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Special teams, defense carry Tarpons to win


GALLIANO — South Lafourche's Braxton Acosta was a one-man wrecking crew during the early minutes of Friday night's game against Westgate.

It didn't take long for Acosta to make an impact as he recovered a pooched kick on the opening kickoff. Acosta followed that with a blocked a punt on Westgate's first possession of the game and later recovered a fumble on the Tigers' second possession deep in their territory.

The Tarpons turned Acosta's plays into an early 10 point-lead and later held Westgate to just 58 total yards for the game.

In doing so, South Lafourche remained unbeaten on the season and in District 7-5A with a 24-7 victory at Ralph Pere Field at Tarpons Memorial Stadium.

Acosta said the plan was to start fast, and he and the Tarpons certainly did just that.

"We worked on (special teams), and we knew we wanted to put them in a hole quick. We worked on it all week, and my teammates just opened up lanes for me to make plays. The credit goes to my team," Acosta said. "We knew they were hungry, and they have athletes. They wanted a win just as bad as we did. They took it to us before, and we knew if we didn't put them down early, it was going to be a tough game. Even though we did jump out on them early, it was still a tough game through the fourth quarter."

The Tarpons (5-0 overall, 2-0 in district) started early when Acosta recovered the opening kickoff at the Tigers 31. Seven plays later, Cullen Matherne scored on a 3-yard run, and after Taylor Keller's extra point, it was 7-0 with 10 minutes left in the first quarter.

Acosta's next big play came on Westgate's first punt when he blocked it and Vince Liner recovered it at the Tigers 10. However, Westgate's defense stopped the Tarpons on a fourth-and-goal at the 1.

On the next play, Westgate's Trevonte Williams fumbled and Acosta recovered the ball at the 4. Once again Westgate held the Tarpons out of the end zone, but Keller made a 23-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead with 6:16 left in the first quarter.

Westgate never had much field position in the first half, and after punting from its end zone, South Lafourche took over at the Tigers 34 in the second quarter.

Seven plays later, quarterback Zach Fillinich scored on a 1-yard dive for a 17-0 Tarpons lead with 8:12 left before halftime.

The Tarpons held Westgate to a minus-32 yards in the first half.

South Lafourche coach Dennis Skains said his defense is starting to believe in the system and seeing results.

"We feel like we can have an advantage with our special teams. Our coaches are working hard on that, and it seems that we make plays in special teams each week," Skains said. "Our defense is starting to have a lot of pride in what they do. We've been working on it and we talked about the changes we needed to make. They take a lot of pride in running to the ball and we are getting better. We did make some mistakes but for the most part we are getting better. They are noticing their success and they are taking pride in that."

The Tarpons were without starting quarterback Colby Callais, who was out with an ankle injury and a staph infection, but Fillinich stepped in nicely completing 10-of-20 for 127 yards and no interceptions.

In the second half, Fillinich and running back Jake Williams (14 carries, 100 yards, TD) led the Tarpons (260 total yards, 14 first downs) on a drive that would extend the lead to 24-0.

After Williams ripped off a 20-yard run, Fillinich found Treavon Evans on a 27-yard pass play down to Westgate's 31. Two plays later, Williams scored on a 25-yard run with 11:15 left in the fourth quarter.

Westgate (0-6, 0-3) finally made something happen on offense when quarterback Aaron Bird connected with Byrick Broussard on a 53-yard pass play down the South Lafourche's 5. Three plays later, Williams scored on a 6-yard run for a 24-7 score with 9:39 left in the game.

Neither team threatened to score after that, but LSU commitment and Westgate offensive tackle Josh Boutte did draw the ire from the crowd as he was pancaking Tarpon players after the whistle. After two personal fouls against Boutte, the officials let the final 30 seconds run and ended the game.

Westgate coach Ryan Antoine said getting behind early due to the mistakes told the story.

"That was the game. That was the tale of the game. We didn't cover the ball, then the blocked punt, and then we fumble the ball. After that it was a battle," Antoine said. "We got a lot of young guys out there and they battled. We are just trying to get better, and I thought we did get better. We always seem to take two steps forward and 10 steps back, but that is just youth. Once we start learning from our mistakes, we will be better."