Haughton head coach Jason Brotherton has come to expect his defense to rise to the occasion.
With Friday’s District 1-5A game against Captain Shreve on the line in the fourth quarter, the Bucs did just that.
Haughton made some big stops and held off the Gators 27-21 at Harold E. Harlan Field.
The Bucs (5-1, 3-1) ended Shreve’s four-game winning streak and extended theirs to four. The Gators dropped to 4-2 overall and 4-1 in district.
Haughton also avenged a 14-7 loss to Shreve last season, one of only two losses in the regular season.
“Really big win right there,” Brotherton said. “That’s a good football team we went against.”
Captain Shreve and its offense led by sophomore quarterback Ashton Martin rolled up some big yardage, but the Bucs defense made the plays when it counted.
Haughton stopped the Gators three times in the fourth quarter.
The first was on a fourth-and-1 at the Bucs 25 with Haughton leading 27-14.
After Shreve pulled within six, the Gators got the ball back twice late in the game. The first time Shreve went four-and-out after a fourth-down pass from its 35 fell incomplete.
Haughton appeared to have the game in the bag when quarterback Colin Rains ran for a TD. But a holding penalty negated the score and a subsequent penalty moved the ball back near midfield.
Austin Patton’s punt pinned the Gators at their 5. Shreve moved to the 34. On fourth-and-5, Martin’s pass fell at his receiver’s feet about 20 yards downfield and the celebration began.
“We’ve played well on defense all year,” Brotherton said. “We thought that would be the strength of our team.”
The Bucs forced four turnovers, including three interceptions.
Senior linebacker Jake St. Andre returned an interception 74 yards for a touchdown to give Haughton the 27-14 lead. Under a heavy rush from linebacker Jack Edwards, Martin threw a quick pass that glanced off lineman DJ Gladney and into the hands of St. Andre.
St. Andre, Dylan Turner and Sean Hardison are veteran linebackers who have been outstanding all season. But Brotherton cited the play of Edwards, a senior who missed all of last season after suffering a torn ACL.
Edwards made several big plays. He had one of the interceptions but the Bucs fumbled the ball back on the next play.
“He’s playing great,” Brotherton said. “He got an interception tonight. He’s kind of the unsung hero of the defense right now because he is making plays all over the place. It’s kind of like he goes unnoticed because the other guys are so good.”
Although it struggled some in the second half, the Haughton offense did its part.
Rains threw three touchdown passes, two to Elijah Rochon of 5 and 57 yards and one to Coleman Stafford of 11. He had another TD pass called back.
Brotherton was impressed by the play of both sophomore quarterbacks.
“Shreve’s is good too,” he said. “He’s going to be a big-time player.”
He said Rains continues to improve.
“He’s doing everything we’re asking him to do and I feel like more and more every week he’s thinking like I’m thinking which means I’ll go to tell him and he’ll finish my sentence for me as far as when we’re going to bleed the clock down, when we’re going to snap it quick,” Brotherton said. “That’s good to see because that means he’s learning the position and almost becomes an extension of our coaching staff out there. That’s a sophomore that’s able to do that and understand the game and lead the team.”
Rains completed 13 of 22 passes for 150 yards with no interceptions. Rochon had six receptions for 104 yards.
Rochon’s first TD catch capped a 96-yard drive on Haughton’s first possession of the game. Dexter Smith had a couple of good runs and Rains hit Joshua Sewell for a nice gain down the Haughton sideline.
On fourth-and-1 from the 19, Rains hit St. Andre for the first down.
Shreve drove almost the length of the field on its first possession, but the Bucs forced and then recovered a fumble at the 4.
Kason Formby had an interception with about six minutes left in the first half. Shreve big-play receiver Kendrick Law suffered an apparent injury to his right leg on the play and did not return.
The loss of Law, a sophomore who is considered one of the top college prospects in his class in the state, obviously hurt the Gators.
“Every time he touches it it could be a touchdown,” Brotherton said. “He’s one of the more dynamic players that I’ve seen especially that’s around here right now. One of those guys every time he touches the ball you hold your breath. That definitely took away some of their firepower. Hopefully he’ll be OK moving forward and have a great year.”
Brotherton knows something about having to play without your top offensive players. In last year’s loss to Shreve, quarterback Peyton Stovall was injured on the Bucs’ first possession. Haughton lost his replacement, CJ McWilliams, to an injury in the third quarter.
The memory of that loss was made a little easier by Friday night’s victory, the Bucs’ 15th straight at home.
“We didn’t really play great,” Brotherton said. “Just found a way to win, which is good to see. It kind of shows the toughness of our team. They always think they can win, especially here at home. There’s something to that. There’s something special about that too here at this place.”
Haughton visits Natchitoches Central on Friday. The Chiefs (0-6, 0-4) fell to Parkway 30-7 Friday night.