Battle-tested Catholic High pulls away for 35-12 state title game win over Byrd

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NATCHITOCHES – After taking the last two LHSAA Division I State Championship games on the chin, Catholic of Baton Rouge recaptured the crown in dominant fashion Sunday night with a 35-12 victory over Byrd at Northwestern State University’s Turpin Stadium.

The Bears (9-2) became the first team to win three Division I titles, breaking a tie with Archbishop Rummel, and have played in half of the eight Division I State Championship games.

“This one (is the most special) because it’s the one we just won,” Catholic head coach Gabe Fertitta said. “Each championship has its own vibe because it’s about the kids.”

The Bears registered 364 yards total offense including 223 in the air led by freshman signal caller Daniel Beale. He completed 11 of 17 passes for 220 yards and a pair of scores.

Catholic’s most outstanding player was Tre’ Benson, who grabbed 4 passes for 140 yards, including a 78-yard score to put Catholic up 14-0.

Byrd drove 13 plays and 84 yards for their first score capped off by William Berry’s four-yard run to cut Catholic’s advantage to 14-6 before halftime.

On the opening play of the third quarter, the Yellow Jackets fumbled a pitch and Jackson Walker returned it 15 yards for a touchdown increasing the Bears lead to 21-6.

“We got behind early and got it back to a one possession game,” Byrd head coach Mike Suggs said. “But the scoop-and-score in the opening drive of the third was the big difference maker.”

Lake Lambert scored on a eight-yard run with 5:12 to play in third to pull Byrd to within 21-12, capping a 12-play, 80-yard drive.

However, Catholic closed out the win with a dominant fourth quarter. Beale connected with Shelton Sampson for a 12-yard touchdown pass and Landon O’Connor broke free on a 18-yard touchdown run.

Byrd ends its dream season at 10-1.

“We made several key mistakes, but we’re competitors,” said Suggs. “Have been that way all year and I’m so proud of these young men. We won’t be defined by one game, win or lose.”

“The Culture of this team is the ‘Cur Dog’ culture,” Fertitta explained. “That just means no matter the circumstances, no matter what happens, we will step back up to the line and go one more time.”

Catholic played a brutal schedule featuring some of the very best teams in the state. The Bears were ready for any test come playoff time.

“The schedule definitely helped get us ready for the moment, and our guys deserve to be tested.” Fertitta said.

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