The second half was a different story.
The Class 5A Spartans, aided by turnovers and a defense that bent but didn’t break, reeled off 22 unanswered points in the final 24 minutes and pulled away for a 36-13 victory that left the Gents stunned and wondering what could have been.
“I really think we let one slip away tonight,” said Gents’ coach Josh Fontenot. “There were opportunities for us and we just didn’t take advantage of them.”
The Gents went back and forth with the Spartans and trailed by only one at the break, 14-13.
But missed opportunities and turnovers plagued the Gents in the second half.
The Gents fumbled the ball away twice in the final 24 minutes and turned it over on downs three times, twice inside the Spartans’ five-yard line.
“We knew it was going to be hard,” said Fontenot, whose team fell to 1-1 with the loss. “You know you’re coming in here playing a well-coached team and they’re big and they’re strong. They beat us up tonight. We were right there with them, though.”
The Gents’ first missed opportunity was early in the third quarter when Damon Malbrough intercepted a Travis Southard pass at the Spartans’ 10-yard line. Three straight runs got the ball down to the 3-yard line, but on fourth-and-goal, Danny Malbrough was stuffed at the 2 and the Gents turned the ball over on downs.
“Our defense comes out and gets a turnover right at the beginning of the second half and we have to score,” said Fontenot. “There’s no excuse for that.”
Crowley’s defense stepped up on Comeaux’s ensuing possession and forced a punt.
The Gents took over at the Comeaux 43 and quarterback Andre Mills broke a run down to 25. However, he fumbled on the play to give the ball right back to the Spartans.
“Our defense played their hearts out,” said Fontenot. “They played every down against a team where we were outmanned at every position. They gave us some outs and we didn’t take advantage of it.”
The Spartans made the best of their next opportunity, mounting a 72-yard drive that was capped by Tyek Malveaux’s 46-yard touchdown run. Trevor Vincent’s PAT gave the Spartans a 21-13 advantage with 4:23 left in the third quarter.
The Gents looked as if they were mounting a comeback as they marched to midfield despite three penalties. Then, on second down from the Spartans’ 40, Danny Malbrough broke free for 14 yards, but the ball was jarred loose on the tackle and Comeaux recovered.
The Spartans responded again with a lengthy drive that ended in Malveaux’s fourth touchdown of the evening, this time from one yard out. Malveaux then added the two-point conversion to push the lead to 29-13 with 8:47 remaining in the game.
Crowley missed out on another opportunity on its next series after taking over at their own 20. The Gents marched into the red zone but were stopped on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line.
The Gents turned the ball over on downs one last time with three minutes remaining and Malveaux made them pay yet again.
This time the senior running back broke loose for a 36-yard touchdown run. He finished the night with 18 carries for 158 yards.
Offensively, the Gents struggled after their first two possessions of the first half.
They scored on their opening drive of the game on a 9-yard pass from Mills to Chanz Moore. Malbrough scored the Gents’ only other touchdown on the next series with a 2-yard run.
Crowley went three-and-out on their next series and had a drive stall near midfield as the half ended.
In the second half, the fumbles and the Gents’ inability to score in the red zone proved costly.
“You know, our preparation during the week wasn’t very sharp offensively and it showed,” said Fontenot, whose offense posted nearly 600 yards a week earlier against Patterson. “We prepared for week one like a championship team. We prepared for week two like a team that’s not used to winning. We have to change that.”
The Gents rushed for 236 yards on the nigh,t but they struggled in the passing game where they completed just 10 of their 23 pass attempts.
Mills was 8-for-19 through the air for 63 yards, but he had several misfires and a few drops by his receivers.
“We knew that if we didn’t execute throwing the ball, we couldn’t win. And we didn’t,” said Fontenot. “We missed some throws and we missed some reads. And when we got them right, we dropped them.
“We didn’t execute throwing the ball, plain and simple. We didn’t execute offensively period. Not really anywhere - in the running game, in the passing game. It was not a good night.”
Backup quarterback Grant Trahan completed two of his four pass attempts for 23 yards, all in the final minute of the second quarter.
Chanz Moore had four catches for 30 yards and a touchdown. Danny Malbrough followed with two receptions for 22 yards and Thomas Cavell had one catch for 13 yards.Treyvard Moore had one grab for 12 yards and Trahan caught two passes for nine yards.
Mills led the Gents’ ground attack with 131 yards and one touchdown on 21 carries.
Chris Lewis followed with 53 yards on six carries while Malbrough, who had 315 yards last week, was limited to 47 yards on 14 carries against the Spartans.
“I’m not proud of our preparation and our execution tonight,” said Fontenot. “But I’m proud of our effort. The effort was there.”