When St. Charles took advantage of an early third quarter special teams mistake by U-High and turned it into points on a Lloyd Nash 1-yard touchdown plunge there was hope that the Comets could do it again.
“It” was to pull off an upset against a bigger, faster, higher-ranked team like they had done last season at Notre Dame in the Division III Semifinals, or earlier this season against 5A Destrehan.
But not on this night.
The Cubs responded with three touchdowns and a field goal to put the game away and end the Comets season, defeating St. Charles 34-14.
“The difference was our offensive line didn't play very well, we didn't block anybody, and in the second half the difference was we didn't field kickoffs,” said St. Charles coach Frank Monica. “We started one drive on the one-yard line and you can't do that against a good football team. The next one wasn't that much better.”
It was the St. Charles defense that made the first big play when Jordan Jensen and Rodney Blanks applied heavy pressure forcing an early pass that was intercepted by Bryce Authement and returned to midfield.
The ensuing drive would stall and late in the first half, it was the Cubs taking advantage of a St. Charles interception and turning that into a 24-yard touchdown pass from John Gordon McKernan to Christian Harris and U-High led 10-0 at halftime.
The Cubs first possession of the second half ended with a high snap on a punt which Gavin St. Pierre led a charge of Comets making the tackle at the one-yard line. Three plays later Nash dove up and over the pile, just crossing the goal line and St. Charles had cut the lead to 10-7.
But U-high answered with a long drive that ended with a 2-yard touchdown run by Mike Hollins to close the scoring in the third quarter at 17-7, then opened the final frame with another Hollins touchdown, this one from 19 yards and it was 24-7.
The Cubs added 10 more points, then in the closing seconds of the game, St. Charles sophomore running back Phillip Tran scored on a 24-yard touchdown run to close out the scoring.
“We were very disappointed with the way we played on offense,” said Monica. “I think our defense played as hard as they could possibly play. And that's a tribute to them because our defense has played hard all year long but tonight our offense couldn't take the pressure off of them. Our special teams let us down and that's a big disappointment for us because we pride ourselves in special teams so that was a huge disappointment there.
“Give (U-High) credit they're a good football team. We didn't block them very well we didn't hold the blocks. It wasn't anything they were doing we just didn't hold our blocks. We didn't get good play in the backfield and I was very disappointed with the whole offensive operation.”
The Comets rushed for 118 yards as a team with Naquez Jones leading the way with 47 yards on 12 carries. Joe Chiarella tallied 39 yards on 6 carries and Nash finished with 30 yards on 12 carries and was 2-6 passing for 13 yards.
The win improves U-high's overall record to 12-0 as the No.2 seed Cubs advance to the Division II State Championship where they will square off with undefeated and No.1 seed De La salle. Hollins led the way for U-High with 20 rushing attempts for 140 yards, and a pair of touchdowns. McKernan was 9-15 passing for 118 yards and a touchdown.
St. Charles ends the season at 9-3 which for a second straight season is better than most anticipated after a series of early season injuries that included Nash for most of the regular season and senior linebacker Dellary Oubre for the entire season.
“I'm very proud of what we did because we had to make adjustments as a coaching staff as soon as those guys went down,” said Monica. “We had to come up with three game plans just to move the football. All-in-all I think it was a good year. We had some real big signature wins during the season. It was a tribute to the seniors that hung in there. We got some good guys and I feel badly for the senior class because I know they wanted to return to the Superdome but unfortunately we were moved up into 4A competition and we're 2A enrollment. It's not their fault that happened. We had to play with the hand that was dealt to us and it's a tribute to my guys and my coaching staff that kept this thing together.”