Sports Editors Note: The Rosepine Eagles have drawn the No. 10 seed in this years LHSAA State playoffs and will host No. 23 Pine in the Bi-District round scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday night. Admission will be $8 a person with only LHSAA passes to be honored.
It was a game where every possession mattered.
And in the end, it was the Rosepine Eagles (6-4, 4-1) who held the ball last, with Jesse Fruge nailing a 27-yard field goal with 10 seconds remaining, to come back to defeat the Pickering Red Devils (6-4, 2-3), 32-30, in the annual Big Dog Jug Game, presented by City Savings Bank, Thursday night at McKee-McCain Stadium.
It's Rosepine's seventh straight Big Dog Jug win; the win also clinched a share of the District 3-2A title with Many (9-1, 4-1).
"What a high school football game," Rosepine head coach Danny Smith said. "Two teams that just played their hearts out."
"It was a great football game," Pickering head coach Johnny Cryer said. "It just wasn't meant to be tonight."
Both teams traded blows throughout the first three quarters, with the teams combining for just one punt — and that came at a crucial time for Pickering. After Stanley Hogan ran for his second touchdown of the game to make the score 30-29 Pickering, the Red Devils got the ball around their own 40 yard line with just under seven minutes left. But the Red Devils could not muster any offense on that drive and were forced to punt, giving the Eagles the ball with roughly five minutes left.
"If we got a couple of first downs, maybe we could have run the clock out," Cryer said.
Instead, it was the Eagles who were able to run the clock, thanks in part to some key third plays, including a 12 yard scamper by Eric Kyle and a 15 yard catch-and-run by Stanley Hogan. The Eagles were able to run the clock down to 10 seconds before Smith called a timeout to set up Fruge. Cryer countered with a timeout — twice — but Fruge still nailed a 27-yard field goal, his second of the game and third of the season — to give the Eagles a lead.
"We told our kids that we just have to make one more play," Smith said. "That's what we did."
The offense started early and often. Rosepine needed just five plays in the first quarter to score first, as Noah Martin ran for 24 yards to give the Eagles a 7-0 lead. On Pickering's ensuing drive, they were able to take the ball to the Rosepine 20, but then were forced into fourth down, where Latif Armiyaw hit a season-long 40 yard field goal to make it 7-3.
Page 2 of 3 - Rosepine's ensuing drive resulted in a Stanley Hogan touchdown, and the Eagles led 14-3 early in the second quarter and looked to be cruising. But that wasn't about to stop Pickering; on their next drive, Daveon Banks scored from one yard out to make the score 14-9; earlier on that drive, Banks made a highlight-reel catch, cradling a pass with one hand for a 27 yard gain.
Fruge would hit his first field goal of the game, from 21 yards out, to increase Rosepine's lead to eight. But that wouldn't stop the Red Devils either, as Garritt Collins and Banks led the Eagles down the field, and Banks caught a pass from 24 yards out to tie the game at 17 (after Collins' two-point conversion run).
In the third quarter, Pickering got the opening kickoff, and that drive led to a score, with Banks scoring from five yards out, his second rushing touchdown and third overall touchdown. Rosepine would counter, as Noah Martin, who had 135 yards, scored his touchdown of the game, and just like that, it was 23-23. That drive was highlighted by a key fourth-down conversion for Rosepine, where the Eagles set up to punt, but instead, the ball was snapped to Martin, and he completed a 10-yard pass to Cade Ledet for the first down.
In the fourth quarter, Banks would score again for Pickering, and Armiyaw nailed the PAT, making it 30-23. On the ensuing drive, Hogan scored his second touchdown, but Fruge missed the PAT, and it looked like Armiyaw's PAT might make the difference.
But that was before Fruge had a chance to redeem himself.
Smith said that he was elated about his team's share of the district title.
"If you had told me back in August (that we'd share the 3-2A title), I would have said, 'hey, I'll take it,'" he said. "When we got beat by Many, we told the kids, we control our own destiny. The road's not going to be easy. In this district, you have to come to play every week."
Banks led all rushers with 160 rushing yards and also had four catches for 72 yards. Collins also had 34 yards rushing and 112 yards passing for the Red Devils, and Dontay Hargrove had three catches for 32 yards.
In addition to Martin's 135 yards, Hogan had 130 rushing yards for Rosepine. Daniel Welborn had 33 rushing yards, and Kyle threw for 31 yards on three completions.
Cryer's squad is focused on the playoffs.
"Our goal from day one when I got here was playoffs, and we're in the playoffs," he said. "To win six games, after winning three in the last two years, is a credit to these kids, and the best is yet to come for Pickering High School. We've got some good athletes, kids learning how to win, and we're going to be a force to be reckoned with."
Page 3 of 3 - Both teams will wait the playoff selection show this evening in Baton Rouge; early projections show Rosepine as a 10 seed and hosting Pine (4-6, 2-5), while Pickering would fall to a 17 seed and travel to Springfield (5-5, 3-4). Both teams are out of District 7-2A.