One win away from history.
The Byrd Yellowjackets did just enough to win the LHSAA Division I state championship Thursday night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Unfortunately for the title-starved city of Byrd, the Rummel Raiders did more than enough to earn the 23-22 win.
Mike Suggs, coaching in his first state title game of a successful 25 year career had the defending 5A champion Raiders on the ropes heading into the locker room.
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Byrd used a bolt of lightning from Dominic Haggerty to initially light up the scoreboard. Haggerty took a handoff from Tyler Howard on the game's third play and blasted past all Rummel pursuers en route to a 73 yard score to bring the vocal Byrd crowd to it's feet.
A slice of the electricity faded with a missed extra point, an unfortunate problem that reared it's head in the second quarter as well.
Rummel wasted little time in slipping ahead 7-6 on a Kristian Fulton 2 yard score that wrapped up a blistering opening drive that covered 80 yards in 8 plays over a brisk 3:25.
Byrd's Kirkland McCulloch played MVP-type defense, none more so than when he read Chase Fourcade's attempted screen pass like a weekly reader, taking the offering and hauling it 35 yards for a Jackets touchdown to give the first Shreveport public school to play for a title in 40 years a 12-7 lead.
When Howard barreled in to bring the first half scoring to a close, giving Byrd a 19-10 lead; the Jackets were 24 minutes of football away from their first state title since 1949.
Less than a minute into the third quarter, Fourcade, the nephew of former Ole Miss and New Orleans Saints quarterback John Fourcade, hit speedy flanker Steven Dunbar for an 86 yard strike to hustle the Raiders back within a score of taking the lead.
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Rummel's defense obviously spent the halftime break dissecting the Byrd attack. In the second half, Byrd only managed 57 yards of total offense compared to the 181 piled up in the opening two quarters. The Jackets only points produced came off the toe of Jake Wyss on a 41-yard field goal that boosted the lead from a three point advantage to a 22-16 spread.
Byrd and Rummel shared equally in near misses and almost-hits throughout the game, but the one play that most likely will stick in Jackets fans' craw for some time is the 22-yard touchdown run from Ivan Phipps. Phipps lost the ball out of bounds immediately as he crossed the goal line. If the referee nearest the play signaled a touchback and awarded the ball to Byrd, you could make the argument--after watching the replay--that it should have been a touchdown. Unfortunately for Byrd, the official signaled touchdown---and that replay could have been interpreted as a fumble just as easily as a point-producer for Rummel. the all-important extra point sailed through the uprights to give Rummel the 23-22 lead.
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Both teams traded opportunities in the fourth quarter before Byrd had one last shot. Taking over at their own 28 yard line with 1:22 to play and out of timeouts, the Jackets were never able to mount a threat, with the game ending on a sack of Howard.
Afterward, Head Coach Mike Suggs and his Jackets discussed the one that got away.