St. Aug’s kicking woes not as bad as they seem

By Ron Brocato, Clarion Herald Sports

While filing out of Joe Yenni Stadium last Friday as part of the human wake left behind by Archbishop Rummel’s incredible, come-from-behind 35-34 victory over Catholic League counterpart St. Augustine, I overheard someone commenting that St. Aug needs to form a soccer team.

I’ve heard that theme repeated numerous times over the years.

If the school had a soccer program, it certainly would lead to a competent kicker, is the retort.

Former head football coach Tony Biagas once lamented about the number of games his Purple Knights had lost by a point because the team didn’t have a reliable place kicker.

That apparent dilemma struck again in that Division I quarterfinal round game at Yenni on Nov. 22.

St. Augustine scored five touchdowns against the undefeated Raiders, more than  the combined efforts of Rummel’s first eight opponents this season, and nearly ended the campaign for the division’s No. 1 seed.

St. Aug took a 34-28 lead in the fourth period, but a missed PAT attempt proved to be fatal when Rummel’s reliable Patrick Vanderbrook kicked the deciding point-after following the Raiders’ answer with just 22 seconds remaining in the game.

The grumblings I overheard led me to the books of statistics I’ve assembled over the years. What I discovered was rather astounding.

Yes, St. Augustine has lost several key games by one point for lack of a consistent placekicker. But during the time the Purple Knights have been a member of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association, they have won more games by one point than they have lost. That includes an 11-10 victory over Sulphur in the 1975 semifinal game that preserved a victory and sent Coach Otis Washington’s Knights on to a 15-0 season and a state championship. A field goal was the difference.

Since 2013, when the LHSAA instituted its separate playoff system for select and non-select schools, St. Aug has won just five of its 12 playoff games. But only one is the product of a missed PAT.

Following that scare, Rummel moves on to face another district rival, Brother Martin in a semifinal round game. The Raiders humbled their Gentilly rival, 30-0, on Oct. 12. But no one expects a repeat of that performance.

Brother Martin carries a 9-2 record into this game following a quarterfinal-round playoff nod over Scotlandville at Tad Gormley Stadium last week.

But the site of the semifinal round match vs. the Raiders will be Yenni Stadium, Rummel’s “home” turf.

The rivalry between the two schools has been one of the Catholic League’s most competitive.

The Raiders hold a 28-24 lead in the series that dates back to the Crusaders’ first season of 1969.

Rummel has won the only playoff game between the two. The 27-23 victory came in the 2018 quarterfinal round.

The Crusaders’ last victory over the Raiders occurred in 2017 while they were in the midst of six consecutive wins that took them into the playoffs.

Two other local Catholic schools are alive in their quests to win division championships.

De La Salle (7-3), a No. 2 seed, hosts No. 3 University Lab (7-3) in the Division II semifinal round, while St. Charles Catholic (9-1) is home against No. 7 Catholic of New Iberia (7-3).

U-Lab defeated De La Salle, 45-10, for the 2017 Division II title, and again in the 2018 semifinal round, 43-14.

Ron Brocato can be reached at rbrocato@clarionherald.org.

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