NEW ORLEANS — For the 2019 Ouachita Christian Eagles, “Finish Strong” was more than a theme. It was a way of life.
Dominant from the middle of the first quarter on, Ouachita Christian dismantled Catholic-Pointe Coupee 67-22 Friday afternoon in the Division IV state championship game at the Mercedes Benz Superdome.
OCS (13-1) closed out the season with its most complete overall effort to capture its seventh state title.
“Finish Strong has been our theme all season, and we put an exclamation point on that today in every sense of the word,” OCS coach Steven Fitzhugh said. “This was definitely our most complete effort of the season.”
Speaking of exclamation points, Hunter Herring capped an amazing three-game playoff stretch by earning the Eagles’ team MVP award in the state championship game.
Herring had his best career passing game against Calvary Baptist in the quarterfinals and his best rushing outing against Metairie Park Country Day in the semifinals. The junior ULM baseball commit saved his best overall game for the finals.
Herring was involved in seven touchdowns, which is a Division IV/Class 1A record for the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Classic. He was 7-of-12 through the air for 164 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing for 171 yards and four scores on 14 carries.
OCS rolled up 488 yards of total offense (295 rushing, 193 passing).
“Our execution was insane today,” Herring said. “We had a good game plan. Having two weeks of practice really helped.”
Counting Herring’s seven touchdowns, four new Division IV/Class 1A records were set Friday.
OCS set a new standard with 67 points, eclipsing Vermilion Catholic’s 63 points in 2013. The combined 89 points tops the old record of 81 set by Vermilion Catholic and St. Frederick in 2013.
OCS free safety Will Fitzhugh made his way into the record book for the longest interception return with a 91-yard pick-6.
Ouachita Christian finished the season a mind-boggling plus-27 (36-9) in turnover margin.
Turnovers were a major part of the state championship game as the Hornets committed seven giveaways (five fumbles, two interceptions) while the Eagles were turnover-free.
“We preach winning the turnover battle,” coach Fitzhugh said. “We took care of the football all year. Hunter really grew up this year, and did a great job of taking care of the football.”
Catholic (11-3) won the toss and opted to defer.
Will Fitzhugh returned the opening kickoff 18 yards to the 31.
Dillon Dougan carried for 11 yards and Hunter Herring kept for 24 on the first two plays as the Eagles advanced to the 33.
On fourth-and-two from the 25, Brandon Riddle stopped Herring for a gain of one to deny the first down.
It would be one of the few times the Hornets would stop Herring or the Eagles in the first half.
Catholic went three and out on its first series.
With the Hornets facing third-and-eight from the minus-26, Matthew Langlois broke a tackle on a pitch for a gain of five before being tackled by Walker Morris short of the first down.
Starting their second series from the minus-38, the Eagles crossed into the red zone when Herring found Will Fitzhugh for 43 yards and a first down at the 14.
An illegal substitution penalty led to third-and-16 from the 20 where Herring hit a tightly-guarded Eli Extine with a perfectly thrown pass across the middle for the touchdown. The extra point was blocked, but the Eagles were up 6-0 with 2:32 remaining in the first quarter.
Catholic answered just two plays later.
Taking a pitch to the right side on second-and-seven from the 35, Langlois nearly stepped out of bounds at the 40, maintained his balance, picked up two blocks on the edge and scampered 65 yards to paydirt. Cameron Decoteau’s extra point put the Hornets in front, 7-6.
Catholic’s only lead last would hold up for 86 seconds.
Three plays from scrimmage later, Herring rolled to his right on third-and-seven, and hit Will Fitzhugh in stride at the 41 for a 61-yard touchdown pass. Squeezing inside the pylon at the end of the play, Will Fitzhugh put the Eagles back in front, 12-7.
Catholic’s woes were only beginning.
With the Hornets staring at third-and-four from their own 31, Morris stripped the ball away from Micah Cifreo in the backfield, and Grant Mashaw made the recovery at the 29.
OCS cashed in immediately as Will Fitzhugh took the pitch on the halfback pass and connected with a wide open Tristan Wiley for the touchdown. Hit at the 9, Wiley kept his footing, spun and scored easily to put OCS up 18-7 with 29 seconds to play in the quarter.
Catholic’s next series lasted only one play as Christian Gray recovered a fumble in the backfield at the Hornets’ 31.
Wiley’s 22-yard reception set up first-and-goal from the 9.
Following a path cleared by pulling guard James David Miller, Herring scored from four yards out on the second play of the quarter. Samuel Harrell’s point after made it 25-7, Eagles, with 11:19 left in the half.
Setting up at their own 20, the Hornets crossed into OCS territory on a sensational one-handed catch by Cifreo. Cifreo’s 42-yard reception in front of the Catholic sideline placed the Hornets at the plus-38.
OCS ended the threat two plays later when Jacob Ogden jarred the ball loose in the backfield and Will Fitzhugh made the recovery.
Taking over at their own 43, the Eagles were back in the end zone six plays later.
On first down from the Catholic 33, Herring blasted up the middle untouched to put the Eagles in command, 32-7.
Will Fitzhugh broke up a third down pass to help force Catholic into a three and out on its ensuing possession
Dillon Dougan’s 10-yard run set up Herring’s 15-yard pass to Extine in the left side of the end zone. For the second time in the game, Herring delivered a perfectly-thrown to Extine in a tight window as the Eagles opened up a 39-7 advantage.
OCS’ defense was back on the field for just two plays as Christian Gray caused and recovered a fumble.
Taking over with a short field at the 24, the Eagles extended their lead to 46-7 on Herring’s 15-yard run with 50 seconds left in the half.
Catholic received the second half kickoff and methodically marched to the OCS 24. On third-and-four, Will Fitzhugh came down with a tipped pass, picked up a couple of blocks along the left sideline and completed a 91-yard return. Will Fitzhugh’s first career pick-6 upped the Eagles’ lead to 53-7 with 7:10 remaining in the period.
Catholic’s next series also ended in a Will Fitzhugh interception, this time with a 34-yard return to the OCS 36.
Following an empty possession by the Eagles, Nick Carriere’s 37-yard punt return gave the Hornets favorable field position at the 36.
Three rushing plays went for 22 yards to the 14. Kade Woods’ stop for a three-yard loss led to fourth-and-eight from the 17, but Cifreo moved the chains with a 15-yard run.
Carriere punched it in from a yard out on fourth-and-goal on the first snap of the quarter. Matthew Langlois ran the 2-point conversion to close the spread to 53-15.
OCS set up at its own 49 after the onside kick attempt bounced out of bounds. Herring then capped his MVP performance with a 51-yard touchdown jaunt to make it 60-15.
Catholic was soon threatening again, complements of Aiden Vosburg’s 60-yard run to the 4.
OCS would make a goal line stand. John Daniel Thomas shut down a second down play for negative four yards and Casey Cobb’s forced fumble was recovered by Will Fitzhugh.
Moments later, freshman quarterback Landon Graves jetted 72 yards to put the Eagles up 67-15.
Cifreo’s 36-yard touchdown run concluded the scoring nine seconds before the final horn.
Notes: Ouachita Christian’s 12-man senior class is comprised of Walker Morris, Jon Thomas Dixon, Christian Gray, Eli Extine, Will Fitzhugh, Ethan Hogan, Garrett Folds, Jacob Ogden, Grant Mashaw, Will Carroll, Blake Pender and Chase Simmons. … OCS completed its 43rd football season. … The Eagles improved to 7-2 in state championship games. … OCS has now won state titles in 1985, 1997, 2000, 2011, 2012 and 2014. … OCS improved to 5-1 in state championship games during the Steven Fitzhugh era. … For the season, the Eagles outscored the opposition 174-55 in the first quarter and 226-57 in the second frame. … Seniors Will Fitzhugh and Garrett Folds of OCS, Reed Lambert of Catholic-P.C. and Will Ellender of St. Frederick were among the Division IV players recognized for making the Academic All-State team. A 4.0 grade point average is required to be considered for the squad. … Will Fitzhugh of OCS and Nick Carriere were presented with Horizon awards during pregame ceremonies. The award is based on academics and leadership traits. … Game officials were from the Red River Parishes Association.
By the Numbers
CPC ………………………….. OCS
17 ………. First downs …….. 18
46-306 …. Rushes-yards ….. 35-295
93 ………. Yards passing ….. 193
16-7-2 …. Passing (A-C-I) …. 13-8-0
2-22 ……. Punts-avg. ………. 2-37
5-5 ……… Fumbles-lost …… 0-0
3-15 ……. Penalties-yards …. 6-40
Catholic-P.C. …… 7… 0 0 15–-22
OCS …………….. 18 28 7 14—67
OC—Eli Extine 20-pass from Herring, (kick blocked), 4:20
CP—Matthew Langlois 65-run (Cameron Decoteau kick), 3:28
OC—Will Fitzhugh 61-pass from Hunter Herring (run failed), 2:20
OC—Tristan Wiley 29-pass from Fitzhugh (Samuel Harrell kick), 0:29
OC—Herring 4-run (Harrell kick), 11:19
OC—Herring 33-run (Harrell kick), 8:01
OC—Extine 10-pass from Herring (Harrell kick), 3:21
OC—Herring 15-run (Harrell kick), 0:50
OC—Fitzhugh 91-interception return (Harrell kick), 7:10
CP—Nick Carriere 1-run (Langlois run), 11:57
OC—Herring 51-run (Harrell kick), 11:44
OC—Landon Graves 72-run (Harrell kick), 2:39
CP—Micah Cifreo 36-run (Decoteau kick), 0:09
RUSHING—Catholic-Pointe Coupee: Langlois 11-107-1, Cifreo 9-61-1, Aiden Vosburg 8-58, Carriere 10-55-1, Aaron Beatty 8-28. Ouachita Christian: Herring 14-171-4, Graves 1-72-1, Dillon Dougan 11-40.
PASSING (A-C-I-Yds-TD) — Catholic-Pointe Coupee: Vosburg 13-7-1-93-0, Chayse Buriege 3-0-1-0-0. Ouachita Christian: Herring 12-7-0-164-3, Fitzhugh 1-1-0-29-1
RECEIVING — Catholic-Point Coupee: Carriere 3-34, Cifreo 2-41, Langlois 1-11, Buriege 1-7. Ouachita Christian: Fitzhugh 2-104-1, Wiley 2-51-1, Extine 2-30-1.