Grand Lake victory ends historic season for East Iberville
The Class 1A semifinal battle between East Iberville and Grand Lake had all the makings of a classic battle even before game began.
The showdown featured an EIHS squad that had never been to the semifinals in the history of the school. Grand Lake came to St. Gabriel with something to uplift a community that battled not only a pandemic, but two devastating hurricanes.
On the field, it was a battle for pride that ultimately amounted to who would control possession in the final minutes of the game. Unfortunately for East Iberville, that distinction went to Grand Lake, which held tight to possession the last four minutes for a 13-8 win that closed the book on the best season in EIHS history.
The game did not deliver the outcome head coach Justin Joseph and his Tigers wanted, but Joseph believes it lived up to the pregame hype.
“When you think of semifinals, that’s the game you’re supposed to get,” he said. “You have to be prepared to fight, and that’s what both teams did in that game.”
The first half figured as a sparring battle in which neither squad could gain any significant momentum.
The Tigers and Hornets each had three possessions in the first half, but neither could put points on the board.
EIHS finished the first half with 70 yards, but it amounted to 35 yards after loss of yards on two plays. Grand Lake mustered only 28 yards in the first half.
The Hornets snatched the ball from Sklyar Jones on the first Tiger possession of the second half, which opened the gate for Grand Lake tally 64 yards off 10 plays. A 15-yard scamper ended the long drive for a touchdown with just over a minute left in the third quarter.
It did not faze East Iberville, which responded with an 85-yard touchdown run by Jaden Williams less than a minute later. He staved off two runners at midfield and went into the clear opening for the TD at the 1:20 mark in the third quarter.
Quarterback Roderique Valentine ran a keeper for the 2-point conversion that put the Tigers ahead 8-7 at the end of the third quarter.
The tide shifted back to Grand Lake when a 1-yard sneak by Connor Guillotte put the Hornets ahead 13-8 with 8:33 remaining in the game.
A missed kickoff and a penalty started Grand Lake’s winning drive at the East Iberville 30, but the Tigers made the Hornet 21 before the visitors stopped EIHS one a fourth-and-2 with just over four minutes remaining.
Clock management on offense allowed Grand Lake to punch its ticket to the Class 1A state title game without East Iberville regaining possession.
“I think all things considered, with the flow of the game, we were stocked offensively, made some plays and just came down to the wire, but we had one turnover and they didn’t,” Joseph said. “That’s what made the difference.”
Third-seeded Grand Lake (7-2) will tangle with top-seeded Oak Grove in the Class 1A title game during the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Prep Classic Monday, Dec. 28 in Natchitoches.