On paper, Friday night’s first round Class 3A playoff game between No. 2 Sterlington and No. 31 Crowley was supposed to be a rout.
Ultimately, Sterlington won the game 37-36 in overtime, but the visiting Gents refused to follow the script without first putting up a spirited fight.
For their part, the Panthers hardly played like a No. 2 seed. Then again, style points are worthless in the postseason where survival and winning go hand-in-hand.
“It’s better to win than to lose,” said Sterlington coach Lee Doty, summing up the game succinctly.
Sterlington (10-0) will be at home again Friday night against No. 15 Kaplan (7-4), a 46-14 winner over Bossier.
“If we aren’t more focused than we were last week, and don’t stop worrying about booking rooms to New Orleans, we’re going to be in for a short postseason,” Doty said. “I’ve been trying all week to tell people how good Crowley was, but everybody was too buys booking rooms to New Orleans to listen.”
Against Crowley (5-6), Sterlington was closer to being one and done than returning to the Superdome.
Rallying from a 22-14 deficit late in the third quarter, the Panthers surged ahead 30-22 before the Gents scored with seven seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime.
Sterlington won the toss and opted to start the overtime session on defense.
Starting from the Sterlington 10 with four plays to score, the Gents were awarded an extra snap on a fourth-down pass interference call. After the half the distance markoff to the 4, Marquise Garrett threw to Chris Moore for the go-ahead touchdown.
Cornerback Cole Thompson stopped the all-important 2-point conversion to leave the score at 36-30. Garrett’s short pass to Moore was complete, but Thompson made the tackle short of the goal line.
“Me and Dorian (Eddins) had a combo going,” Thompson explained. “I saw Dorian’s man open. That’s when we called a switch for me to go outside the stalk blocker. The receiver jumped up and caught the ball, but I tackled him in mid-air.”
Thompson understood the significance of the stop.
“I had a feeling we were about to score, and win the game,” Thompson said. “I always have great confidence in our offense.”
Sterlington needed just one play — Dallas Reagor’s run around he right edge — to answer. Reagor flattened a defender with a classic stiff-arm just past the line of scrimmage, and found a clear path to the goal line.
“All I knew was I had to get in the end zone,” Reagor said. “I felt like it was all on my shoulders. I haven’t been myself lately, so I really wanted the touchdown when they put the ball in my hands in that situation.”
Jacob Green’s extra point split the uprights to seal the Panthers’ 37-36 victory.
Choosing to receive upon winning the toss, the Panthers began the game with an empty possession.
Sterlington caught the game’s first break on Crowley’s second play from scrimmage when Cole Jones recovered a fumble in the backfield on a busted play.
Four plays later, on fourth-and-11 from the Crowley 27, Hixson Street followed a block from Braden Bruscato and dashed down the left sideline for the touchdown on a tight end screen. Green’s PAT put the Panthers up 7-0 four minutes into the contest.
Layton Rainbolt’s 26-yard punt return enabled the Panthers to start with another short field at the 37, two possessions later.
Two running plays moved the sticks to the 25. Hayes Crockett took it to the house from there on a fake handoff to put the Panthers up 14-0 early in the second quarter.
Crowley shaved the deficit to 14-8 just 22 seconds later.
Obadiah Butler showed off his speed on the Gents’ next snap, accelerating into the secondary for a 74-yard touchdown blast. Garrett threw to Moore on the 2-point conversion.
Sterlington missed an opportunity to extend its lead on its next series.
Crockett’s 36-yard pass to Rainbolt set up first-and-goal at the 9, but Camron Dugar’s fumble recovery at the 5 ended the threat.
After the two sides traded punts to start the second half, the Gents converted twice on fourth down during a game-tying nine-play, 52-yard drive. Rodney Goodley scored from four yards out and also ran the conversion as Crowley pulled into a 14-14 tie.
Rainbolt returned the ensuing kickoff 24 yards to the minus-44, but the Panthers went backwards from there. A first down holding penalty and two incomplete passes quickly brought up third-and-21. Dugar, Crowley’s nose guard, then swatted the ball away on a sack, and teammate Tyron Goodley recovered at the 25 for a scoop and score. Garrett’s 2-point pass to Moore brought the score to 22-14, Gents, with 25 seconds to play in the third quarter.
Sterlington would not panic, though.
Spurred by Reagor’s 31-yard run the Panthers advanced from their own 46 to the Crowley 17.
On fourth-and-one from the 8, Crockett crashed into the end zone from six yards away to cap a six-play, 54-yard drive. Reagor’s conversion knotted the score at 22 with 9:35 to play.
Starting from its 22 after the kickoff, the Gents moved to the 38 on three straight carries by Butler.
With the Gents facing second-and-six, Harrison Womack made a diving catch on a ball that deflected off of a receiver’s hands in front of the Sterlington sideline.
“They had been throwing the hitch, and they always threw to the outside receiver,” Womack said. “The ball was thrown a little high, and when the receiver jumped up, Cliff Jones hit him. The ball went up when it hit the dude’s hands, and I dove and caught it.”
Taking over at the plus-43, the Panthers converted on fourth-and-inches from the 34 in a big way. Powering through the pile at the line of scrimmage, Jordan Townsend dragged a trio of defenders all the way to the 6 for a 28-yard carry.
Two plays later, Zach Crain pounded the right side behind Brock Risinger and Bruscato for a two-yard touchdown run. Crain also tacked on the conversion to put the Panthers on top, 30-22, with 4:57 on the clock.
Doty’s decision to go for 2 would not be second-guessed.
Crowley called for a lateral on the kickoff, but Cole Jones wasn’t fooled, and the Gents set up at their own 17.
Facing fourth-and-eight from the 19, Crowley’s season was hanging in the balance.
Unfazed, Garrett moved the chains with a 26-yard pass to Carrier despite heavy pressure from Parker Coley.
“We kept pressure on him, but he completed some crazy passes,” Womack said of the 6’4” Garrett. “He has a strong arm, and really throws well on the run.”
Though Garrett completed 17-of-29 passes for 169 yards, the Panthers’ secondary passed the test.
“I thought Harrison Womack and Dorian Eddins played really well, along with Cole Thompson,” Doty said. “It’s probably not going to show up in the stats, but our secondary saved us tonight.”
By the Numbers
CHS …………………..…..….. SHS
17 ……… First downs ….....…. 8
37-202 … Rushes-yards ..…. 36-173
169 ……. Yards passing ….... 78
29-17-2 .. Passes (A-C-I) …. 10-4-0
3-21.4 …. Punts-avg. …..…… 4-32.5
2-2 …….. Fumbles-lost …..… 4-2
7-58 …… Penalties-yards ..… 4-30
Crowley ……. 0 8 14 8 6—36
Sterlington … 7 7 0 16 7—37
S—Hixson Street 27-pass from Hayes Crockett (Jacob Green kick), 7:53
S—Hayes Crockett 25-run (Green kick), 10:26
C—Obadiah Butler 74-run (Chris Moore pass from Marquis Garrett), 10:04
C—Rodney Goodley 12-run (run failed), 1:27
C—Tyron Goodley 25-fumble return (Moore pass from Garrett), 0:25
S—Crockett 8-run (Dallas Reagor run), 9:35
S—Zach Crain 3-run (Crain run), 4:57
C—Rodney Goodley 7-run (Rodney Goodley run), 0:07
C—Moore 4-pass from Garrett (pass failed)
S—Reagor 10-run (Green kick)
RUSHING—Crowley: Butler 15-116-1, Rodney Goodley 10-59-2. Sterlington: Reagor 14-70-1, Jordan Townsend 7-32, Crockett 9-28-2, Crain 5-23-1.
PASSING (A-C-I-Yds-TD)—Crowley: Garrett 29-17-2-169-1. Sterlington: Crockett 10-4-0-78-1.
RECEIVING—Crowley: Tyler Carrier 10-81, Butler 5-78-1. Sterlington: Layton Rainbolt 1-36, Street 1-27-1.