St. Charles Catholic opportunistic, stout defensively to edge Newman to take district title

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NEW ORLEANS – It was the game the fans, players and coaches waited for all season.  And the game lived up to all the hype.

The St. Charles Catholic Comets controlled the clock and contained Newman’s star Quarterback Arch Manning, grinding out a 17-13 victory Friday night over the Greenies at Michael Lupin Field to win the District 10-2A title for the second year in a row.

St. Charles Catholic (7-3, 3-0) kept pressure on Manning throughout the night.  The Comets relentless attack generated 3 sacks and numerous pressures, forcing Manning to tuck the ball and use his feet to generate offense.

“Nobody has seen more film of him than me,” said Stein. “I’ve seen every single throw.  He can make every single throw.  At the end of the day, we just tried to mix up looks.  Our defensive coordinator…I feel like he’s always playing chess and other people are playing checkers.”

A year ago the Comets held the explosive Newman (7-2, 2-1) offense to 7 points and this year they nearly duplicated the feat, giving up 13 points in the rematch.

Manning came into the game averaging 236 yards passing per game, but the feisty St. Charles defense contained the University of Texas commit to only 9 of 18 for 123 yards and 2 touchdowns.

“Arch is a great player,” said St. Charles Catholic Head Coach Wayne Stein about the Newman quarterback. “Anybody that thinks otherwise is nuts.”

The Comets could not have asked for a better scenario coming into the showdown, having all of their previously injured offensive starters healthy and back in action.  Senior quarterback Ayden Authement led the ground attack for the Comets, racking up 74 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.  Senior running back Davon Sturgis also found success in the ground game, rushing 15 times for 52 yards and a touchdown.

On top of containing the Newman passing attack, the Comets defense stifled a potent running game as well.  Leading Newman rusher, senior running back Will Zurik, found tough sledding the entire night.  Zurik carried 12 times for a meager 37 yards.

Only Manning found success on the ground for Newman, scrambling out of pressure numerous times to generate first downs and keep Newman alive.  For the game, Manning carried 13 times for 90 yards.

After a scoreless first quarter, St. Charles Catholic broke the scoreless tie late in the opening half.  With the ball at their own 37-yard line, Authement connected with junior wide receiver Daniel Joseph on a 40-yard pass to set the Comets up deep in Newman territory.  Two plays later, Authement rushed up the middle and his offensive line pushed the pile forward into the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown to give the Comets a 7-0 lead with 22 seconds left before the break.

Newman knotted the game on the opening possession of the second half.  Facing a third and long from their own 42-yard line, Manning scrambled 8 yards to midfield for a first down to keep the drive alive.  On the very next play, Manning connected with junior wide receiver Peter Loop on a 50-yard bomb for a touchdown to make it 7-7 10:03 to play in the third quarter.

St. Charles took back the elad late in the third quarter.  Following a shanked punt, the Comets took over at their own 35-yard line.  A steady diet of rushes by Authement and Sturgis moved the ball down inside the Newman 5-yard line, setting up a 4-yard touchdown run by Sturgis that gave the Comets a 14-7 advantage with 1:57 to play in the third quarter.

The Comets would capitalize on more special teams problems the very next drive.  After stopping the Newman defense at midfield to force a punt, the snap sailed far to the left of the punter.  Both teams scrambled for the ball, before Newman recovered it at their own 21-yard line.

With superb field position, the Comets capitalized after a Greenies defensive stand.

Five plays later, a 20-yard field goal by Tyler Milioto to extend their lead to 17-7 with 7:22 to play in the game.

Manning tried to put his team on his back to get the Greenies back into it.  Facing 4th down and 10 from the Newman 47-yard line, Manning scrambled out of the collapsed pocket for 16 yards to the St. Charles 37-yard line.  One play later, Manning connected with Junior wide receiver Anthony Jones for a 37-yard touchdown pass.

Special teams issues plagued the Greenies again on the extra-point as the snap was mishandled, preventing the kick attempt from occurring, leaving the hosts down 17-13 with 4:52 to go.

As is often the case, St. Charles Catholic’s defense was stout enough to grind out a victory against a strong foe.

Both teams now await the release of the playoff brackets from the LHSAA with a chance to rest up with byes as high seeds in the LHSAA Select Division III playoffs.

“I don’t know if we are going to win it again,” said Stein about his team’s chance to repeat as state champions. “But I told our kids, the road to the Superdome runs through LaPlace and their going to have to come in here and take the trophy away from us.”

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