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Defense comes up big as Lutcher reaches title game once again

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  • December 03, 2016 - 11:42am

Photos by Tony SchexnayderMembers of the Lutcher football team celebrate after a 16-14 win at West Feliciana that sends the Bulldogs back to the title game.

By Hunter Dawkins

ST. FRANCISVILLE, La. - A chance to earn the spot back to the Class 3A state championship game was certainly not easy for the Lutcher Bulldogs.

After two opening drives that resulted in touchdowns, the Bulldogs only had five more possessions for the game and only one led to a score. Meanwhile, the Lutcher defense stymied the top-seeded West Feliciana Saints to no score in the second half and 16-14 victory to head back for another trip to the Superdome.

“In the second half, I can’t say enough about our defense.  Those guys have had their back against the wall all year long where people didn’t believe in them,” said Lutcher coach Dwain Jenkins.  “They kept giving us chances on offense to put something up.”

Fourth-seeded Lutcher (12-2) gets a chance to capture back-to-back state titles for the first time in school history when the Bulldogs take on Amite at noon Saturday in the Class 3A title game. Amite, the No. 7 seed, defeated third-seeded Kaplan 20-12.

The Lutcher-West Feliciana battle began from the opening horn as West Feliciana (13-1) got on the board early with quarterback Derek Turner running around the corner from 26 yards for a touchdown for a 7-0 lead.

Bulldog kick returner Gregory Clayton returned the ensuing kickoff back to the 50 to start a 10-play drive and eventual score by Lutcher quarterback Jontre Kirklin on a 2-yard dive with 2:16 left in the first quarter. Alec Bland’s conversion tied the game 7-7.

The Saints came marching down the field quickly, as running back Davon Harris scored on a 20-yard scamper with eight seconds left in the quarter as West Feliciana took the lead again 14-7.

Lutcher countered with a 15-yard pass from Kirklin to senior wide receiver Tariq Belvin for a touchdown with 7:55 left in the second quarter.  The conversion was missed and the Bulldogs trailed 14-13.

The Saints ran off six plays before turning the ball over on downs with less than five minutes remaining in the first half.

Bland kicked a 22-yard field goal with 1:26 left for a 16-14 halftime lead that would hold up for the rest of the game.

After Harris returned the ensuing kickoff to the 50, West Feliciana pushed down the field to the 1-yard line after six plays, only to get blanked by the Lutcher Bulldogs and linebacker Devin Schexnayder as time ran out in the opening half.

The tale of the second half was missed opportunities for both teams with multiple turnovers on down, fumbles, and an interception. 

Beginning the third quarter, Lutcher mounted a 13-play drive that resulted in a turnover on downs at the eight minute mark.

West Feliciana fumbled on their its first possession of the quarter with Bulldogs linebacker Rashaun Preston recovering the ball with 6:38 left in the quarter.

The Bulldogs followed with a quick three-and-out, while the West Feliciana Saints drove down to the red zone but fumbled. Lutcher linebacker Thaddeus Watis came up with the recovery to end the quarter with LHS still on top by two points.

Lutcher drove down the field in five plays but came away with no points when Saints cornerback Rjay Harris intercepted Kirklin in the end zone. The Saints fumbled a few plays later, with Watis coming up with another recovery with 5:15 left to play as the Bulldogs came up with stop after stop in the second half.

“They stepped up and played their butts off,” Kirklin said of the Lutcher defense.

In his first year back as Lutcher coach after a three-year stint at St. James, Jenkins has guided the Bulldogs back to the state championship game.

“It has been a blessing working with these guys.  I have known the seniors since they were in  eighth grade when I coached on the staff previously,” said Jenkins.

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