LAFAYETTE – If St. Charles Catholic had any chance to get back in what proved to be a 41-14 loss in the Division III state championship game against Lafayette Christian Academy, the Comets needed to score on the opening possession of the second half.
The Comets did just that.
One in a series of long kickoff returns by Phillip Tran during the game gave SCC the ball at the Knights’ 32-yard line.
Three plays later, sophomore Zack Vicknair, appearing for the first time in the game at quarterback, took a direct snap and went on a tackle-breaking 24-yard touchdown run to pull the Comets to within 20-7 with 10:25 still remaining in the third quarter.
“Zack Vicknair gave us a boost,” St. Charles coach Frank Monica said. “He broke some tackles. He’s a good runner. He gave us a little shot in the arm.
“We said that if we could get a score there, it would be a two-possession game. We didn’t stop them and they came right back and they were in the end zone before you know it.”
Behind the running of quarterback Errol Rogers and bruising running back Logan Gabriel – both of whom were unstoppable throughout the game – the Knights went on a 12-play drive. With Rogers converting a pair of third-and-7 situations into first downs to keep the possession going, LCA ultimately scored on a 5-yard run by Gabriel to up the Knights’ lead to 27-7.
Gabriel finished with 118 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Rogers rushed for 146 yards while completing 6 of 12 passes for 108 yards.
The next time Vicknair, who was named SCC’s Outstanding Player, scored on a 31-yard tackle-breaking run, it took the Knights only 22 seconds to respond, this time on a 51-yard gallop by Rogers for a 34-14 LCA lead with 1:01 remaining in the third quarter.
A fake punt eventually set up Gabriel’s third touchdown of the night. His 1-yard run with 4:43 left in the game put the finishing touches on Lafayette Christian’s 41-14 win that ended St. Charles Catholic’s quest for a state championship Saturday night at Cajun Field on the campus of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
“I was very disappointed in the outcome,” said Monica. It’s not the way we wanted the seniors to go out. I’m disappointed for the fans and student body, but more disappointed for those 15 players. But there’s a lesson there somewhere. There always is a lessons from adversity and lessons from failure, and they have to understand that.”
Top-seeded Lafayette Christian, which won its third-straight state title, and St. Charles Catholic, the No. 3 seed, both entered the game 11-1 on the season.
About all SCC had to show for most of the first half was a long kickoff return, yet the Comets were down by only six point for most of the opening two quarters.
The six-point deficit came early.
On the first play from scrimmage, Rogers hit a wide-open Ethan Laing for a 49-yard gain. Four plays later, A 7-yard run by Sage Ryan gave Lafayette Christian a 6-0 lead.
“The first play sort of set the tone for the night. We couldn’t have been in a more safe coverage but pressure does that to people,” said Monica.
Tran returned the ensuing kickoff to the LCA 37. SCC failed to take advantage of the field position when Carter Chauvin missed a 33-yard field goal attempt.
Although the Comets were unable to move the ball on offense, St. Charles trailed only 6-0 and the game had a feel of a SCC type of game. Throughout the season, the Comet kept games close with the SCC defense or special teams either coming up a score directly and providing a short field to set up a score by the offense.
That didn’t happen against the Knights, who became opportunistic in the final eight minutes of the first half.
A short punt by Justin Dumas from the St. Charles 9-yard line after the Comets were pinned deep in their own territory gave LCA the ball at the SCC 21.
On the very next play from scrimmage, Rogers connected with Dane Wallace for a touchdown and a 13-0 LCA lead at the 7:18 mark of the second quarter.
Three plays later, Dumas, the starting SCC quarterback, fumbled while being sacked by Princeton Malbrue, named the game’s Outstanding Player. Fitzgerald West’s recovery gave the Knights the ball at the Comets’ 20.
LCA again took quick advantage follow a Comet turnover when Gabriel scored on a 4-yard run four plays later to make it 20-0 with 4:47 remaining in the second quarter.
SCC had a couple of chances to get back in the game late in the second half with a fumble recovery at the LCA 27 and following a blocked punt at the Knights’ 4-yard line with four seconds remaining.
The Comets turned the ball over on downs after the fumble recovery after being backed up to the 34-yard line.
Following the blocked punt, Dumas, under heavy pressure by the Knights’ defense all game, fumbled when hit to end the Comet threat.
The only three times the Comets managed to cross midfield in the first half was due to Tran’s kick return, a fumble and blocked punt.