Notes and quotes from Bastrop's 20-19 season-opening win over Carver:
Bastrop's defense has put its own spin on the turnover chain started by the Miami Hurricanes last season. An encased wrestling-style championship belt proclaiming the Rams as turnover champions was prominently displayed behind its bench for Friday night's season opener against Carver.
While the defense did not force a turnover in Bastrop's 20-19 over Carver, the unit was responsible for nine negative plays while holding the New Orleans Rams to 75 yards rushing on 30 carries.
Senior defensive end T.J. Blanch wreaked more than his share of the havoc. Starting and finishing the game with a flair, Blanch tackled the Carver punter at the 26 after a high punt snap to set up Bastrop's first touchdown and ended the game with an eight-yard sack.
By Blanch's unofficial count, which would appear to be accurate, he had five sacks, making good on a pregame prediction.
"T.J. came up to me before the game and said, 'I feel like I have five sacks in me tonight,'" Bastrop head coach Adrian Burnette said.
Blanch's sack on Carver's final offensive play all but sealed the outcome. Firing off the edge on fourth-and-four from the Bastrop 44, Blanch chased down quarterback Quincy Curry, turning the ball over to the offense with 25 seconds remaining.
"I was glad to get the sack because I don't think I had any more plays left in me," Blanch said.
It wasn't fun at the time, but all of the summer workouts suddenly seem worthwhile.
"Tonight was the result of giving 100 percent every day in practice," Blanch said. "We've been conditioning all summer. We put in a lot of hard work, a lot of blood, sweat and tears."
A first-team All-District linebacker last season, Blanch has moved permanently to the edge. Based on the first game, it would be hard to question the results.
"I like pass rushing," Blanch said. "I still drop back in pass coverage, but not very much. The defensive line is where it all starts. We hype up the whole defense."
Blanch has clearly taken on a more vocal role this season.
"I kept telling my teammates in the fourth quarter, 'Give it all you have,'" Blanch said.
Bastrop allowed only two defensive touchdowns Friday night. Carver's first score came off of a fumble return.
With the B-Rams up 20-13, the defense forced a three and out midway through the final quarter. However, a turnover on the punt gave the C-Rams a fresh set of downs at midfield. Carver scored four plays later, but a missed extra point left Bastrop clinging to a 1-point lead.
"It was heartbreaking because I don't like giving up touchdowns," Blanch said of Carver's fourth quarter score. "I don't want to give up even one touchdown."
Blanch would have preferred a more decisive victory, but realizes it can't always easy.
"I don't like close games, but going up against a good team like Carver, you have to fight until the end," Blanch said. "All the hard work we put in over the summer paid off."
Carver beat Bastrop twice last year in New Orleans — 20-12 in the season opener and 50-24 in the first round of the state playoffs.
"We started out 0-2 last year, so it's a great feeling to be 1-0," Blanch said.
IRON MAN: Bastrop senior wide receiver Christian Smith saw extensive action in the secondary Friday night.
"I was mainly out there in passing situations," Smith said of his defensive duty.
With Carver putting the ball in the air on 41 of its 70 offensive snaps, Smith was called upon frequently.
"I was tired coming off the field," Smith admitted after the game. "I have to get back in shape."
Don't be misled regarding Smith's conditioning. His postgame fatigue was the result of playing a high number of snaps on a hot and muggy night.
"We're in great condition," Smith said. "Coach Williams has made sure of that."
Playing the extra snaps on defense had minimal impact on Smith's offensive production. He caught three passes for 64 yards, including the Rams' first and final touchdowns.
Smith's 58-yard catch snapped a 13-13 tie with 8:59 remaining. With the Rams facing third-and-18, Smith slipped behind the Carver secondary unchecked.
"Coach AB told me to clear out," Smith said. "I ran behind Jordan Mansfield, and was wide open. Day Day (quarterback Quaterius Hawkins) gave me a good ball."
Smith said the Week 1 victory was especially sweet after starting and ending last season with losses to Carver.
"They beat us twice, and put 50 on us in the playoffs," Smith said. "This was a big game. We wanted to play hard and get our revenge on them."
Surprisingly, the Rams rushed for 208 yards while passing for only 20 against Carver.
Smith expects to see more production from the passing side.
"With A.J. Fenceroy, Jordan Mansfield, 'Big Body' (Calvert Johnson) and myself, we have the best receivers in the state, and the best quarterback in the state," said Smith, who has a scholarship offer from Arkansas State.
RUNNING GAME: After completing 15-of-23 passes for 190 yardsagainst Sterlington in the Bayou Jamb, Hawkins was just 8-of-21 for 120 yards vs. Carver.
"Kids are going to have their ups and downs," Burnette said. "There are going to be times where we don't throw well, there are going to be times where we don't run the ball as well and there are going to be times when we don't cover as well.
"That's where the team come — when something may not be right. The team picks you up when you're down."
On a night where the passing game wasn't clicking, the Rams rushed for 208 yards on 38 carries despite the absence of starting running back Kyrese Lawrence (injury). Clearing a path up front were Carterius Johnson, James Carter, Carter Ellison, Quandarious Rhodes and Terrion Morgan.
"This is the first time since Jerry Powell was here that we have been able to run the ball," Burnette said. "In the fourth quarter, when everybody was tired and everybody was cramping, we were still running the ball even though it was August 31st and it was hot."
Stepping in for Lawrence, Cartavious Allen carried 21 times for a team-high 94 yards.
"Even though he's a junior, this was the first time Cartavious Allen has really played major minutes and gotten major carries," Burnette said.
Allen's best run, an 18-yard gain after spinning away from a tackler, gave Bastrop a first-and-goal at the 5.
Earlier on the same drive, Hawkins converted a third-and-16 from the Bastrop 24 with a 37-yard keeper.
Although the Rams weren't able to put the game away on their final possessions, they ran nearly four minutes off the clock before turning the ball over on downs at the 1.
"Ironically, the biggest run of the night came from a guy you haven't seen run," Burnette said. "I keep telling (Hawkins) that's the aspect of his game that is going to flip this thing upside down. When he becomes a consistent threat to run the ball, we are going to be hard to deal with."
BIG HIT: Bastrop linebacker Robeyone Williams flipped a Carver receiver to force an incomplete pass early in the second quarter. Williams' hit dislodged the ball from the receiver, and Carver punted two plays later.
IN THE CROWD: Former Ram wide receiver Isaiah Graham watched the game from the sideline. Graham is sitting out the season after transferring from TCU to Louisiana Tech over the summer. ... Tech plays at South Alabama on Saturday night. ... Alex Washington, Bastrop's former offensive line coach (2015-16) attended the game. Washington is in his first season as Carroll's head coach. ... Members of the Class of 1988 attended the game as part of their 30-year class reunion activities.