MANDEVILLE — It’s not where you start, football coaches are fond of saying, but where you finish.
Catholic High started the season by beating Mandeville. But Friday, when it really counted, the Bears couldn’t finish and fell to the Skippers, 28-21, in the Class 5A quarterfinals before a standing-room-only crowd at Sid Theriot Stadium.
Mandeville (10-2), moves on to face Rummel, a 23-19 winner at Ouachita, next Friday with a berth in the state championship game at stake.
“These two teams could play 10 more times, and we’d keep going back and forth,” said Catholic coach Dale Weiner, whose team beat the Skippers, 26-14, in the season opener. “But the playoffs are unforgiving, and we probably made more mistakes tonight than we have in the last four weeks combined. You can’t do that against a quality team like Mandeville and expect to win.”
Mandeville quarterback Glen Cuiellette scored the winning touchdown on a 1-yard sneak with 6:54 left, his second rushing touchdown of the game. He also threw for 322 yards and two more TDs.
The Skippers then stopped the Bears twice, the final time on a Matt Nungesser interception with 1:15 left after Mandeville punter Kyle Pellegrini had backed Catholic to its 15 with a 65-yard punt.
“That’s why we took it — so we’d have wind in the fourth quarter,” Mandeville coach Guy LeCompte said. “In a game like this, you need momentum, and we got it back when we needed it most.”
Catholic (9-3) seemingly had the momentum going into the fourth quarter. The Bears had overcome a 20-7 third-quarter deficit on an 8-yard TD run by Khalil Thomas and a 45-yard interception return by Trevell Johnson to take a 21-20 lead.
After forcing a Mandeville punt, the Bears drove from their 15 to the Mandeville 27. But on fourth-and-8, Nick Coomes threw incomplete.
Mandeville’s winning drive followed. Cuiellette completed four of five passes, the key being a third-and-9 completion to Parker Orgeron that put the Skippers in Catholic territory.
“They’ve got a really good quarterback,” Catholic linebacker Patrick Van Duzee said. “He was really good on his reads, and we just couldn’t stop them on that last drive.”
It was that kind of game for Catholic, which went 3-7 last year but came back to win the 5-A title and two playoff games.
Thomas finished with 161 yards on 16 carries, including a 26-yard run for his team’s first touchdown.
Sophomore Derrius Guice had 99 yards on 13 carries. The Bears finished with 372 yards but their lowest point total of the season.
“We had a lot of untimely penalties,” Weiner said. “It seemed like we’d have a good play and then do something to set us back. When you’re in the quarterfinals, everybody’s good. And you pay for those mistakes.”
Two fumbles cost the Bears dearly. In the second quarter with the score tied at 7, Catholic drove to the Mandeville 1. But on third down, Thomas was hit by a surge from the Skippers’ front, the ball went into the air and Jamar Mitchell recovered it for Mandeville.
Then, after Cuiellette connected with Zach Boudreaux on a 69-yard TD pass three plays into the third quarter, the Bears mishandled Drew Graham’s short kickoff. Graham, who had just missed an extra point, recovered at the Catholic 28.
Three plays netted only 2 yards, but on fourth down, Cuiellette found Boudreaux again for a TD that put Mandeville up 20-7.
Cuiellette finished 18-of-33, with Boudreaux making eight catches for 190 yards.
Catholic came back with a
61-yard drive capped by Thomas’ TD run and then took the lead on Johnson’s interception return. But the Bears couldn’t hold on.
“We were down against them the first time and came back,” said Weiner, whose team will meet Mandeville in the regular season each of the next two years. “Those were a couple of hard-nosed football teams out there tonight.
“They’re moving on, but I’m very proud of our team, too.”
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