St. Charles Catholic survives epic double-overtime thriller to beat Catholic-New Iberia in D3 semifinals

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LAPLACE – Halley’s Comet only comes once every 76 years. Miracles like the one that occurred Friday night for the St. Charles Comets come about even less often.

St. Charles Catholic won a double-overtime thriller over the Catholic-New Iberia Panthers, 43-42, punching their ticket to the LHSAA Division III State Championship game.

Even for a veteran of decades in coaching like St. Charles Catholic Head Coach Frank Monica, there have not been many games previously in his career that could match the drama, twists and turns of this victory.

“Very, very few,” said Monica. “We had a few overtime games since I’ve been here, but that was just awesome.”

With the game tied 28-28, Catholic-New Iberia took possession with six minutes to play in regulation and proceeded to march down the field to get in position for the game-winning score. Riding behind their star senior quarterback Trey Amos, the Panthers converted two fourth downs to maintain the drive and drain the clock.

A three-yard run by Amos on third and 3 gave the Panthers first and goal at the Comets’ three-yard line with just 17 seconds left. Catholic-New Iberia called a timeout to discuss the play and where the ball was to be positioned in the event they did not score so they could kick a field goal to win it. However, on the ensuing play, K.K. Reno fumbled as he rushed straight-forward into the pile and St. Charles Catholic recovered the loose ball. The seemingly inevitable game-winning drive had been thwarted almost miraculously to send the game to overtime.

“I don’t know exactly how it happened,” said Monica on the fumble. “The fact that they fumble on the goal-line when they are about ready to knock it in, you’re living in the stars, you’re living right when things take place like that.”

The Comets won the toss and elected to go on defense to start the first overtime but Amos scored his fifth rushing touchdown on second down, scurrying around the edge of the defense to give the Panthers a 34-28 lead. During the extra point attempt, the snap appeared to sail high but the placeholder stood up to catch the ball and immediately raced to the far end of the field and into the end zone untouched for the two-point conversion to give Catholic-New Iberia a 36-28 lead.

“They score the touchdown and they go for two and get the two-point conversion, it looked pretty bleak for us,” said Monica.

St. Charles Catholic (11-1) managed to respond just as they did all night long but again it wasn’t easy. Justin Dumas fumbled on third down from the one-yard line but the Comets recovered the loose ball to keep the drive and their dreams alive. On fourth down, Philip Tran punched it in from a yard out, cutting the Catholic-New Iberia lead to 36-34.

On the two-point conversion try, Dumas flipped the ball to Tran on an apparent end-around rush, but Tran pulled up and overthrew his receiver in the end zone which appeared to end the game, but defensive pass interference gave St. Charles Catholic one more chance. On the second attempt, Dumas connected with Logan Forsythe in the front corner of the end zone on a roll out pass for the two-point conversion to tie the game 36-36 at the end of the first overtime.

The Comets started on offense for the second overtime period and went back to the air attack. On first down, Dumas connected with Tran at the five-yard line, and Tran jogged in easily for the touchdown. The extra point gave St. Charles Catholic a 43-36 lead.

Catholic-New Iberia (9-4) struck overtime paydirt on second down once again when Amos connected with K.K. Reno for a 10-yard touchdown pass, bringing the Panthers within one. However, the snap for the extra point was low, causing the hold to be off the mark and the kick floated under the crossbar to send the Comets to the Division III state championship game.

“Coach (Brent) Indest and that team are just phenomenal,” said Monica in praise of Catholic-New Iberia. “That quarterback [Amos], everybody was telling us how the quarterback wasn’t even human, and I think they were right.”

And superhuman he was. Amos proved to be unstoppable at times, amassing 180 yards rushing on 27 carries with five rushing touchdowns and another one passing to lead the Panthers.

The tag-team combination for the Comets of Dumas and Tran proved to be the equalizer for Amos’ efforts. The duo accounted for all the Comets’ touchdowns and the two-point conversion. Dumas finished the night with 131 yards rushing on 12 carries plus 76 more through the air with two more touchdowns. Not to be outdone, Tran had 56 yards rushing on 16 carries for three touchdowns and hauled in a touchdown reception, which what proved to be the game-winning score in double overtime.

The two teams came out with the pedal to the metal offensively to start the epic battle. Two Amos touchdowns for the Panthers and split touchdowns from Dumas and Tran for the Comets made the score tied 14-14 after the first quarter. Touchdowns by Amos and Tran in the second quarter brought the score to a 21-21 tie at halftime.

After a high-flying first half, both teams went scoreless in the third quarter.

As the fourth quarter began, Catholic-New Iberia was en route to a 15-play drive which would be capped off by another Amos touchdown run to break the scoreless drought and the tie, giving the Panthers a 28-21 lead with 8:24 to play in the ballgame.

Pressed to reignite the offense, St. Charles Catholic wasted no time answering the score. Starting at their own 42-yard line following a solid kick return by Keenan Gauff, the Comets needed just four plays to knot things up again. On first down at the Catholic-New Iberia 47-yard line, the Comets ran a misdirection play to perfection, ending up with Dumas wide-open to catch a 47-yard touchdown pass. It was just another big moment in a game and season loaded with them for the finals-bound Comets.

“It’s been a year of highlights,” said Monica on the path his team has taken on their way to the state championship game.

The night was full of highlights for Monica, as his son Nick Monica also clinched a berth in the Division I state championship when the younger Monica’s Rummel Raiders defeated Brother Martin in Metairie.

Upon hearing that father and son would be competing for state championships next weekend, an emotional Monica said, “Oh wow, that’s pretty special, I don’t know how often that happens. I’m very, very proud. I’m proud of Nicholas and that coaching staff and their players.”

The Monica family will be very busy next week in the Select football state finals.

St. Charles Catholic will face top-seeded Lafayette Christian Academy for the LHSAA Division III State Championship. Although St. Charles Catholic was under the impression the title game would be held Saturday night at ULL’s Cajun Field, the LHSAA has yet to confirm sites for the championship games in the four select school divisions.

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