The Avoyelles Mustangs made the travel on Thursday night to take on the Southern Lab Kittens at Southern. Both the Mustangs and the Kittens came into the matchup with two losses on the the season to tough opponents and both teams have high aspirations to make deep playoff runs.
The Mustangs led by head coach Andy Boone are coming off their first ever semifinal appearance in Class 2A last season and came away just a couple of plays short of making the state championship game last season. This season, Coach Boone planned on having a tough non-district schedule and entered the game with a 5-2 record with the team’s only two losses coming against Teurlings Catholic and Lafayette Christian Academy.
The Mustangs have an unconventional offense running the double tight double wing offense and has a three headed monster attack featuring Carlos Bazert, Decareyn Sampson, and Josh Williams that has ran for 47 total touchdowns this season. Bazert is closing in on being the program’s leading rusher and is the bell cow of this offense at 6’1, 240 pounds. Sampson brings the speed factor and has a chance to set the school record for most touchdown runs in one season for the program’s history and Williams brings the heart as he is not the biggest guy, but runs with a lot of heart and passion and has over 1,000 yards rushing this season.
“They all look a little bit different, but a little bit the same. They all know how to run downhill, run over people. Decareyn has the speed. Josh has the combination of both power and speed. Then, Josh is going to run over you.”Avoyelles Head Coach Andy Boone
Speaking to Coach Boone, he believes that the Mustangs will run for 8,000 total yards by season’s end. The Mustangs try to keep the ball as long as they can as they refuse to punt and will always onside kick. With this philosophy, Coach Boone always likes to put pressure on the opposing team.
“It’s a very deceptive offense. You may slow us down a little bit, but eventually, we will pop one. You can’t stop everything. We will figure out what you are taking away and we will exploit it. In our offense, every play looks like another play. You can tell right away what you are reading. If you are reading the guard, if you are reading the wings, and we can exploit that. We just know this offense well.”Avoyelles Head Coach Andy Boone
The Mustangs came into Mumford Stadium confident, but the same time, realize how much of a measuring stick they have when playing against the defending Division IV State Champion Southern Lab Kittens under head coach Darrell Asberry. Like the Mustangs, the Kittens came in the game with two losses both to great football teams in Dunham and Madison Prep. Still, Coach Asberry believes that his team has made the necessary strides to compete for a second straight state championship and it is because of the development of quarterback Marlon Brown.
“The kids have really grown up. Our quarterback has made huge strides in showing his leadership ability. We talk about a young man that played behind Angelo Izzard. As a whole team, we have grown up and we expect Avoyelles to come in and play their A game because they are a well coached football team.”Southern Lab Head Coach Darrell Asberry
Knowing how much Avoyelles wants to play keep away from Southern Lab’s explosive offense, Asberry wants his offense to treasure each time the Kittens touch the football.
“Every offensive possession is important and we can’t beat ourselves with penalties. They may have some long drives, but it is important for us to make plays on every possession. We have to make sure to recover the onside kicks. We know that they are going to do it. We have been practicing all week. It’s just up to the kids to make the plays now.”Southern Lab Head Coach Darrell Asberry
Coach Asberry respects the Mustangs’ running game, but at the same time, he feels that his defensive line is the strength of his team and will certainly make it tough for the double tight double wing offensive attack to run the football on them.
“We are pretty good up front on the defensive line. We have enough bodies to rotate. Once we figure it out and adjust to the different angles that we need to take, we will definitely need our defense to make those adjustments.”Southern Lab Head Coach Darrell Asberry
The Kittens would be without their star defensive back Carl Williams, who is battling an elbow injury, but will return next week against Kentwood.
There was a lot of preparing for both squads throughout the short week and the game would come down to whoever executes that game plan more effectively through four quarters.
After both teams traded the football on a couple of failed fourth down attempts, it was the Avoyelles Mustangs that broke the scoreless tie when Decareyn Sampson had a 62 yard touchdown run for his 25th rushing touchdown of the season to give the Mustangs a 6-0 lead. The Mustangs would go for two and get the two point conversion to lead the Kittens 8-0.
As Coach Asberry hinted in his pregame, it was important for the Kittens to recover onside kicks, but it was the Avoyelles Mustangs that recovered their own onside kick. The Mustangs were looking to take advantage of stealing an extra possession and were on their way to make it a two possession lead as the offense was marching on a 11 play drive until Dylan Day makes a huge play for the Kittens stepping in front and intercepting quarterback Nick Casugay.
The light switch came on for the Kittens ever since that moment when Day picked off Casugay as Marlon Brown got into rhythm completing five straight passes including a 30 yard touchdown strike to Antonio Donahue to put Southern Lab on the scoreboard. The Kittens would proceed to get the two point conversion and tie the game at eight.
After the touchdown to tie the game, Avoyelles would run the rest of the first half clock down and both teams went into the locker room tied at eight.
After scoring a touchdown before halftime, Southern Lab started the second half exactly how they ended the first half. This time, it was more of a methodical drive taking a page from the Mustangs’ playbook scoring a touchdown on a 14 play, 91 yard march that took over eight minutes off the clock. The Kittens ended the drive with a two yard touchdown run from Jerome Harris. 11 of those plays came on the ground running behind a good offensive line led by Carlos Sanders . With the ensuing extra point, Southern Lab takes their first lead of the game at 15-8.
The Mustangs responded with a 11 play drive themselves as Bazert, Williams, and Eric Waters all touch the football. The highlight of the drive was when Williams converted a fourth down run and ran the ball for 23 yards to get inside the ten yard line entering the fourth quarter. A play later, Waters punches the ball in the end zone to make it a 15-14 football game. The Mustangs do not convert on the two point conversion and Southern Lab keeps the lead.
In what was a close game at the start of the fourth quarter quickly turned into a runaway by Southern Lab. The Kittens added on to their one point lead when Brown did an incredible job of escaping the pocket, but keeping his eyes downfield. Brown’s ability to run the football baited the defenders as he was able to find the freshman speedster Denim Hunt, who makes a move and outruns two defenders to the end zone. It was Brown’s second touchdown pass of the game and the Kittens get some breathing room taking the 21-14 lead. After an offsides penalty by the Mustangs, Coach Asberry made the decision to go for two and try to get a two possession lead. The attempt succeeded and the Kittens have a nine point lead at 23-14.
Down by two possessions in the fourth quarter, the Mustangs needed to get something going, but once again, Dylan Day makes another big play for the Kittens defense intercepting Casugay for the second time. Day would proceed to jog his way back setting up blockers in front of him on the return.
Just a couple of plays later, Brown adds on to his already dynamic night with his third touchdown of the contest and the first on the ground as he easily finds the end zone from 19 yards out to give the Kittens a 29-14 lead.
After a turnover on downs forced by the Kittens’ defense, the offense would score on its fifth consecutive drive as Marlon Brown completes his third touchdown pass of the game and fourth overall connecting with Antonio Donahue for the second time from 25 yards out. Southern Lab is cruising late in the football game at 35-14.
Avoyelles would run out the rest of the clock and the Southern Lab Kittens get the 35-14 victory improving its record to 5-2 on the season. It was another big confidence builder for Darrell Asberry and the Kittens to slow down an Avoyelles rushing attack that is one of the best in the state and to also have its offense take advantage of the possessions that were given to them proved to be the difference in a dominant second half performance for the defending Division IV state champions.
“The message was dominance. We wanted to dominant. We prepare. We practice every day. We were hitting in practice. The tempo is being picked up. We just want to make sure that we continue to dominate. If you don’t dominate, then, the mission is not complete.”Southern Lab Head Coach Darrell Asberry on team’s dominant second half performance
Marlon Brown was fantastic and is starting to really hit his stride late in the season as he finished the game completing 11 of 16 passes for 187 yards and three touchdowns while also adding 41 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Brown led five straight scoring drives for the Kittens.
“He is doing a phenomenal job with the film study. He gets two to three hours a day in film study so by the time, the game is here, he’s already looked at about 12 hours a film. I also told him that if the first down was there, run, keep the chains moving, and he did a great job of that tonight.”Southern Lab Head Coach Darrell Asberry on Marlon Brown
Antonio Donahue had four catches for 79 yards and two touchdowns. Denim Hunt had three catches for 66 yards and a touchdown. Jerome Harris led the team in rushing with 10 carries for 91 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Besides Donahue, the Kittens are still young offensively, which could prove to be a scary sign for opposing teams the rest of this season and in the future.
“One thing that is scary about this receiving core is that Antonio Donahue is the only senior. With these young guys and Tony (Antonio) leading the pack with them, I think it is a great mixture. If we need Carl, Carl will come back and play too. These guys are great. They practice really hard and sometimes, I have to tell them that it is time to get off the field.”Southern Lab Head Coach Darrell Asberry on the wide receivers
With Baylor commit Carl Williams being ready to play next week, the defense will be playing with even more confidence moving forward. Dylan Day was the defensive standout of the night with two interceptions and he is adding on the legacy of great defensive backs himself with already some Division I offers from Tulane, Louisiana Tech, and Grambling.
Even though Day’s two interceptions was the highlight, what won the game for the Kittens was the play of its defensive line. Coming into the season, the strength of the Kittens’ team was its defensive line and it showed. The Mustangs did run for 243 yards, but only hit on one big explosive play, which was the long touchdown run by Decareyn Sampson. Sampson led the Mustangs with 98 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries while the other three ballcarriers combined for 145 more yards. Giving up only 14 points to a team that was coming in averaging 51 points per game was a very impressive outing for Asberry’s defense.
“The thing about it is that coming into the season, our defensive line was our strength, and they showed it tonight. We did a great job of just dominating and we have enough bodies to rotate up front. We wanted to get them into as many fourth down situations as possible, and that’s what we did tonight.”Southern Lab head coach Darrell Asberry on defensive line play
Meanwhile, the Avoyelles Mustangs, who are now 5-3, will try to lick their wounds as they still have plenty to play for. Regardless of the outcome of this football game, the Mustangs have all their goals ahead of them including not only trying to make a run at the state championship, but to also clinch their first district championship. Next week will mark a huge game as the district championship in 4-2A will be decided between Andy Boone’s squad and the Rosepine Eagles. Both are teams that were coming off their best seasons ever last season.
“Next week’s game will be up for the district championship. It is going to be a big crowd, a big game, and a big atmosphere. We never won a district championship. We finished second a bunch of times. We want to win district so we can accomplish our goal of getting a high seed in the playoffs.”Avoyelles Head Coach Andy Boone on next week’s 4-2A district championship matchup against Rosepine
The Southern Lab Kittens also will have a possible district championship on the line next week as well in facing the Kentwood Kangaroos. This has always been a big matchup with either district or state championship type implications on the line, and the same can be said for next week.
“Kentwood is a good football team. They are coached by Coach Foster, who is a good friend of mine. He’s a heck of a coach. It’s going to be a dogfight. We expect a high paced game going up and down the field. We are going to rely on our defense and we have to score when we get those opportunities like we did tonight.”Southern Lab Head Coach Darrell Asberry on next week’s matchup against Kentwood that could decide the district championship