Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 6, 2006
SCC defense freezes Wildcat attack, headed back to state chamipionship game
By JOHNNY PEPPO
RESERVE — With a cold front dropping tempretures in the River Parishes last Friday, many fans and reporters found themselves stiffening in the gusty, frigid winds at the St. Charles vs. St. James semi-final game. But the only thing stiff about the Comets that night was their defense.
A prolific St. James offense was held to six points until nearly two minutes left in the game as the SCC squad took a 17-14 win over the Wildcats to advance to the state championship game against John Curtis this Friday, the second consecutive title game between the two teams in Class 2A.
“This win, and where we are now in the season, says so much about these guys,” said St. Charles head coach Frank Monica after the game. “A lot of times these guys are up against bigger and faster squads, but they come out and they play as a team and they just get it done.”
It looked to be the showdown that it was when these two teams met for the second time this season. St. James took the opening kickoff the length of the field to score on their first possession to take a quick lead. But a missed extra point left the door open for the Comets at 6-0.
St. Charles then went on a 17 point run before halftime for a 17-6 lead, which the defense maintained by keeping the Wildcats out of the end zone until just more than two minutes left in the game.
But when that happened, it seemed like a whole new ball game.
With 2:16 remaining and time waning down, St. James’ Craig Duronselet broke free from deep in his own territory and found open field on the sideline to break containment for an 88-yard touchdown to narrow the gap to a single score.
After that, it was a frantic dash to the end as the Wildcat defense forced a three and out by St. Charles, but was unable to stop the clock again as the offense started a drive that ran out on them just past mid-field.
“It was a close one there at the end,” said Monica. “We know they’re fast and we were game planning it to keep them contained. Those guys are quick over there and we knew they could give us trouble. But credit goes to our defense and our coaching staff. The key was that we were prepared.”
Jonathan Cancienne again led the Comets on the evening, racking up 104 of SCC’s 128 yards on the ground for both of touchdowns.
The first one came on a two-yard burst around the end that capped a 14-play drive to take a 7-6 lead. The Comet defense did the rest during the first half, limiting the Wildcats to just one more first down before the break.
Just before halftime, St. Charles found themselves in St. James territory with time ticking down. From the 22-yard line, kicker Ryan Ilski scored what turned out to be the winning points on a 39-yard field goal to go up 20-6.
St. James opening drive score got the Wildcats off on the right foot. An 80-yard drive culminated in a 16-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Antonio Phillips to Duronselet.
Following that exchange, the Wildcats had trouble getting much of anything else done until late in the game.
The stat sheet reflects a fairly evenly matched set of teams, as both reached ten first downs, had seven punts and about a dozen pass attempts. St. James led the Comets in total yardage with 248 to St. Charles’ 169, but more than half of that came on two big plays.
It wasn’t until the final whistle though that this one was finshed with. The Wildcats scurried up to the line with precious seconds remaining, but couldn’t get the snap off in time. That set off an eruption from the St. Charles sidelines as fans streamed onto the field to hear Coach Monica address the squad.
“It’s back to the bigs,” he said. “When we got started this year, no one thought we’d still be here. But we know our season isn’t over yet. We’re going to savor this win tonight and keep in mind what got us here. And we’ll get back to work this week because we still have one more game to represent our school and our community. “