“Did I expect this? No. Did I think we could be in the game in the fourth quarter? Yes,” said Byler, soaking wet with gatorade after his team’s emotional victory that has them at 2-0, 1-0 with last year’s district champs in the rearview mirror. “We had nothing to lose... Our coaches worked hard this week. We just felt we had a plan. I’m very very proud of our kids.”
The Patriot defense bended on the first drive of the game, one that saw Patterson pick up three first downs and move the ball 65 yards upfield from its own 20-yard line. But, a Colin Laird (NV) fumble recovery gave the Pats the ball on their own 18-yard line with no damage done.
NV quarterback Joe Duhon, destined for a big game, hit freshman receiver Dade Dieterich on a 35-yard strike on first down to give the Patriots some breathing room. Then, some patented Byler trickeration had Duhon receiving a pass from second-string QB Drake Morvant in the middle of the field. Duhon took the ball in for a 48-yard TD and the Pats were rolling.
The Lumberjacks answered on the ensuing possession; however, but after a failed PAT, the Patriots retained a lead they would never surrender.
After a nice Christian Fauntleroy return of the Patterson kickoff, NV had it first and ten on its own 39-yard line. After notching a first down on a pass to Dieterich, Duhon broke open on a QB keeper, breaking tackles at the line before reaching open field up the middle and racing in for the score to make it 14-6, where the score would remain until the break.
It was all Patriots in the second half. The Pats found themselves at their own nine-yard line to start the third quarter, but Duhon laced a throw up the middle to Riley Maturin, which Maturin caught one-handed over the top of the defender, for a 51-yard pickup. Four plays later, Duhon punched it in from the five to make it 21-6 and an electric murmur crept over the crowd.
With time waning in the third quarter, regular running back Trey Broussard, relegated to just his kicking duties, slammed home a 47-yard field goal to put NV up 24-6. The home team never looked back after that. Another Duhon rushing TD, on fourth and goal no less, gave the Patriots their final points.
Without Broussard to tote the rock, NV turned to sophomore Taylor Abshire for the brunt of the rushing work. Byler said Abshire (21 carries, 56 yards) did a fine job, but that Brody LeMaire’s blocking was the main reason for the Patriots success in moving the ball on the ground. “He just kept opening holes and (Abshire) came in there and ran right behind him,” said Byler.
Duhon finished with 142 yards rushing on just 13 carries (10.9 average). He was 5-for-10 passing for 138 yards. Duhon, who scored all four Patriot TDs, downplayed his individual effort, stressing that it was a “team win”.
“We prepared all week, and our word for the week was family,” he said. “We said, ‘Why not us?’ Everybody doubted us, playing the number-one team in the district. But, why not us?”
Byler said it came down to a good game plan and great execution.
“I think our linemen did a great job as well,” he said. “I mean, we punted one time. We just said, ‘Guys, trust the game plan.’ They did that.”
The Patriots had only three penalties in the game for 15 yards, compared to Patterson’s nine for 75 yards. Defensively, NV held the Lumberjacks to less that 100 yards rushing as a team until Patterson’s final scoring drive, bearing out the “execution” point Byler made.
The Patriots will next travel to face Franklin (2-2, 0-1) on Friday, Sept. 28, as they continue District 9-3A play.