Written by Kyle Valdez
The Catholic High Bears outscored the Brother Martin Crusaders 49-31 in the Division 1 semifinals at Tad Gormley Stadium Friday. The win advances Catholic to their fourth straight title game.
Shelton Sampson led the Bears with 6 receptions, 3 touchdowns and 168 yards. George Hart rushed for 128 yards on 16 carries, while Jackson Guest ran for 98 yards on 13 carries. Quarterback Daniel Beale threw 9-16 for 143 yards and 3 touchdown passes.
Brother Martin's Austin Jackson broke loose for 195 yards and 3 touchdowns on 6 receptions. Quarterback Garrett Mmahat threw for 314 yards on 14-21 passing.
On the first play of the second quarter, running back Hart hit Sampson for a 56-yard trick-play touchdown to give Catholic a 21-3 lead. With their backs on the wall and the season on the line, Brother Martin displayed lots of grit and mental toughness for the remainder of the first half: the Crusaders reeled off 21 consecutive points to take a 24-21 lead with 1 minute to go in the second quarter.
Austin Jackson scored two of the touchdowns in that span. One from 72 yards out and the other from 16 yards. Catholic would score a crucial touchdown before the half when Sampson came down with a 43-yard jump ball in the end zone. Catholic took a 28-24 lead into halftime.
"The jump ball to Sampson was a sprint out play where we felt like we could get him singled up because of some of the routes and where the safeties were," Catholic head coach Gabriel Fertitta said. "I think they had some trouble guarding him all game. He's such a big, dominant force there."
The second half of the action was all Catholic. Austin Jackson showed off some speed in the open field to score a 71-yard touchdown to give the Crusader's their final lead of the game at 31-28. However, from that point on, Catholic would reel off 21 straight to seal the deal.
Catholic put together two touchdown drives, to go along with a pick-six score for Connor Stewart to finish out the fourth quarter. The final score was 49-31.
Brother Martin, the No. 1 seed, suffered their first loss this season to finish at 8-1. Catholic improved to 8-2 and will play No. 3 C.E. Byrd in two weeks at Northwestern St. in Natchitoches. Byrd, who's turned some heads over the past two weeks, beat St. Augustine 31-14 and John Curtis 14-13 to make a state final appearance.
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