The Gents, suffering through what turned out to be a disappointing 2-8 season, gave the Rams all they could handle Friday before falling 49-35 in the District 4-3A finale for both teams.
“This team has amazed me all year,” said Crowley coach Josh Fontenot following the loss. “We could have quit a million times, all year long, and we just didn’t.
“Just the heart and the fight...we’ve come so far as a team and a program in a year. It doesn’t show in the win-loss column, but anybody who knows Crowley High football and has been around knows that these kids have changed. They changed a lot.
“And I couldn’t be prouder of them for their effort, their heart and their believing in what we’re trying to do. That speaks volumes and I can’t say enough about them.”
The Gents’ heart was never more evident than the final eight plus minutes of the game.
After they gained a 21-20 lead with just under nine minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Rams responded with three unanswered touchdowns to take a 41-21 advantage with 10:53 remaining in the contest.
Instead of packing it in, the Gents responded.
A 45-yard scoring strike from quarterback Andre Mills to Kiriakis Brown, which he hauled in with two defenders draped on him in the end zone, made it 41-28 with 5:38 left.
The Gents then executed an onside kick to perfection and CHS’ Tyler Castille recovered the ball at the Westlake 49-yard line.
With 5:25 remaining, the Gents marched down the field on a 14-yard pass to Danny Malbrough, a 10-yard pass to Thomas Cavell and two runs by Malbrough that netted 18 yards. Then, on third and two, Mills went to the air and hit Chanz Moore on a 7-yard touchdown strike to cut the lead to 41-35 with 4:14 remaining.
“Everyone (in the stands) was ready to go home and then we punch one in, we get an onside kick and score again and now we have a chance,” said Fontenot. “The fight and the way our seniors played tonight was great.”
Crowley attempted another onside kick but this time Westlake recovered.
Westlake got down to the CHS 15 yard line and faced a fourth-and-10 situation. But the Rams put the game away with a touchdown pass from Tim Hamilton to Jacory Washington. The reception was questionable as the referees had to converge before finally ruling it a touchdown.
“We had a chance to win the game,” said Fontenot. “We get a fourth down and then we make a play in the end zone. Did he make the catch, only God knows. But we had a chance.”
The Gents scored on their first possession of the game, when Mills, who sparked the drive with a 43-yard run, scored on a 1-yard jaunt.
Westlake answered near the end of the first quarter when Hamilton hit Washington from seven yards out to tie the game at 7-7.
Three plays into the Gents’ ensuing drive, Mills was intercepted by WHS’ Chris Fontenot.
After a false start penalty moved the Rams back to the CHS 15, Hamilton struck again with a scoring strike to Devin Pharris.
Mills evened up the score at 14-14 just before the half when he hit Malbrough in the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown.
The Gents had other opportunities in the first half but they committed two turnovers - a fumble and an interception - and misfired on 10 of their 18 pass attempts in the first two frames.
“Turnovers, balls on the ground...a couple sloppy things, missed throws. Things that just weren’t there,” said Fontenot of his team’s first-half offensive performance. “But we were playing and we had some things going. But in the second half, they (Westlake) found something, hammered it down and we just didn’t have an answer for it until it was too late.”
Overall, Crowley dominated the game on paper. The Gents racked up 557 yards of total offense and logged 23 first downs.
Westalke totaled 428 yards and 19 first downs.
Westlake tailback Latrell Martin did most of the damage with 31 carries for 292 yards and three touchdowns.
“He’s really good,” said Fontenot of Martin. “I’ve seen him run like that all year, against everybody. Notre Dame has the best defense in our league and he ran all over them.
“He’s just a great runner and their offensive line does a really good job.”
Hamilton also did his part by completing six passes for 86 yards and three touchdowns. He hit Washington three times for 41 yards and two touchdowns and connected with Pharris twice for 20 yards and a score.
“They got in the I (formaton) tonight and they hadn’t done that all year,” said Fontenot. “They took advantage of stuff that we’re not very good at and they crammed it down our throat. It’s a credit to them. They may have relaxed a little bit but when they needed to finish the game, they did it. That’s a well coached team.”
Crowley was led by Mills, both on the ground and through the air. The senior quarterback racked up 115 yards and one touchdown on 16 carries and he also completed 21 passes for 266 yards and three touchdowns.
Chanze Moore led all receivers with nine receptions for 68 yards and one touchdown while Thomas Cavell hauled in seven passes for 85 yards. Brown had one reception for 45 yards, Malbrough caught three passes for 43 yards and Chris Lewis had one catch for 25 yards.