Chalmette scores dramatic 21-20 victory over Live Oak

In one of the most dramatic victories in the school's 56-year football history, the Owls coached by Jason Tucker used a truckload of old time Chalmette football -- run the ball and then run it some more and play tough defense to score a thrilling 21-20 non-district win over Live Oak in Watson (north of Denham Springs) last Friday night.

For only the second time in the school's history, Chalmette played a football team in Livingston Parish and the 2009 Owls did the same thing they did a year after Hurricane Katrina wiped out their '05 season - leave the parish adjacent to Baton Rouge with a victory. In 2006 the Owls beat Albany 19-18.

"This was a program-building win for us. Our kids took a real road trip (traveled more than 100 miles away from home) and played a 3-1 football team that is celebrating their homecoming. Being able to travel that far with that many fans is a sign of a good program," the Owls head coach noted in assessing the win.

That truckload of Owl offense featured a hefty dose of James Banks carrying the Chalmette attack on his legs and back. The junior running back rushed for 201 yards on 27 carries, a personal record for him, eclipsing his own mark he set a week earlier with 153 yards in the win over Sarah Reed. His rushing yardage is the most by a Chalmette RB in seven years since Ryan Collins ran for 225 yards against East Jefferson in 2002.

"Two real good years in the weight room are paying off for us now. We are more physical than in the past. Banks is an example of that. Here is a kid who weights 170 pounds, but squats 430 and bench presses more than 300 pounds," noted Tucker who graduated from CHS in 1993.

As the Owls' all-time single season tackle leader, Tucker also added, "Our offense is carrying us now, especially the running game. The kids are rallying more than in the past. They challenge each other to step up and play their best football."

The Owl running game gained a season high 262 yards on 44 runs and averaged six yards a play. Ten times Owl runners gained 10 yards or more and Banks had seven of those.

On defense, junior linebacker Rhett Pritchard led the team with 10 tackles including five solos and a big hit that caused a Live Oak fumble recovered by Joe Jamison to stop an Eagles drive.

Banks also scored twice on runs of 37 yards near the start of the second quarter to tie the game at seven and in the third period as the Owls took a 14-7 lead with 8:46 to play in the quarter after taking the second half kickoff and marching 50 yards in six plays as Hector Fernandez booted his second extra point.

In the seven-all first half, Banks ran for 90 yards on just nine runs including five carries of 10 yards or more.

During the third quarter, the Owl workhorse ran for 51 yards on seven runs. In the final period after the home standing Eagles had tied the score at 14 on their own 80-yard march featuring a bevy of running plays from Mike Templeton and Tyler McGrew who raced the last 14 yards for the touchdown with 4:12 remaining in the quarter to answer Chalmette's go-ahead score after the second half kickoff. Charlton Tramel matched the Owls' Hector Fernandez's two extra point kicks.

Live Oak which was celebrating its homecoming felt it had recaptured the game's momentum from Chalmette, because the Eagles' 6-3, 225-pound college-prospect senior quarterback David Bell continued to showcase his cannon-like throwing arm.

In the first half, Bell completed seven of 13 passes for 98 yards including the game's first score, a 55-yard aerial to senior wide receiver Alex Switzer just 28 seconds before the end of the first quarter. Bell finished the game completing 12 of 21 tosses for 172 yards and no interceptions.

In the last quarter, he completed three of five passes for 60 yards and directed Live Oak to what seemed to be the tying score on a five-yard run by McGrew with 2:16 remaining in the game.

Instead of kicking the extra point to tie the game at 21, Live Oak coach Robbie Mahfouz decided to go for the lead and probably win the game. Bell in shotgun formation rolled to his right and seemed to have an open path to the goal line, but instead fired a strike to the back of the end zone for Switzer, but the two-point pass fell short of the tightly-covered Eagles receiver and Chalmette had a 21-20 lead.

Cody Williams recovered the ensuing, on-sides kickoff for the Owls and then Chalmette ran out the clock for its second straight win.

In addition to his recovered on-sides kickoff at a critical point in the game, the sophomore returned three other kickoffs for 75 yards, putting the Owls in good field position twice in the game. He also made five tackles on defense and blocked one pass and caught one pass for 10 yards.

From his fullback spot, B.J. Jeansonne gained 39 yards on eight runs and on defense made four stops including one for a three yard loss. He booted his lone punt 29 yards.

While he was intercepted three times and completed just two of 10 passes for 17 yards, junior quarterback Craig Sylvera did run for 21 yards on six carries and made key plays when he did.

Jermaine Brisco, the squad's leading tackler recorded six stops with four solos while Sean Esponge and Johnquel Jones had five tackles each with David Smith, Jeansonne and Scallan getting four each. The Owl defense has given up 20 points in the last six quarters.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times