The Sacred Heart Trojan defense swarms a Oucahita Christian player in their first round playoff game Friday. (Gazette photo by Nick Jagneaux)
VILLE PLATTE – When two teams are as evenly matched as the Sacred Heart Trojans and Ouachita Christian Eagles were, there really is no room for giving up big plays and turnovers in a ball game.
Such was the case Friday night, as the Trojans were knocked out of the Division IV playoffs in a 42-23 loss to the Eagles here at Soileau/Landry field.
In the game, Sacred Heart lost the turnover battle 3-1 and gave up runs of 50 yards or more on three occasions.
“It was a weird game when you break it down,” stated Sacred Heart head coach Josh Harper. “I don’t think any team really sustained a drive the whole game. It was all big play after big play and it boils down to them getting stops when they needed it and we turned the ball over when we didn’t need too, especially in our territory. You just can’t turn the ball over to a good team like that and give them good field position.”
The game plan for Sacred Heart coming in was to start with their spread offense and make Ouachita Christian chase them from sideline to sideline and then turn to their power running game later in the contest.
That strategy benefitted the Trojans immensely in the opening period. After the two teams exchanged possessions to begin the game, Sacred Heart came up with a big special teams play that led to the first score of the night.
On fourth and five from the 48-yard line, the Eagles lined up for a punt, but the Trojans stormed through the line and blocked the kick, recovering the ball at the Ouachita Christian 17-yard line.
Four plays later, quarterback Wesley Launey found JT Harper on a corner route for an 18 yard touchdown pass. The extra point from Launey was true and with 3:37 left to go in the first quarter, Sacred Heart led 7-0.
That lead would not last very long however. On the ensuing kickoff, Ouachita Christian’s Will Fitzhugh blasted his way down to the Trojan 21-yard line.
On the fourth play of the short drive, Fitzhugh found his way into the end zone from one yard out, putting the Eagles on the board for the first time in the game. The extra point was good from Gannon Malone and with 2:00 left in the first quarter the game was tied 7-7.
Sacred Heart’s next possession ended on the Ouachita Christian 49-yard line, forcing the Trojans to punt. On the third play of the drive, Sacred Heart came up with the first turnover of the night when Drew Bordelon intercepted the Fitzhugh pass at the Eagle 38-yard line.
Unfortunately, that turnover did not get the results desired because thee plays later, Ouachita Christian returned the favor when Troy Smith picked off a Launey pass at the Sacred Heart 22-yard line.
From there the Eagles took only five plays to turn that particular Trojan mistake into another score. On first and goal from the two-yard line, running back Skylor Wilhite plunged into the end zone, giving Ouachita Christian the lead for the first time in the game. The extra point was good and with 6:42 to go in the second quarter, the score was now 14-7 in favor of the Eagles.
Sacred Heart looked as if they might get that score back, coming up with a big play of their own on the ensuing kickoff. Harper hauled the ball in at the Trojan 25-yard line and raced his way to the Eagle 10-yard line before he was knocked out of bounds, setting the Trojans up in excellent field position.
But, in what might be the biggest possession of the night, the Ouachita Christian defense rose to the challenge and forced Sacred Heart to turn the ball over on downs at the Eagle two-yard line.
Four plays later, facing a second and ten at the 14-yard line, Fitzhugh slashed through the Trojan defensive front and raced 86 yards for the touchdown. After the extra point was blocked, the Eagles led 20-7 with 3:01 left before halftime.
Sacred Heart could not do anything with their next possession, forcing them to punt the ball back to Ouachita Christian.
The Eagles began their next drive on their 14-yard line and deja vu struck the Trojans once again. On the first play of the possession, Wilhite broke free and rumbled 86 yards for another score, adding to the Ouachita Christian lead. The Eagles went for two and converted on a Fitzhugh run giving Ouachita Christian the 28-7 advantage with only 1:42 left to go in the second quarter. That scored remained until the two teams rolled in the locker room.
Sacred Heart received the second half kickoff, but was unable to do much with it, forcing them to punt the ball back to the Eagles. A great punt off of the foot of Launey pinned the Eagles back at their three-yard line.
The Trojan defense rose to the occasion, stuffing the Ouachita Christian offense and making them punt from their one-yard line. A bad snap on the attempted punt flew out of the back of the end zone, giving Sacred Heart the two points on the safety.
Having to free kick the ball from their 20-yard line, the Eagles gave Sacred Heart the ball at their 48-yard line.
It did not take Sacred Heart long to take advantage of the great field position, as two plays into the drive, Launey found a lane down the left sideline and sprinted his way to a 49 yard touchdown run. The two-point pass from Launey to Garrett Fontenot was good and with 7:14 left in the third quarter, the Trojans had cut the lead the Eagle lead down to 28-17.
Sacred Heart got the ball back right away on a recovered fumble at the Ouachita Christian 30-yard line on the kick off. But, another big mistake killed the Trojan momentum, as Launey was picked off for the second time at the Eagle 11-yard line.
The final mistake of the night also cost Sacred Heart big. On a third and one from their 44-yard line, Ouachita Christian caused a fumble that was recovered at the Trojan 41-yard line. Five plays later, Fitzhugh was in the end zone once again, giving the Eagles a 35-17 lead.
“We challenged them at half time and they came out and responded well,” said Harper. “Then we turned the ball over, they took advantage of it and turned the momentum back in their direction.”
Sacred Heart would score late in the game on a one-yard run by Harper, but that would be answered 22 seconds later with a 50-yard Fitzhugh carry.
Sacred Heart finishes the year with an overall record of 8-3.
“We had five seniors this season and I love those kids to death,” commented Harper. “They showed nothing but heart and character since I’ve been here. Nothing but praise for what they have done for this program and they leave a legacy that will be hard to follow.”