It always means a little more when it is your old school.
Brian Broussard guided his Livingston Lions (2-2, 1-1) to victory in a 32-28 thriller Friday night over the Raiders of Lumberton (1-3, 0-2). A fourth quarter full of momentum shifts kept the game’s fate in question until the final three seconds.
Broussard, a Lumberton grad, had a visible look of relief after the contest.
“The most impressive thing for me tonight was that our kids battled,” the head coach said. “There was some adversity and the old Livingston would have given up after that. They didn’t. They fought and they played for four quarters. We turned a corner there and we made huge strides because of that.”
In the fourth quarter, the Lions held a 25-14 advantage with just under 10 minutes to play. Livingston held possession after an interception by Adam Belknap. An interception and two consecutive three-and-outs were filled with passes that stopped the clock and kept Lumberton hopeful.
“We weren’t able to run the ball,” Broussard said. “When we were trying to run, we were losing two or three yards a pop. We thought if we could hit them and they were open, it would be a different ballgame. Yeah, we wanted to run the clock, but we got into a couple of penalties and it forced us to throw the ball. We had a lot of silly penalties here at the end and we made some mistakes. We need to clean that up. We didn’t necessarily want to (throw), we wanted to run the ball — definitely.”
Kain Dear (10 carries, 93 yards, TD), a Raider weapon that had been silent most of the night, took a quarterback keeper 50 yards downfield on fourth down, setting up first and goal at the Lion six. Two plays later, he crossed the goal line from two yards out. A missed two-point conversion kept the Lions up, 25-20.
On the next Lumberton drive, fourth down was again costly. Tailback Keaton Upshaw (13 carries, 116 yards, TD) took a direct snap 45 yards down the sideline to put the Raiders in front. A two-point conversion made it a field goal difference at 28-25, with just 1:49 remaining.
Two touchdowns had taken the air out of the Lion sidelines. Setting up at the 33-yard line after kickoff, quarterback Cameron Merchant (12-26, 240 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs) could not find an open receiver and collected four yards on the ground. On second down, Christian Mitchell — as he has on many occasions this year — outran his coverage. The rainbow toss fell into Mitchell’s (6 catches, 163 yards, 2 TDs) hands, as Lion Stadium erupted. The speedster would not be caught. Tacking on the extra point, the 63-yard pass placed Livingston in front 32-28.
“We thought we were going to have to throw the ball on them because of what they do (loading the box), Broussard said. “We were able to run the ball effectively early, which opened the passing game up. Christian got open a few times and I thought the offensive line played the best game they’ve played all year. They kept (Merchant) pretty clean for the most part and I was extremely excited about that. The defense played lights out; I thought they played phenomenal.”
There was still a matter of stopping the Lumberton offense, however.
A good return put the Raiders at their own 43. Penalties and the sudden emergence of Dear had Lumberton threatening deep in Livingston territory in just three plays. A defensive stand from the Lion 18 with just 15 seconds left saw a pass tipped and nearly intercepted on third down. On fourth, Remington Boykin took the snap, but threw incomplete to seal the home victory.
“I thought this was maybe our best work week of the year in practice,” Broussard said. “We prepared the way we always do, but it was just a more focused film session throughout the week. We knew what they were capable of doing and what they have done. I’m very proud of our guys and the way they performed.”
A defensive struggle quickly turned near the end of the first quarter, as the Raiders were first on the board. Driving 71 yards on eight plays, the snap went to tailback Josh Ward for a four-yard plunge.
Two possessions later, the Lions broke the zero after recovering a fumble on the Raider 16. In just one play, Hunter Bland (18 carries, 80 yards, 3 TDs) took a counter 16 yards to the pylon. A missed extra point had Livingston down one with 8:00 showing on the second-quarter clock.
Lumberton would extend the advantage, as quarterback Brett Marcentel (13 carries, 121 yards) was responsible for the majority of a 65-yard possession. He was able to cap the journey by taking a snap in for the final five yards, putting the Raiders up, 14-6.
A fumble would again set up the Lions, who again struck on one play. This time, the Lions would air it out from 72 yards away, as Mitchell got behind the secondary to haul in a Merchant bomb. The defense, playing man defense without a high safety, could not recover after losing the speedy wide out. Merchant failed to cross the plane on the two-point conversion, giving the teams a safety difference at the break for bands.
The Livingston defense held Lumberton to eight plays with two turnovers on downs. Meanwhile, the Livingston offense went to work. A 13-play, 76-yard drive ended in a Bland score from one yard out. It would eat over four minutes of game clock and set up the next opportunity.
Putting together strong consecutive possessions, the Lions would go 57 yards in eight plays to finish out the third quarter. They would score five seconds into the fourth, with Bland again getting in from one yard, this time on fourth down.
“I told them (after the game) that I was proud of them and to enjoy it. It is nothing but positive,” Broussard said. “We have Port Neches-Groves next week in Port Neches. They are going to be tough, but I told our kids last week when Lumberton played them, that (Lumberton) lost, 34-14. There was six minutes left in the game when they were down by seven. If our kids fight like this, I think we can compete with anybody in our district.”