Haughton head coach Jason Brotherton isn’t one to make excuses after a loss. And he didn’t make any after the Buccaneers’ tough 14-17 District 1-5A loss to Captain Shreve on Friday night at Lee Hedges Stadium.
In fact, he was quick to praise the Gators and credit them for the victory.
But there can be reasons that contribute to teams coming up short sometimes other than the play of the opponent.
Haughton lost starting quarterback Peyton Stovall on the first drive of the game. He has been bothered by an ankle injury much of the season and he hurt it again trying to score near the goalline.
In the third quarter, with the score tied at 7, backup quarterback CJ McWilliams hurt his shoulder at the end of a 25-yard run to the Shreve 31. With him out, the Bucs went backwards.
McWilliams, the Offensive MVP on The 2018 All-Parish team, is one of the team’s top receivers as well as a punter and kick returner.
“There was a point when CJ went down the question on the headset when was who’s the next quarterback,” Brotherton said. “We weren’t really sure who it was.”
Tristan Sweeney, a starting wide receiver, tried his best in the Wildcat formation. Of course, with him at quarterback and McWilliams on the sideline, the Bucs were missing two of their top three receivers.
Sophomore Coleman Stafford, whose main experience is JV games, also played some.
But the bottom line is that on a chilly night with a heavy mist falling, the game was a defensive struggle.
“That’s a good football team over there,” Brotherton said. “They’re tough. They’re physical. Part of the injuries is they’re so physical. They played great on defense and I thought our defense played great. It was an old-fashioned slugfest. It’s not what we like to play in out here but that’s what it turned into.”
Haughton dropped to 6-2 overall and 3-2 in district. Captain Shreve improved to 7-1 and 5-0. With Airline’s 21-6 loss to Byrd, the Gators have sole possession of first place with two to play.
Haughton got off to a great start. The Bucs drove 70 yards for a touchdown. The key play was a 33-yard pass from Stovall to McWilliams on third-and-16 from the Shreve 36.
After Stovall was injured, Sweeney scored from a yard out. Carter Jensen’s PAT made it 7-0.
With McWilliams at the helm, the Bucs drove inside the 20 on their next possession. But a penalty and strong play by the Gators defense ended the threat.
After that, the teams spent a lot of time trading punts.
A major point of the game came in the third quarter. A 40-yard touchdown run by McWilliams was erased by a holding penalty.
Shreve then got an interception. After Haughton forced a punt, Gators lineman Cole Norwood returned an interception for a touchdown.
After McWilliams was injured, Shreve put together a good drive. But it looked like the Gators would have to settle for a 37-yard field goal attempt on fourth-and-3.
Instead, Haughton was penalized for offsides. Kendrick Law eventually scored from the 1 to give the Gators the lead.
Haughton finished with 155 total yards after getting 112 on its first two drives.
Captain Shreve had 181 with all but 27 coming on the ground. DJ Fleming, one of the area’s top running backs, led the Gators with 118 yards on 26 carries. Like Stovall, Fleming has been dealing with an ankle injury.
Shreve fumbled twice but didn’t have a turnover.
Brotherton expects McWilliams to miss a couple of weeks which means he could be back for the Bucs’ first-round playoff game.
He isn’t sure about Stovall.
The Bucs host Natchitoches Central on Friday. The Chiefs (3-5, 2-3) defeated Parkway 33-14 Friday night.
“Back to the drawing board,” Brotherton said, “That’s what I told them. I said right now I don’t know who our quarterback is for next Friday, but I can guarantee we are going to play a game next Friday. We’ll have to get it figured out.”