Church Point’s swarming defense stuffed Beau Chene and star running back Jamal Chavis time and again Friday night and limited the visiting Gators to 67 total yards of offense and four first downs in the Bear’s 20-0 victory Friday night in the 2012 season opener for the two teams.
“I just can’t say enough about our defense,” said Church Point coach John Craig Arceneaux, whose team held the Gators to just three yards on the ground. “They just kept stepping up and making plays.
“Jamal Chavis is as good a football player as we’re going to play this year and although I don’t know what the stats are, I know he couldn’t have had many yards. We did a great job of slowing him down.
“As long as we play defense like that all season long, we’ll be in a lot of football games and have a chance to win a lot of games.”
Although Chavis did have one big run, the Bears bottled him up for most of the night and hit him in the backfield numerous times for losses. Chavis finished the night with 10 carries for 24 yards.
Church Point’s defense - special teams - gave the Bears early momentum when they recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff.
The kick ricocheted off a Beau Chene player and was recovered by Church Point’s Travette Meche at the Beau Chene 47-yard line. From there, the Bears marched down the field in 10 plays before Brett Richard scored from one yard out on fourth down.
Kian Richard split the uprights on the PAT to give the Bears a 7-0 lead with 7:28 remaining in the first quarter.
“We were trying to squib (kick) and it just happened to hit off their guy,” said Arceneaux of the opening kickoff. “We didn’t want to kick the ball to Jamal because he’s a game changer. It just so happened to hit off of them. We got on it and punched it in and got some momentum right there.”
The Bears’ defense added to that momentum minutes later.
Beau Chene started its first drive at their own 34 and Chavis was hit for no gain on the very first play. After a loss on second down, the Bears sacked quarterback Jay Cormier at the 22-yard line, forcing a fumble.
Church Point’s Christian Veronie picked up the loose pigskin and rambled in 20 yards for a touchdown.
“We got the scoop and score right there and that was big,” said Arceneaux. “There were a lot of positives right there at the beginning of the game.”
The Bears’ defense continued its onslaught on the Gators ensuing possession.
Beau Chene started its drive at their own 28 and after two runs for a loss and a penalty, the Gators found themselves faced with a third- and-long situation from the 17-yard line. Jaylan Kelly then sacked Cormier at the 6-yard line, forcing a punt.
Church Point looked poised to score yet again as they marched right back into the red zone. But a fumble at the 15-yard line turned the ball back over to the Gators.
“We had a chance right there to put the game away,” said Arceneaux. “We had a chance to go up 21-0 and we fumble in the red zone. I really think we could have put it away right there.”
Instead, the Gators hung around as neither team was able to mount much offense before the half.
The third quarter was much of the same as the two teams exchanged punts before the Bears started a drive at their own 2-yard line late in the frame.
Church Point gained two first downs before James Bellard broke off a 44-yard run down to the Beau Chene 20. Then, on third down, backup quarterback Casey Benoit hit Chance Roy on a 16-yard pass at the 4.
Bellard scored on the next play to give the Bears a 20-0 advantage.
“Offensively, we didn’t look real crisp after our first three drives,” said Arceneaux. “But then we put that 98-yard drive together with a backup quarterback, three backup linemen, a backup running back. So it showed that we had some kids that were willing to step up and were ready to play.
“We needed to make plays during that drive and we had some guys step up and make plays. That’s how you win football games.”
Offensively, the Bears racked up 306 total yards and 16 first downs on the night.
Bellard paced the ground attack with 118 yards and one touchdown on 15 carries. Richard added 45 yards and a touchdown on five carries and Devin Landry had 43 yards on nine carries.
Jake Morvant completed two passes for six yards and Benoit completed one for 16.
“James (Bellard) is a gamebreaker and he made some runs when we needed him to make some runs,” said Arceneaux. “We struggled in the passing game a little bit, which we need to be a big part of our offense, and we’ll get those things fixed.”
In addition, Arcenaux said his squad must be more disciplined and avoid penalties. The Bears were flagged 12 times for 90 yards.
“We just had too many penalties,” said Arceneaux. “We had second -and-40 one time, we had a third-and-30. You can’t play football like that. We don’t have the type of offense where we can overcome those situations.
“But I’m just proud of our kids. We just kept fighting and showed our conditioning tonight. And, you know, a win is a win.”
The Bears return to action on Friday when they play host to Kaplan at 7 p.m. in a contest that will be televised on KLAF.