on his face. “Honestly, I have to give it all to the line. It was all of them. Look, we’re going to make mistakes in a game and we’re going to fix those mistakes. The fact that we came back says a lot about how we grew up during this game.”
Exactly like Coach Songy stressed all week at practice.
Jesuit’s next opponent: The Jays travel to Pensacola to play Escambia High School on Friday, Sept. 18.
Nola.com Video: Watch Jesuit beat St. Paul’s on a missed field goal
The New Orleans Advocate: Connor Prouet leads Jesuit over St. Paul’s