LaPLACE — An early defensive touchdown gave St. Charles Catholic the momentum, and the Comets never let go as the defending 3A state champs blanked Port Allen 35-0 to remain undefeated in District 7-3A on Friday.
Despite the win, Comets coach Frank Monica saw some room for improvement.
“We weren’t very efficient on offense,” said Monica. “I thought Port Allen had an excellent game plan against us. We bent a little bit, but we didn’t break.”
Two turnovers and good field position masked only 203 yards of offense at a 4.3 average.
Senior Jemal Batiste got the start at quarterback for the Comets, but sophomore Austin Webber stole the show in Monica’s two-quarterback system.
Webber, who also saw action at tailback, led all rushers with 67 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. He also completed a touchdown pass in the second quarter.
“Right now, he is doing so many things for us,” Monica said of Webber. “He’s a north-south runner, and he will get those tough yards. When you put him at the quarterback position, he won’t back down that from either.”
For Port Allen, offense was hard to come by all night, as the Pelicans gained only 117 yards despite having 52 plays from scrimmage. Quarterback Darian Claiborne completed just 7 of his 20 passes and ran for 29 yards on a team-high 15 attempts.
“I’m proud of my guys despite this loss,” Port Allen coach Guy Blanchard. “We came out here and fought hard. we just made too many mistakes, and we got this result because of that.”
The Comets got on the board without even needing their offense on the field. Port Allen took the opening possession and crossed midfield on a 22-yard scramble by Claiborne.
But on the next play, the Comets jarred the ball loose from Claiborne. Junior defensive tackle Sean McGraw scooped up the ball and ran 48 yards into the end zone.
“At that particular time, they were moving the ball on us, so it was a big swing,” Monica said. “I thought he was going to kill the whole quarter he was so slow, but he made it to the end zone.”
While St. Charles’ defense excelled early on, the offense could not find any room to move forward in the opening quarter. Despite having two possessions start on Pelican’s side of the 50, the Comets were held to negative yards and no first downs by a stout Port Allen defense.
But the defense came to the rescue once again, forcing a quick three-and-out before sacking the punter on a bobbled snap, giving the Comets the ball on Port Allen’s 11. After a couple of short gains on the ground, Webber rolled to his left on third down and fired to Garrett Lubin for the touchdown.
The Webber-Lubin connection for 6 yards was St. Charles’ first completed pass of the night and longest play from scrimmage at that point.
A blocked punt midway through the second gave the Comets great field position once again.
Batiste capped the drive by hitting a wide-open Brandon Zimmer on a play-action pass, putting SCC up 21-0 at the half.
The Pelicans went into the lockerroom averaging only two yards per play and converting just one third down in the first half.
“They were doing some stunts on defense that we weren’t used to,” explained Blanchard. “They were stronger than us.”
After Port Allen failed to recover an onside kick, St. Charles got good starting field position once again. A 33-yard catch and run by Zimmer put the Comets into the red zone. Webber capped it off with a 12-yard run up the gut, bouncing off multiple Pelican defenders before finding the end zone.
The Comets added another touchdown later in the third on 1-yard run by Zimmer, extending the lead to 35.
“You can’t play the fifth ranked team in the state and make mistakes,” said Blanchard. “They have an extremely well coached team, hats off to them.”