It was close Friday night at Jack Doland Memorial Stadium; four yards away close, but in the end the Lake Arthur Tigers edged out the Iota Bulldogs by a score of 13-6.
“The efforts there by the kids, they are working hard in practice and in game,” said Iota Coach Neal Legé. “We just can’t make the plays on the field.
“We pick inopportune times to fumble the ball.”
The win pushed the Tigers to 3-0, while the Bulldogs fell to 0-3.
The game was indeed decided in the fourth quarter and as Iota marched down the field late in the quarter, the Bulldogs seemed to be mere seconds away from their first lead of the season and potentially their first win; then a mistake at the worst possible time.
While on the Vinton 10 yard line, eight yards away from a first down 10 yards away from a one-point deficit, Iota lined up for a 2nd and eight play with just over three minutes to go.
The Bulldogs would fumble the ball on the four yard line and Lake Arthur recovered, all but sealing the Tigers third victory.
“We’re driving down for a tying score or a go-ahead score and we fumble the ball,” said Legé. “It is things like that, that will get you beat.”
It was the glaring mistake, but Iota had other chances and the Bulldogs gave up two touchdowns.
In the first quarter, a fumble around the Iota 15 yard line, led to an eventual touchdown by Lake Arthur a few plays later, but that was a short field, that was a gift that Iota could ill afford to give to the Tigers. Tigers’ running back Colby Benoit would make Iota pay, punching it in from one yard out with 4:50 remaining in the first quarter.
The third quarter began with Lake Arthur and Iota exchanging each a possession before Lake Arthur kept the ball for over eight minutes and marched the ball 61 yards for a methodical touchdown, capped off by a four yard touchdown pass from Rory Guidry to Taylor McFarlain.
“They marched it down with three offsides on hard counts,” said Legé. “The lack of mental focus in that situation gave them yards and got them closer to the endzone.
“We have to get tougher, plain and simple.”
It was the perfect answer to Iota’s touchdown late in the second quarter. The Bulldogs, despite the offensive miscues, had a solid outing with offensive output, thanks to its two rushing focal points, Brandon Fantroy and Thomas Murrell. But it was backup quarterback Timothy Lunson, who got the start in place of injured J.T. LeJeune, who would draw the Bulldogs within one with only 10 seconds remaining in the first half.
“That was a big drive for us,” said Legé, “to get us back to within a score. We got it to 7-6, they just answered.”
Iota’s conversion attempt failed, however, and the score would remain in Lake Arthur’s favor, 7-6, but the drive cemented the offense’s plan of attack for the night, particularly on the ground.
“When we block who we are supposed to, we are very productive,” said Legé.
The Bulldogs can thank its defense for keeping the game close; holding what had proven to be a potent offense in the first two weeks of the season, to well under 200 yards on the game.
“Our defense has played well almost week,” said Legé. “If you take Vinton out of the equation, we’ve played well. Our offense is giving our defense too many snaps. Anytime your defense goes that many snaps, your chances of winning are not very good.”
The game, however, wasn’t just close on the scoreboard, as the statistics of the game also helped show the closeness of the game.
Lake Arthur finished the night with 129 yards of total offense, Iota finished with 173. Lake Arthur quarterback Guidry would complete two of his four passes for 19 yards and one touchdown; Lunson of Iota, meanwhile completed two of his nine passes for 15 yards. The Tigers would accumulate 110 yards on the ground and averaged almost three yards per carry; the Bulldogs had 158 yards rushing and averaged just over 3.5 yards per carry.
Individual leaders for the night, for Iota, included Murrell (18 carries for 73 yards) and Fantroy (20 carries for 74 yards). Lunson would add 15 yards and a touchdown on the ground on hi six carries. Receving Lunson’s two passes were caught by Murrell (one grab for six yards) Kyle Smith (nine yards on one catch).
Benoit, a senior, shined on offense with 25 carries for 83 yards and a touchdown for the Tigers. Standout eighth grader Trey Hargrave added 24 yards on five carries. Guidry’s two completions were brought in by Evan Deshotel (one six-yard reception) and McFarlain (one four-yard touchdown).