Walking to the Ram Stadium fieldhouse following Bastrop's 45-30 victory over Calvary Baptist, Donald Peoples and I delved into our postgame analysis.
Ultimately, we agreed to disagree on the key play of the game.
Peoples, a veteran of the BHS chain crew, saw the Rams' goal line stand midway through the fourth quarter as the turning point. Trailing 38-30, Calvary was unable to convert a first-and-goal from the 5 with an opportunity to set up a potential game-tying 2-point try. Bastrop eventually took over on downs at their own 2 and marched 98 yards for the decisive score.
In my opinion, the biggest play of the game occurred in the final seconds of the first half.
Sir'Quan Hawkins' 35-yard TD grab put the Rams up 32-27, 37 seconds away from the pause.
Moments later, a 47-yard pass play had Calvary knocking on the door at the 18. Bastrop linebacker T.J. Blanch then recognized the Cavaliers' attempt to set up a screen pass and made the interception to protect the 5-point halftime lead.
Here's why I say Blanch's pick was the pivotal play of the game:
(1) If Calvary goes on to score, it changes the entire complexion of the ballgame. A touchdown enables the Cavaliers to go up at halftime and receive the second half kickoff with an opportunity to take a two-possession lead.
(2) From a psychological standpoint, the Rams allowed touchdowns late in the first half of their previous two outings — losses to Carver and Airline. In Week 2 vs. Airline, the Rams held a 12-0 lead with the ball in Vikings' territory with two minutes to play in the half. An interception and a fumbled kickoff later, the Rams give up two scores, including one with one second on the clock. Rather than possibly carrying a three-touchdown lead into the half, the Rams found themselves trailing 13-12. I'm not sure Bastrop is able to regain the momentum if they yield another go-ahead score right before recess.
Bastrop coach Adrian Burnette offered a third view on the play (sequence of plays in this case) of the game.
With Bastrop still leading 32-27 midway through the third quarter, a low punt snap gave the Cavaliers a first-and-goal at the 9. Instead of giving up what appeared to be a sure touchdown, the Rams held Calvary to a field goal to preserve the lead.
Three people, three opinions.
What makes the varying viewpoints significant is that all three of us pointed to defensive stops. After seeing Bastrop come out on the losing end of so many wild, high-scoring affairs over the years (Here are a few that come to mind: Livonia 50, Bastrop 41, 2016; Parkway 57, Bastrop 56, 2015; Pearl, Miss. 69, Bastrop 54, 2014; Parkway 79, Bastrop 56, 2013), it was refreshing to see the defense dictate the outcome in the second half.
ACTION JACKSON: Bastrop's big defensive plays weren't limited to the three plays just mentioned.
Shortly after Seth Stevens' field goal cut the Bastrop lead to 32-30, Calvary took over at its own 30 after a punt.
Three plays later, strong safety Phillip Jackson's 46-yard interception return upped the spread to 38-30. Jackson, who has picked off a pass in all three games, also recovered a fumble for a scoop and score in Week 2 vs. Airline. And he's done it all while playing on a bad ankle.
"Phillip Jackson continues to be the best football player on the team," Burnette said. "He's playing 60 percent at best. He comes in at halftime barely able to walk. We're trying to find a way to give him a break, and he gets a pick and takes it to the house on a bum ankle.
"He's not our best athlete, he's not our best defensive back, but he's our best football player as far as knowledge of the game and knowing where he's supposed to be."
"He's our Honey Badger," Burnette added, making a reference to former LSU and current Arizona Cardinals' safety Tyran Mathieu.
LIGHTS OUT: After struggling through the first six quarters of the season, junior quarterback Quaterious Hawkins followed up a strong second half against Airline with a stellar outing against Calvary. Hawkins completed 22-of-31 attempts for 387 yards while distributing the ball to five different receivers.
"Quaterious Hawkins played lights out tonight," Burnette said. "I have said over and over and over, if he plays lights out, we're going to be hard to deal with."
Hawkins, who has shown a reluctance to run, clinched the outcome by scoring on a 7-yard keeper. His coach was as surprised as the Cavaliers' defense to see him take off.
"Ironically, he has not run the ball in two years, and for the victory, he scrambles for a touchdown," Burnette said.
Burnette was ecstatic to see Hawkins assert himself on the final drive, not just the final play.
With Bastrop taking over underneath its own goal post after the fourth quarter defensive stand, Hawkins immediately got the Rams out of the hole with a 44-yard pass to Calvert Johnson to start a 10-play, 98-yard drive.
"We're in a running situation, and he throws a 40-yard bomb exactly how it's supposed to be thrown," Burnette said. "For the victory, Quaterious drives us 98 yards with it all on the line and converts on fourth down."
O-LINE: Besides not throwing a pick, Hawkins wasn't sacked. Noray Robinson, Maleek Mays, Carter Ellison, James Carter and Chancelor Johnson kept their quarterback clean.
Bastrop finished with 473 yards of total offense (387 passing, 86 rushing).
DELTA NIGHT: Friday night's game was dedicated to the alumni of Delta High School, which consolidated with Bastrop in 2006.
Coach Jesse Burnette (Adrian Burnette's father) and members of the Mustangs' 1994-95 Class 2A state championship basketball team were recognized at halftime.
The tailgating area was a sea of red as the Delta alumni cooked, visited and watched the game.
"The tailgating area was packed to the brim," Adrian Burnette said. "What I'm hoping is that this will lead to the Delta alumni collaborating with the Bastrop High graduates, so we can be one big family."
Members of the Delta Junior High football team also attended the game.