Jordan Spratt Special to The Times
Published 1:49 AM EST Nov 10, 2018
You could barely tell the No. 16-seeded Captain Shreve Gators and the 17th-seeded Gators of St. Amant apart and it would take every bit of a microscope to separate them on the field, as Shreve held off a St. Amant comeback, 28-21 in the first round of the playoffs onn Friday night at Lee Hedges Stadium.
Due to the general euphoria in the atmosphere, Shreve coach Bryant Sepulvado was numb to his Gatorade-soaked clothes in windy, 45-degree weather, as he lauded his guys with praise for grabbing a hard-fought playoff win.
“I don’t think we played our best ball. It was just one of those games you had to dig down and see what you’re made of. Great testament to the grit and character this team has,” Sepulvado said.
As if the mascot and colors weren’t like enough, wouldn’t you know the pace and momentum of the game also fell in the middle of the Venn diagram for both teams.
Shreve opened the scoring with a usual run-pass option sequence in the middle of the first quarter, but St. Amant never let the Gators out of sight, tying the score on three occasions.
Fans of St. Amant and fans of just plain good football were left gut punched, as the talisman for the Southern Gators KJ Franklin left with an injury, never to return to the turf.
Late in the fourth quarter, DJ Fleming personified what this Shreve Gators team has been about all season. Fleming was dropped for a loss of 1 yard on a trick. Patting his chest the senior motioned to say, “that was on me”. The next play Fleming broke from from the line of scrimmage, shrugging off tacklers for a 24-yard gain.
That play sparked the drive that broke the 21-21 deadlock as the Gators grounded and pounded their way to an 81-yard drive for score.
“That play was big. Right there we had a negative play and the next play he kind did what DJ does. He put his head down and ran hard like he’s done all year long. That was a big turning point in the ballgame for us,” Sepulvado said.
Here are three takeaways from the game.
Shreve offense all about the business
Shreve has grown accustomed to lighting up the stats sheet with versatile running and opportunistic pass catchers. But this playoff game was solely about making the most of plays when the sticks were 10 yards apart.
Fleming’s 155 yards on 26 carries was by no means flashy for a tailback that’s used to climbing the century mark with relative ease. Twenty two of Fleming’s carries were eight yards or under, showing just how laborious his running was.
Darius Grant’s passing was especially efficient and effective despite the total thanks to the threat his running presented to St Amant. Grant was 6-of-8 passing for 29 yards and stood in the massive rushing gap of LaDarien Frieson with 52 yards rushing.
From down state to an uphill battle
The visitors from south Louisiana couldn’t have been dealt a worse blow late in the first half as Franklin, the foundation of the offense and key player on defense, left the first half with an injury. Franklin was putting his customary stamp of making plays before his injury that kept him out of the game with 72 total yards and an incredible one hand snag on a screen pass that was taken for six.
With Franklin down for the game, the St. Amant offense was forced to find yards elsewhere and did just that. Gator running back, Lathan Vaughn replaced Franklin’s workload with 17 carries for 87 yards rushing — 13 of those carries came in the second half.
“Towards the end we had a couple opportunities to move the ball down the field, but we ended up having to punt it back to them because we didn’t capitalize. They made a drive there at the end and we didn’t, but it was certainly a hard-fought ball game,” St. Amant coach David Oliver said.
The defense that giveth and taketh away
When the game became tough tackles and defensive playmaking, the Captain Shreve Gators were quick to answer the call.
To close out the game, the Gators had a tackle for loss and three straight broken up passes on a four-play sequence. In on two of those pass break ups was David Brown. Brown also nabbed a scoop-and-score late in the third quarter to give Shreve its third lead of the game at 21-14.
Added to the pressure of great defensive line performance was both linebackers Geron Hargon and Rhema Getter. The backer duo combined for eight tackles, two for loss, and one sack.
When asked about this good defensive performance heading into a game against a vaunted West Monroe team, Sepulvado wants his defense to produce while clamping down the chunk play concessions.
“We gave up some big plays that ended up being touchdowns, so we have to get that fixed. They didn’t gash us all night long. But for 90 percent of the ballgame I thought the defense played very well,” Sepulvado said.
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