Thursday night, one of the biggest games in the state, especially in the Baton Rouge area, occurred at Memorial Stadium, and it was between the Catholic High School Bears and the Zachary Broncos. This big-time matchup between two of the biggest powerhouse programs in the area would determine the district 4-5A championship, and like other big games between these two championship brands in the past, the 2023 version of Catholic vs. Zachary certainly did not disappoint.
The game was so good that it needed more than four quarters to determine the outcome as the game went into overtime deadlocked at 28, but it was Catholic High senior quarterback Daniel Beale’s nine-yard touchdown run and Jacob Bradford’s clutch interception on fourth down and goal that secured the Bears a 35-28 victory.
The veteran senior quarterback and Ragin’ Cajuns quarterback had one of his best outings of his career, especially in the second half as he accounted for four total touchdowns with two coming on the ground and two more on the ground. He finished completing 11 of 20 passes for 211 yards with his two touchdowns going to the Wright brothers in Brooks and Bradley.
In overtime, the Catholic High defense was also able to take advantage of a personal foul penalty on the ensuing extra point attempt to move the Broncos’ offense back at the 25-yard line for 1st down and 25 instead of a first and goal at the 10-yard line. Bradford made the big defensive play at the end, but there were also other big performers on that side of the football including Blair Rousseau, who was active all night long with ten tackles, three sacks, and 3.5 tackles for loss, and Sam Norman, who had an interception and a blocked punt.
There were a lot of big plays in the second half with 49 combined points being scored, but it took some time for both teams to get going in the first half.
After a scoreless first quarter, Zachary finally broke the ice with a Kameron Thomas three-yard touchdown run that capped off a 10 play, 54 yard drive to give the Broncos a 7-0 lead.
It sure looked as if the Broncos would take that advantage into the locker room, but Catholic High finally got its spark on special teams when Sam Norman blocked a punt and Harrison Kidder took the blocked punt 40 yards for the tying 7-7 score with just 11 seconds left to play in the first half.
That play before halftime gave the Bears’ offense momentum in the second half as a 41-yard run by Barry Remo set up an incredible two-yard touchdown run by Beale, which looked like he was going to get tackled in the backfield, but somehow escaped and found himself in the end zone for the Bears to grab their first lead of the game early in the third quarter.
The Zachary Broncos offense responded immediately with a tying 14-14 score as it took 7 plays and 62 yards for Nate James to break through for a 13-yard touchdown run.
Tied at 14 entering the fourth quarter, the game really began to turn into an offensive shootout as Beale completed a 22-yard touchdown pass to Brooks Wright for the Bears to retake the lead at 21-14.
It was only a matter of time until the 6’7, 240-pound Zachary four-star tight end and LSU commit Trey’Dez Green made his stamp on this game, and he certainly did when his quarterback Hudson Spangler threw it up to the talented two sport star, who stole the ball away from a Catholic High defender and ran down the sidelines for a 64-yard touchdown to tie the game once again. The LSU commit finished with six catches for 132 yards and the touchdown.
Less than a minute later, Catholic retook the lead with another explosive play as Beale found Brooks’ brother Bradley Wright for a 74-yard touchdown pass to take a 28-21 lead.
Zachary would then go on a methodical drive that took over 4:30 off the clock and get in the end zone with Kameron Thomas’ second touchdown run of the game to tie it at 28 with just over a minute left to play in the game. The Broncos’ featured back finished with 169 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
The rest after that was history as it set the stage for a memorable overtime finish.
After a slow non-district start to the season as the Catholic High Bears had a 2-2 record in its first four games, but finished the regular season strong by winning six straight games including five district games to come out with the district championship and an overall 8-2 record for head coach Hudson Fuller’s first regular season as the Bears’ head coach.
“I am just so happy for our players to get this. We went through the beginning of the season when it was difficult and we heard it from a lot of different things. For them to just to continue to show up to work and their attitude during the difficult times helped us where we are now. In high school football, getting them to learn that was really what it is all about. Them getting to see the results of sticking with it and showing up, getting better everyday is incredible. I am happy that they were able to get that experience and like I told them when we got done, we hope that this isn’t the mountaintop of the season. It’s time to enjoy this win and then shift our focus on the playoffs.”Catholic High School Head Coach Hudson Fuller
With it being the last game of the regular season, the Catholic High Bears will now await their opponent when the Division I (Select) playoff bracket is released on Sunday.
The Zachary Broncos had a great regular season but fell just short of an undefeated regular season as the team now falls to 9-1. Still, the Broncos, led by head coach David Brewerton, are going to be a force to be reckoned with come the playoffs for the Division I (Non-Select) division and will also await for what opponent they will match up once the playoff brackets get released.
The complete photo gallery by Billy Metcalf will be uploaded soon, but for now, check out some of the pictures from the game!
Week 1: U-High vs. Woodlawn
Week 2: Madison Prep vs. Southern Lab
Week 6: Acadiana vs. Sam Houston
Week 7: LCA vs. Teurlings Catholic