The Bulldogs improved to 3-5 (2-1 in district 5-2A) with their 42-6 defeat of the Pine Prairie Panthers (1-6, 0-3).
“We really came out strong,” said Iota Head Coach Neal Legé. "Pine Prairie is a struggling team and we knew that coming in and I told them the team that matures a little bit will win and if we come out and take care of business it should be no contest."
The Bulldogs had a strong outing with all three sides of the ball executing well.
“We executed in all phases really well throughout the game,” said Legé. "I'm really pleased with that.
"We got back on track defensively."
The night started with an explosive first quarter aided greatly by special teams’ plays.
Iota first offensive series netted the Bulldogs six points on a one yard run by Fantroy, but the drive started deep in Pine Prairie territory (the Panthers’ 12 yard line to be exact) off of Fantroy’s 48 yard punt return.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Panthers’ Dylan Doucet fumbled at its own 31 yard line, giving the ball right back to Iota. The Bulldogs did not waste the opportunity, taking two plays to score. This time it was Nick Sloane from four yards out. Fantroy’s two point conversion gave the Bulldogs a 14-0 lead with 7:07 remaining in the first quarter.
In its third possession in the first quarter, Iota would again score with Fantroy’s 23 yard rush. With another two-point conversion run by Fantroy, the Bulldogs found themselves up 22-0 with just over a minute remaining and things were looking mighty grim for the visiting Panthers.
But, just as the case has been for most of the season for Pine Prairie, even with its struggles, they would not be denied the end zone all night. It started with a strong return of its own when Doucet returned the kickoff for 61 yards. Their single scoring drive would take just under a minute and five seconds as Colton Chaddrick ran from 12 yards out for the the touchdown with 7.1 seconds. Pine Prairie would not convert its two-point try, however, and would end the quarter down 22-6.
But even with the touchdown allowed, the first quarter went basically according to plan for Iota. And while Pine Prairie was kept off of the scoreboard for the remainder of the game, the Bulldogs would continue scoring.
Before halftime, Iota scored twice. First, with 9:24 remaining in the second quarter, Fantroy ran in from 11 yards out. The drive, which began at the start of the quarter took nine plays and started Iota’s move to taking time off the clock and closing out a huge victory. The second touchdown came as the clock expired via a six-yard pass from Timothy Lunson to Kyle Smith. With Michael Miers converting both of his extra point tries, the Bulldogs were able to go to the half up 36-6.
"We came out and were really sharp offensively and defensively in the first half and it paid off," said Legé. "It's nice to go in at halftime and not make a lot of adjustments. We talked about the penalties that we had in the first half and eliminating the stupid mistakes we had."
And with both teams opting for the running clock in the second half, it guaranteed the third and fourth quarters would go quickly, but it also saw Iota pick up its final touchdown of the night.
Thomas Murrell, who statistically had a big night to the tune of 204 total offensive yards, ran for a 61 yard touchdown for the Bulldogs’ final touchdown on its first play from scrimmage in the quarter. With 10:46 remaining, Murrell’s touchdown brought the Bulldogs up 42-6.
The touchdown also allowed Iota to insert its junior varsity squad midway through the third quarter and get them valuable playing time.
“We ran by committee late in the game and had young kids who got to play so that's a good thing,” said Legé. "That's how it should be. Your older guys take care of business and your younger guys finish the game. It gave those young guys a chance to get some varsity game experience. And even with the young guys we had no let down. We're very pleased with that.
"We took everybody out midway into the third quarter, I didn't want to risk anyone getting hurt."
Midway through the fourth quarter, Pine Prairie was driving to pick up another touchdown, but Jessy LeJeune’s interception on the Iota five yard line gave the Bulldogs another field possession and protected the three-quarter shutout.
The Bulldogs will have things to shore up over the week as Iota committed nine penalties on the night, six of which were in the first half; fumbled three times, losing one; and throwing an interception. Legé knows that Iota cannot have those problems next week against the class of district 5-2A, Ville Platte.
“Ville Platte is by far the best team in our district and we're going to have to play ball control on offense and be very smart on defense next week,” said Legé.
But while Iota had two turnovers on the night, Pine Prairie had four, and netted the Bulldogs 14 points.
It wasn’t just a win on the scoreboard for Iota as the Bulldogs dominated the stat sheet as well.
The Bulldogs outgained the Panthers 374 yards to 112 yards of total offense. Iota had 15 first downs, 13 of which came in the first half; Pine Prairie had 10, but was limited to four in the first half.
Outside of Jessy LeJeune's interception, Miers recovered the fumble on special teams and Zachary Hebert and Fantroy picked off Cade Vidrine.
Individually, it was Murrell who led Iota this week with 15 carries for 187 yards and a one-handed reception for 17 yards. Fantroy had seven carries for 59 yards and an 11-yard reception. Iota, in total, had five other ball carriers, Samuel Reed (one carry for six yards), Nick Sloane (three carries for 14 yards), Michael Thevis (two carries for 11 yards), Kenneth Guillory (two carries for two yards) and Tyler Prejean (five carries for 43 yards), and two other players with receptions, Phillip Miller (a 24-yard reception) and Smith (six-yard reception). The Bulldogs’ two quarterbacks finished with Lunson going 3-for-4 for 41 yards and a touchdown and JT LeJeune going 1-for-4 for 17 yards and an interception.
Conversely, Pine Pine Prairie’s offensive producers were limited as star freshman running back Douglas Fontenot did not play. Robert Dupre’s eight carries for 49 yards and Colton Chaddrick’s eight carries for 43 yards led the Panthers. Dylan Doucet’s five carries for five yards and two receptions for 17 yards and Gijuan Anderson’s four receptions for 33 yards were the only other highlights for the Panthers. Quarterback Vidrine had a night to forget going 6-for-14 with 50 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.