Holy Cross earns home playoff game with 24-14 victory over Live Oak

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They left no doubt.

Needing a victory to clinch a home playoff game in the LHSAA Select school state playoffs, Holy Cross took care of business, shutting down Live Oak for over three quarters in a 24-14 non-district victory Thursday night at Tad Gormley Stadium in a game aired live on WGSO 990 AM.

Jaden Handy rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries while John Dada Wooton threw a pair of touchdown passes.

“It was a just a good win,” Handy said. “We are 7-3 and get our first home playoff game in a really long time. It feels good to me. It feels great.”

Defensively, the Tigers sacked Eagles quarterback Sal Palermo six times, including three-and-a-half by Dominic Lamm. Holy Cross held Live Oak to just 52 yards rushing. Defensive lineman David Barnes returned from injury for the first time in five weeks and was a force up front as well for the Tigers.

“We had a great game plan,” Lamm said. “My brothers, my coaches, they instill in me every day that we need to be the best that we can be. Without my coach and my brothers, we wouldn’t be able to do it. Having David Barnes back from injury is great. The band is back together. He is my best friend and he is a hell of a player, too!”

Holy Cross took advantage of a short punt and drove 37 yards in three plays to take the early lead on a 27-yard touchdown pass from Dada Wooton to Jalen Johnson to make it 7-0 with 9:44 to play in the opening quarter.

The Tiger lead grew when Palermo fumbled the ball attempting to pass and Josh Guillory recovered at the Live Oak 34-yard line. On the next play, Dada Wooton connected on a 34-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Kirkwood to make it 14-0 with 4:22 to play in the half.

It stayed that way until the fourth quarter when Handy broke loose on a 69-yard touchdown run to give the Tigers a commanding 21-0 lead with 9:01 to play in the game.

“I came out of the backfield, I saw a big hole because my blockers set it up, hit the hole and never looked back,” Handy said.

Live Oak would not go away.

The Eagles struck quickly, scoring on a 28-yard pass from Palermo to Grant Richardson to make it 21-7 with 7:21 to play in the game but Holy Cross responded with a drive culminating with a 36-yard field goal by Nolan Heitmeier, his longest field goal of the season, to give the Tigers a 24-7 lead.

Live Oak came back with a three-yard touchdown pass from Palermo to Richardson to cut the deficit to 24-14 with 3:15 to play and the Eagles then recovered a second onside kick but Chase Rouzano intercepted a Palermo pass to put the game away.

Head coach Brett Beard was pleased to see his team finish the game strong.

“These kids just want the opportunity to fight,” Beard said. “That’s one thing that still excites me about this team. We’ve figured out how to play 48 minutes and we still had a chance to make it a football game against a really good football team on the road in New Orleans at a tough place to play. That’s something we needed to do. We needed to be able to play for 48 minutes and we did that. So, now we’ve got to figure out a way to put it all together- offense, defense and special teams.”

Palermo finished 17-of-32 for 263 yards and two touchdowns with an interception while Richardson had five catches for 117 yards and two touchdowns. Dada Wooton was 9-of-18 for 106 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. Kirkwood had five catches for 63 yards.

The win avenged a 14-13 loss to Live Oak by the Tigers a year ago.

“I’m proud of our guys, we are getting better as the season goes along,” Holy Cross head coach Guy Lecompte said. “Experience is paying off. We have some young guys playing this year, including several 15-year-olds. I’m very proud of them. One of them is Jaden Handy. He’s running the ball phenomenally right now. Having a healthy team, including Lamm and Barnes, helps us a lot. They are big leaders on the team. Our team rallies around them. When we lost them earlier in the season, we felt the effects of it. My hats off to those guys. They fought hard to recover from their injuries and have done a great job of providing a spark when we need it.”

With the win, Holy Cross (7-3) is most likely to earn the No. 7 seed in the Select playoffs and would host the No. 10 seed in the second round. Live Oak (5-5) will make the playoffs in Class 5A, but the Eagles will be a road team next weekend.

What did the win mean for the Tigers?

“Getting a home game, great momentum, we are looking to make a great run in the playoffs,” Lamm said.

Holy Cross 7 7 0 10 24
Live Oak 0 0 0 14 14


1st Qtr.
HC—Jalen Johnson, 27-yard pass from John Dada Wooton (Nolan Heitmeier kick) 7-0 HC @ 9:44-1st

2nd Qtr.
HC—Tyler Kirkwood, 34-yard pass from John Dada Wooton (Nolan Heitmeier kick) 14-0 HC @ 4:22-2nd

4th Qtr.
HC—Jaden Handy, 69-yard run (Nolan Heitmeier kick) 21-0 HC @ 9:01-4th
LO—Grant Richardson, 28-yard pass from Sal Palermo (Cole Crenshaw kick) 21-7 HC @7:21-4th
HC—Nolan Heitmeier, 36-yard field goal 24-7 HC @ 4:48-4th
LO—Grant Richardson, 3-yard pass from Sal Palermo (Cole Crenshaw kick) 24-14 HC @ 3:15-4th

Final Statistics
First Downs
HC 7, LO 16

HC 6, LO 4

HC 1, LO 3

HC 3 for 35 yards, LO 7 for 70 yards

Rushing Yards
HC 90, LO 52

Passing Yards
HC 106, LO 263

Total Yards
HC 196, LO 315

Individual Statistics
HC Rushing
Jaden Handy 18 carries, 127 yards & 1 TD
Jordan Hurwitz 1 carry, 1 yard
John Dada Woton 5 carries, -35 ards

HC Passing
John Dada Wooton 9-of-18 for 106 yards, 2 TD’s, 1 INT

HC Receiving
Tyler Kirkwood 5 catches for 63 yards, 1 TD
Jalen Johnson 1 catch for 27 yards, 1 TD
Jaden Handy 2 catches for 8 yards
Merlin Seminary 1 catch for 8 yards

LO Rushing
Hagen Long 10 carries, 30 yards
Kee Hawkins 9 carries, 24 yards
Sal Palermo 20 carries, -2 yards

LO Passing
Sal Palermo 17-of-32 for 263 yards, 2 TD’s, 1 INT

LO Receiving
Grant Richardson 5 catches for 117 yards
Darian Ricard 5 catches for 63 yards
Hagen Long 2 catches for 15 yards
Kee Hawkins 1 catch for 22 yards

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Jordan Liuzza

WGMB-TV Producer

Born at East Jefferson Hospital, Jordan Liuzza is a Louisiana native who grew up in Metairie, before moving to Destrehan after Hurricane Katrina. Jordan graduated Destrehan High School, class of 2012, and thereafter graduated from LSU, class of 2017, with a B.A. in Communications. Growing up in Metairie, Jordan played park ball at Johnny Bright Playground. At Destrehan High School,…

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