Former Baseball: Eunice offensive explosion produces first state title in 36 years
Kevin Foote, The Advertiser, Dec. 7, 2018
NEW ORLEANS — From the first play of the game, the Sterlington Panthers tried their best to put the Eunice Bobcats in a rough spot.
And each time, coach Paul Trosclair’s Bobcats somehow answered the challenge.
In doing so, the Bobcats’ feisty effort produced the program’ first state championship since 1982 with a 59-47 victory over the Panthers on Friday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
“I still don’t believe it happened,” Eunice coach Paul Trosclair said. “I’m still trying to let it sink in.
“I feel like we did it for the City of Eunice.”
The obstacles began on the game’s very first play when Sterlington’s DJ Calvin returned the opening kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown.
Of course, the Panthers should have known what kind of night it was going to be. On the very next play, Eunice’s Jordan Ledet returned the favor by returning the ensuing kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown of his own.
And the thrilling night of the Bobcats doing it just a little bit better than Sterlington was under way.
Leading the charge for most of Eunice’s magic was the duo of senior Avrey Lee and sophomore quarterback Simeon Ardoin.
In the first half, it was mostly Ardoin doing the heavy lifting.
Ardoin had touchdown runs of 7, 1 and then 59 yards. That held off an early charge by Sterlington, which got 102 yards and two scores from its workhorse back Dallas Reagor in the first half.
The Panthers led 27-20 when Ardoin busted loose on his 59-yard score with 1:58 left in the first half.
“God helped me through all of this to get this championship with the team,” said Ardoin, who finished with 151 yards and three touchdowns rushing.
But again, there were obstacles. This time in the form of a missed conversion to allow Sterlington to maintain a 27-26 lead.
“I thought we’d have trouble stopping them, but I didn’t think they would score that many points. In the first half, everything went wrong. I’d say we have a quiet halftime. We didn’t do a whole lot of screaming.
“In the second half, I felt we’d make some plays and adjustments in the secondary. If it wouldn’t be for that big pass play at the end of the game, we shut them down pretty good in the second half.”
The frustration from not tying the game got even worse when the Panthers quickly drove 62 yards on four plays in 1:20 for another score to grab a 34-26 lead with 36 seconds left until halftime.
That frustration likely began spilling over for some Bobcats fans when Eunice’s offense amazingly drove 49 yards in five plays in just 30 seconds, only to throw an interception in the end zone on the final play of the first half.
At the time, there was plenty of reasons to doubt Eunice’s ability to seize the Class 3A crown.
Not only did the Bobcats trail by eight points, but Sterlington had dominated the time of possession 17:28 to just 6:32 for the Bobcats.
Would Eunice’s defense be able to hold up in the second half?
Those who doubted during intermission apparently weren’t factoring in Eunice’s ‘Mr. Everything’ Lee.
The Bobcats got a 29-yard run from Ardoin to approach the red zone. Three plays later, Lee was seemingly in trouble on one of his patented halfback passes.
Sterlington’s defense had penetrated the backfield and Lee was on the run.
But on this night, Eunice just seemed to have the answers. They weren’t going to be denied.
Instead of regretting the play-call, Lee dives in the air as he’s being tackled throwing across his body and somehow lofts a pass just over the leaping hand of a Sterlington defender and into the hands of tight end Tyler Darbonne for a 13-yard touchdown pass.
“I think that was crazy,” said Lee, who had 87 yards and a score, as well as threw two TD passes. “That wasn’t supposed to happen. That was Bobcat magic.”
Again, the two-point conversion failed, though, and Sterlington still led 34-32 with 10:22 left in the third quarter.
Lee, however, was just getting started.
Midway through Eunice’s next drive, Bobcat fans all over the Superdome were holding their breath when Ardoin suffered an apparent ankle injury with 7:31 left in the third.
As the officials marked off a 10-yard holding flag on the Bobcats back to the Sterlington 15, Ardoin stayed on the ground in pain.
The cart was rolled over to that area. It didn’t look promising.
Seconds later, though, Ardoin gets up and walks off the field on his own power.
On the next play, Lee throws yet another halfback pass and again connected with Darbonne for a 15-yard touchdown catch to give Eunice the lead for good at 39-34 with 7:25 left in the third.
“I’m very thankful for the win, especially for this family (team),” Lee said. “It doesn’t matter how much we get tired. I’m going to keep pushing until I get the win with these friends.”
Incredibly, the Bobcats were at it again on their next drive. Lee followed a 12-yard run with a leaping effort that resulted in a fumble.
Sterlington was trying to turn the momentum back in its favor, but again the Bobcats wouldn’t have it.
The bouncing ball rolls into the end zone, where Deon Ardoin dove on it for a touchdown and a 46-34 Bobcats lead with 4:08 left in the third.
From that point on, it was no longer Eunice facing the obstacles. It was now Sterlington absorbing the blows.
The Bobcats never trailed again.
Simeon Ardoin returned to the game, connecting with Darbonne on his third touchdown pass of the night for a 53-34 lead with 8:06 left to play.
Darbonne finished with three receptions for 45 yards and three touchdowns.
“It’s unreal,” Darbonne said. “All the credit goes to our offensive line They put up great blocks to give our quarterback and Avrey time to throw me the ball.”
And it was only a matter of time before the strong Eunice High contingent could begin celebrating the program’s first state title in 36 years.
“We had some playoff losses over the years,” Trosclair said. “I knew my career was winding down. We started this season with six or seven sophomores playing. There’s no way we were supposed to do what we did.
“I’ve coached 40 years and I’ve never seen a team like this.”
Click here for a photo of Paul and his 1976 baseball teammates.