By JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports
COUSHATTA – When Red River lined up for a 45-yard field goal with 28 seconds remaining in the game, there was plenty hanging in the balance for the Loyola Flyers Friday night.
Of course, there was the game, which the Flyers led 9-7. But there was more than that.
With an off week coming up, a Red River field goal would have meant the Flyers would go 0-for-September. Two more weeks of wondering if that first win would ever come. Self-doubt would be setting up shop in the Loyola locker room.
It would mean the Flyers would have blown a lead in the fourth quarter on a Bulldogs’ drive that started on the 3-yard line after a failed Flyer fourth-down conversion. Clearly, Loyola was set up for a crushing defeat.
But the field goal, which turned out to be a wild sequence of events by itself, was wide left and, after one kneel down, the Flyers walked off the field with a win for the first time in 2022.
“Those kids right over there, they needed this,” said Loyola coach Mike Greene while pointing to his team’s celebration afterward. “As coaches, we wanted it, but the kids needed it. We were starting to doubt ourselves a little bit. I really think this, and the week off to get well, is really going to help us the rest of the way.”
The game started out with an all-to-familiar script for the Flyers – trouble. Two weeks ago, the Flyers had a punt blocked on the fourth play of the game that resulted in a touchdown. Last week, they fumbled on the first play, which led to a touchdown.
Against Red River, it was an interception on the third play of the game.
But in this case, there was an early sign that this game might be different. Despite Red River having the ball on the Loyola 17, no damage was done as Rowan Guthikonda blocked a 30-yard field goal – three points that certainly would have come in handy for the Bulldogs.
Red River did take a lead on its next possession on a 45-yard pass from Tyler Hughes to Jamello McDonald, but that was the Bulldogs’ last trip to the end zone.
Loyola defensive back John Carmody intercepted a pass near the goal line early in the fourth quarter and knocked away another on fourth down in the end zone. Grayson Hutchins also had an interception for the stingy Flyer defense.
Loyola got on the board with 6:45 to go in the second quarter on a 16-play, 68-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard scoring run by Cooper DeFatta. But the extra point was missed so Red River led at halftime, 7-6.
The Flyers took advantage of a short punt to get on top with 4:04 to go in the third quarter on a 25-yard field goal by Evan Lirette to make it 9-7.
After Carmody’s interception, the Flyers drove to the Red River 1 but could not score.
In the final seconds, Red River was in great position, but Loyola defenders Gray Deason and Nick Haynes got a sack to push the Bulldogs back 10 yards. Then, Red River lost five more yards on a delay of game infraction.
Red River tried to confuse the Flyers by lining up to kick on third down and then shifting out to run a play. But Loyola didn’t bite, so the Bulldogs rushed back into kick formation in order to avoid another delay and the field goal was wide.
“We held on and did what we needed to do,” Greene said. “We showed a lot of guts. We could have laid down, but I was impressed with how we gutted it up.”
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Loyola 9, Red River 7
Score by quarters
Loyola | 0 | 6 | 3 | 0 | – 9
Red River | 7 | 0 | 0 | 0 | – 7
RR – Jamello McDonald 45 pass from Tyler Hughes (PAT kick)
LCP – Cooper DeFatta 1 run (Evan Lirette kick)
LCP – FG Lirette 25
Rushing – LCP (38-154), Trace Wall 21-93, DeFatta 13-60, Reagan Coyle 3-3, Team 1-minus-2. RR (30-158), Leonard Mosley 15-62, Montreveun Smith 8-53, Hughes 5-11, Elijah Harper 1-9, Trenton Grigg 1-3.
Passing – LCP (6-18-0-82), DeFatta 6-18-2, 64 yards. RR (20-31-2-174), Hughes 20-31-2, 174 yards.
Receiving – LCP, John Carmody 3-24, Coyle 2-24, Robert Pavlick 1-16. RR, Harper 7-66, McDonald 4-57, Jieron Calhoun 3-19.
Photo by JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports