Just when it seemed like Glen Oaks made a game of its “road” contest against Class 1A No. 9-ranked Southern Lab Friday night, the Kittens caught fire.
The “homestanding” Kittens — acting as the home team at GOHS’ Gerry Memorial Bush Stadium due to work at A.W. Mumford Stadium’s track — closed the first half with 24 unanswered points and powered past the Panthers 44-12.
“This is the first ball game we’ve had everyone together collectively healthy since Zachary (in Week 1),” Lab coach Nick Mitchell said. “We finally have the team where we could put together a total team effort on offense, defense and special teams.”
The Kittens (4-1) took a 12-0 lead early in the second quarter as Maalik Mitchell took a Deonte Shorts pass, stiff-armed a defender and raced 18 yards for the score with 10 minutes left in the first half.
Southern Lab tried to put the game out of reach early, forcing Glen Oaks (0-5) into holding penalty negating an Anfernee Hebert run.
On 2nd-and-1 on the Panthers’ own 23, the SLHS defense pressured GOHS quarterback Christian Walker to scramble to his left.
However, Walker found 6-foot-5-inch receiver Chris Thomas behind the secondary and Thomas outran the Kittens’ defense for a 77-yard touchdown connection to cut the lead to 12-6 with 8:25 left in the half.
“It’s his (Walker) second year playing quarterback, so he has to get comfortable in the pocket,” Panthers’ coach Vernon Langley Jr. said. “
Any momentum Glen Oaks generated with the Walker-to-Thomas hookup ended on the ensuing kickoff. Curtland Williams picked up a short kickoff near the SLHS 32-yard-line, made a cut to his right and found a gaping hole in the middle of the field. Williams exploded through that hole for a 68-yard kickoff return. The Williams return pushed the Kittens’ lead to 18-6 with 8:25 left in the half.
“He’s a special player,” Mitchell said. “But, we have been talking all week about scoring the ball on special teams and being able to make sure that we put together a complete game.”
Glen Oaks shook off the Williams return and began putting together a comeback drive. A 12-yard scamper by Walker took the Panthers into Southern Lab territory, and a 24-yard Walker run moved Glen Oaks within the Kittens’ 13-yard-line with 6:10 left in the half.
However, Southern Lab dug in, forcing Walker into a drive-ending incomplete pass on 4th-and-11 at the SLHS 19 with 4:20 left to play.
“We haven’t had it in a few weeks,” Langley said. “We’re just young. Too many mistakes. That’s the story behind it all. We’ve got to get a rhythm, and we’ve got to get these guys’ confidence back up.”
The Kittens offense quickly began making Glen Oaks pay for squandering the drive. Shorts rolled out and hit Williams for an 18-yard completion, and rolled out on the next play and hit Marquise Ricard for a 13-yard play to get the SLHS offense to midfield with 3:51 left in the half.
SLHS picked up another big play from Ricard as took a Shorts pass and escaped a pair of would-be tacklers for a 25-yard play that put the Kittens on the Glen Oaks 21 at the 2:43 mark. The Kittens cashed in with another PlayStation 3 move on the next play. Shorts threw a quick pass in the left flat to Williams, who danced and reversed field on his way to a 21-yard touchdown play. Williams’ second score of the game increased the Southern Lab lead to 24-6 with 2:16 left in the half.
“Missed tackles. We had a gang of them,” Langley said. “A lot of times, we were on the play, but we missed tackles.”
The Kittens’ defense got into the scoring act late in the first half. Walker took a high snap — Glen Oaks fumbled eight times and lost one for a late-game SLHS score — and threw a desperation pass that became a can-of-corn interception for Joshua Smith near the Panthers’ 45. Smith picked up some blockers and scored on the pick-six to give Southern Lab a 30-6 lead with 37 seconds left in the half.
Glen Oaks fumbled away the ensuing kickoff, and the Kittens recovered at the Panthers’ 17 with 29 seconds left. The scoreboard blinked off before it showed Shorts’ 5-yard touchdown run to increase the lead to 36-6 at halftime.
Southern Lab enters District 7-1A play next week with a home game against Archbishop Hannan. Glen Oaks takes the week off before opening District 6-3A play at West Feliciana.
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