Lutcher’s offense made the most of its limited possessions and the defense came up big when it had to as the Bulldogs opened defense of their Class 3A state championship with a 28-0 home victory Friday over Avoyelles.
The Avoyelles game was a rematch of the 2015 playoff opener when Lutcher beat the Mustangs 34-8 on its way to the state title.
Lutcher (9-2) advances to take on Wossman in another playoff rematch from a year ago. The Bulldogs will host Wossman after it rallied back to defeat Union Parish on Friday night.
Friday night’s game against Avoyelles started the way the Bulldogs wanted it to.
Lutcher won the coin toss and elected to receive, not wanting to give the ball first to Avoyelles for a potential ball-hogging drive like a year ago when the Mustangs held the ball for the first 13 minutes of the game like in the 2015 playoff opener.
The next thing to work in Lutcher’s favor was that the Bulldogs recovered Avoyelles’ onside kick attempt. The Mustangs always onside kick, never punt, and always go for a two-point conversion.
Three plays after recovering the opening onside kick and less than a minute into the game, the Bulldogs had a 7-0 lead on a 14-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jontre Kirklin to Al’Dontre Davis.
Avoyelles’ tight formation, double-wing offense seems more appropriate for the days of black-and-white newsreel coverage in an age of electronic readers and smart phones. The throwback offense looks more like rugby scrums and the Mustangs run it in a way that would make players from the Four Horseman days of Notre Dame proud.
The Mustangs went on one of their patented long drives, holding onto the ball for almost 10 minutes after Lutcher’s initial touchdown but failed to score when Avoyelles runner Justin Dupar was held to a 3-yard gain on fourth-and-5 from the Lutcher 20.
“That’s just how we had set the plan to get down the field and score quickly and get that score on the first possession and they got the ball back and went on one of those time-consuming drives. They didn’t score but ate up a lot of the clock,” Lutcher coach Dwain Jenkins said.
A Lutcher punt, followed by a failed conversion attempt on fourth down by Avoyelles, gave the Bulldogs the ball back at the Mustangs’ 31.
Again, it took Lutcher only three plays to score, this time on an 11-yard run by Kirklin for a 14-0 lead at the 9:34 mark of the second quarter.
Avoyelles needed to use three timeouts on its next time-consuming drive – which began at its own 20-yard line.
On third-and-goal from the Lutcher 1-yard line, Ryheim Dupuy was hit in the backfield for a 1-yard loss.
Avoyelles quarterback Brody Knott intentionally threw the ball to the ground to stop the clock because the Mustangs were out of timeouts, but being that it was fourth down, Avoyelles gave up the ball with 6.5 seconds left in the half and Lutcher held on for a 14-0 lead at the break.
The Bulldogs learned onsides kicks are not so easy to pull off.
Lutcher opened the second half attempting and onside kick but the Bulldogs were penalized for being offside. The Bulldogs then elected to kick deep and Avoyelles began possession at its own 20.
“The plan there was to try and get that possession back and try and go up 21-0 early in the third quarter. We got the penalty and then kicked it deep and they were able to drive it again. They had to drive the length of the field and were finally able to stop them inside the 10,” Jenkins said.
The Mustangs used up half the third quarter on their opening drive of second half but once again the Lutcher defense came through when it was needed most. On fourth-and-3 from the Bulldogs’ 6-yard line, Myron Robertson was held to 1 yard.
Robertson had kept the drive alive earlier in the possession when facing fourth-and-5 from the Avoyelles 22, Knott handed off to Dupuy, who then gave the ball to Robertson, who raced 41 yards for the Mustangs’ biggest gainer of the game.
Had the Mustang gotten a touchdown at the end of the first half and off of their opening possession of the third quarter, it could have been a completely different game.
“That’s why playing a team like that gives you anxiety because you are just not going to get the opportunities. They will run it four times and try to get two-and-a-half yards each time and just keep the sticks moving and the clock running,” Jenkins said.
After getting the defense stop, it was time for the Lutcher offense to mount a drive. The Bulldogs marched 95 yards; with Kirklin scoring on a 45-yard run to give LHS a 21-0 lead with 1:52 left in the third quarter.
“You can breathe a little easier once you are up three scores because they have to get back two onside kicks to get back in it,” Jenkins said.
Lutcher defensive back Zane McCrary returned a fumble 85 yards for touchdown in the fourth quarter to ice the win for the Bulldogs.