Southern Lab defense plays takeaway, beats CHPC

Southern Lab coach Nick Mitchell waited all season for his defense to shine as much as his potent offense.

The Kittens defense picked a good time to shine, forcing four turnovers and limiting Catholic-Pointe Coupee to 210 total yards of offense in a 40-7 Class 1A bi-district round playoff romp at Doug Williams Stadium.

Southern Lab advances to next week’s regional round, where they will travel to face No. 8 seed Pointe Coupee Central. PCCHS drubbed 25th-seeded Montgomery 52-18 in their bi-district round game.

The defense recovered three fumbles and picked off a pass, helping the ninth-seeded Kittens (9-2) reel off 20 first-half points and add 20 more in the third quarter against the 24th-seeded Hornets (6-5).

“We haven’t gotten the takeaways I’ve been looking for,” Mitchell said. “We finally put a game together on defense where we could put together some takeaways.”

Southern Lab’s opening possession seemed doomed to stall after picking up a false start penalty in Hornets territory. Faced with a third-and-11 at the CHSPC 44, quarterback Deonte Shorts rolled right and tiptoed out of a sack attempt before finding Curtlan Williams behind the Hornets defense for a 44-yard scoring strike. The PAT gave the Kittens a 7-0 lead with 10:13 left in the first quarter.

“Offensively, Shorts did a good job of buying time the way he usually does, putting the ball in the spots he need to put it in,” Mitchell said.

The Hornets avoided early disaster after Murphy Nash III’s ensuing kickoff went out of bounds, and CHSPC opted for rekicking. Cole Frey bobbled Nash’s second kickoff near the goal line and managed to get out to the Hornets 2-yard line at the 10:05 mark in the first quarter.

CHSPC engineered a 92-yard drive in an attempt to match the Kittens’ opening score, getting within the Southern Lab 10-yard line on Frey’s 3-yard run to the SLHS 9. Tre’veon Epps batted away Jonas Guichet’s pass in the end zone on 3rd-and-1, and Frey slipped down near the Lab 10 on fourth down to end the possession with 6:27 left in the first quarter.

“I thought early on in the game was the turning point where we get down there and we can’t punch it in to make it a 7-7 game,” Hornets coach Rob Funderburk said.

A 7-yard shanked punt gave the Kittens possession at the Hornets’ 32-yard line with 2:03 left in the first quarter. A Shorts scramble to the CHSPC 15 gave Southern Lab a fresh set of downs, and two plays later Shorts hit Marquise Ricard on a slant for a 13-yard score. The point after increased Southern Lab’s lead to 14-0 with 44 seconds left in the quarter.

Murphy Nash III’s coffin kick punt to the CHSPC 2-yard line with 8:21 left in the second quarter helped set up Southern Lab’s next score. The Kittens defense forced a fumble on the next play, and Samuel Forest fell on the ball in the end zone to give SLHS a 20-0 lead with 8:12 left to play in the first half.

“The beginning of the game, I wish we could’ve done it over again,” Funderburk said. “It kind of set the tone for the rest of the way.”

Williams, who finished the game with eight catches for 179 yards and two scores, opened the third quarter by picking off CHSPC’s Jonas Guichet near midfield and returning it to the Hornets’ 23-yard line with 10:29 left in the third quarter. Williams’ interception led to De’Monte Lang scooting in for a 15-yard touchdown run with 9:47 left in the third quarter.

The Hornets broke the shutout with 2:07 remaining on Frey’s 1-yard plunge.

Frey finished the game with 71 rushing yards on 16 carries.