ST. AMANT — Whatever perceived slight St. Amant may have felt entering District 5-5A play should have effectively ended after a smashing league debut.
One look at the Gators’ district opener will be enough for everyone in the league to stand up and take notice.
Thanks in part to a dominant defensive effort that produced five interceptions and an efficient offense, St. Amant jumped out to a 34-0 lead midway through the third quarter en route to a 41-14 victory Friday over No. 10 Catholic High at The Pit.
“Our kids have been motivated all year by the, ‘don’t forget’ that we always hear when they’re talking about District 5-5A,” St. Amant football coach David Oliver said. “They talk about all the other teams and then oh — ‘Don’t forget about St. Amant’. We wanted to start building a reputation this year and announce our intentions to compete.”
St. Amant (5-1) didn’t need a bullhorn to announce its candidacy for the district crown; the Gators let their play speak loudly, beginning league play with a decisive win and snapping a six-game losing streak to Catholic (4-2) in the process.
“They’ve got an outstanding football team,” Catholic High coach Dale Weiner said. “My hat’s off to them. They just played really well and hung in there. Dave has built a great program and he’s doing a great job. I just respect what they do.”
Quarterback Tyler Dixon accounted for three of his team’s touchdowns, sneaking over from the goal line in the second quarter for a 14-0 lead and twice passing to Marquise Hampton, who had four catches for 81 yards, for second-half touchdowns.
That same combination finished off the evening with a 59-yard strike when Dixon, who was 10 of 29 for 185 yards, connected with Hampton in stride after Catholic had reeled off back-to-back touchdowns.
The Gators outgained the Bears 336 to 225 yards with running back Richard Williams pacing the team’s 174-yard rushing effort with 56 yards and a TD on 16 carries. Wide out Justin Duhon had a team-high six catches for 71 yards.
Place-kicker Trey Belleu, who made five extra points, provided the Gators with a 20-0 halftime lead with second-quarter field goals of 32 and 20 yards, respectively.
Freshman running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire helped Catholic avoid a shutout with long-distance scoring runs of 51 and 69 yards, drawing his team to within 34-14 with 8:19 remaining to be played.
Edwards-Helaire carried 17 times for 170 yards in place of leading rusher Derrius Guice, who missed his second straight game with a thigh bruise. The Bears also lost the services of starting quarterback Nick Coomes at the five-minute mark of the third quarter.
“We really hurt ourselves and you can’t do that on the road in a great environment against a good, strong football team,” Weiner said. “We just dug deeper and deeper.”
St. Amant limited Catholic’s passing game to 24 yards on 2 of 14 passing, picking off five passes with strong safety Darion Bartholomew and defensive lineman Reece LeBlanc each intercepting two passes and Nathaniel Martinez adding another.
The Gators turned two of those picks into touchdowns, including LeBlanc’s second of the game 43 seconds after Evan Matheny’s 7-yard scoring run. That set up Dixon’s first TD pass to Hampton for a commanding 34-0 advantage with 6:08 showing in the third quarter.
“The defense has been solid all year,” Oliver said. “They’ve really been exceptional. We felt like they would be strong coming into the year and the offense is starting to grow. We’re really doing a great job of forcing turnovers and not turning it over and that was a big difference in the game. I just thought we handled the game from beginning to end.”
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