GAUTIER – Resurrection’s defense made four stands inside their own 25 Friday sending the Eagles to the Class 1A South State championship next week at Nanih Waiya.
The four stops helped the Eagles get past Lumberton 20-12 in the Class 1A South State semifinals.
The key to stopping Lumberton in the red zone, and later getting their offense on track, was communication between players and coaches said Eagles coach Scott Sisson. He noted the offense finally got the ball moving on the ground late in the third quarter after the offensive line started reading the slants made by Warriors defenders. The stops in the red zone came because Resurrection players were informing the coaches what Lumberton was doing.
“The communication from the players helped our coaches make adjustments,” he said.
This will make the third time in the last four years the Eagles will make the trip north to Louisville to meet the Warriors (14-0). In 2014, Nanih Waiya blanked Resurrection 24-0 before losing to Cathedral in the South State finals. Last year, the Warriors beat Resurrection 27-0 before losing to Lumberton in the South State finals.
“There is no tougher place to play than there,” Sisson said. “There will be 3,000 to 4,000 people there. They will be three deep around the fences.”
However, Sisson believes the Eagles’ experience of playing in Louisville will help his players.
“Our seniors know what to expect,” he said. “Hopefully their experience will rub off on our freshmen.”
But, before they could get to Nanih Waiya, the Eagles (7-6) had to get past Lumberton (10-3), who beat Resurrection 26-22 during the regular season. A big reason Resurrection will be making the return trip to Louisville was the Eagles ability to stop the Panthers deep in Resurrection territory.
“That was the difference in the game,” said Lumberton coach Zach Jones. “But, there were a lot of things you could point to that could have made a difference in the game. (Resurrection) was able to make the plays in the end. We didn’t.”
Lumberton took the opening kickoff and drove the Eagles 23. However, their drive ended when Norman Douglas intercepted a pass deep in his endzone. The Warriors third drive of the game went from the Lumberton 35 to the Resurrection 14, ending in two incomplete passes.
Following a bad snap on an Eagles’ punt, which saw Resurrection punter Patrick Lee get hit with an intentional grounding call, the Warriors set up at the Eagles 31. Eight plays later, quarterback Jared Tribett followed his center in from the 1 with 21 seconds left in the first half to tie the game at 6-6.
At the start of the second half, however, the Panthers’ inability to put the ball into the endzone resurfaced. Tribett hit Ricky Thomas on a 41 yard pass play to the Eagles 15. Three incomplete passes led, though, to turnover on downs, although Lumberton was able to use the field position when Kee’von Fells ran 19 yards for a score on a fumble recovery giving the Warriors a 12-6 lead.
Lumberton’s final chance to score came with just over four minutes left in the game. Helped by a 39 yard pass play from Tribett to Donnell Buckner, the Warriors soon had third-and-five from the Eagles 7. On third down, Douglas made his second big play of the night, knocking the ball out of a Warriors receiver’s hands to force fourth down. On fourth down, Jabryant Bradley disrupted a pass in the end zone to force the incompletion and end the Warriors’ threat.
The red zone defense allowed Resurrection to find their offense. With his team down 12-6 and holding the ball at the Warriors 32, Eagles quarterback Blake Porter hit Caden Hinman for an 14-yard gain. Porter then hooked up with Lee for an 18-yard scoring strike to give the Eagles a 13-12 lead with 9:54 left.
“Our defense played like poetry in motion in the game,” Sisson said. “Those three stops let us know we were still in the game.”
The play was the second scoring pass between Porter and Lee as the two hooked up for a 33-yard strike with 23 seconds left in the first quarter as Resurrection opened with a 6-0 lead.
Later in the fourth, Lee ran back a punt 40 yards to the Lumberton 20. Jerry Johnson did most of the rest of the work and scored on a 6 yard run with 6:25 left in the game.
Porter finished 15-of-25 for 211 yards and two touchdowns to lead Resurrection. Hinman caught five passes for 110 yards including 70 yard pass play in the third quarter. Lee caught three passes for 61 yards and three touchdowns.
Lumberton struggled all night to get their passing game going, hitting just 9-of-30 passes for 118 yards and two picks.
“You won’t win too many ballgames like that,” Jones said.
Despite the loss, Jones said the year was still good for Lumberton.
“Any time you finish the season double digits in wins, you’ve had a good year,” he said. “I hate that it ended like this, but we’ve had 30 wins over the last three years. Our players are going to feel good about that.”