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Late defensive stop preserves Ellender's win over Morgan City

Ellender running back Ralph Singleton (4) looks for a hole during Thursday's District 8-4A game against Morgan City. (Photo by Chris Heller/Staff)

BOURG — One play call can completely change the outcome of a game.

Ellender discovered just how meaningful one play call can be during Thursday's District 8-4A game against the Morgan City.

When Tigers quarterback Hoang Nguyen scored on a 8-yard touchdown run with a minute left to play in the game, it appeared as though the two scrappy teams would continue their duel into overtime.

But as the special teams unit for the Tigers came on to attempt the potential game-tying extra point, they abruptly audibled into a modified shotgun formation to try for the win.

Nguyen took the ball but failed to get a clean grip on the snap, just as the Patriots senior defensive tackle Justin James barreled through the line to knock Nguyen to the ground and preserve the 32-31 win for Ellender at South Terrebonne Memorial Stadium.

It was the first district win for Ellender (4-3 overall, 1-1 in 8-4A play) since 2008, which ironically came against Morgan City as well.

Tigers coach Brandon Nowlin stood by his decision to go for the win instead of kicking the tying extra point.

"If you make it you're a hero, if not you're the goat," Nowlin said of the call. "We don't play to tie, we play to win. It's something we kept in our back pocket; we thought we could get it."

For Ellender coach Terry Washington, the win pulled his team one step closer to their ultimate goal — postseason play.

"That was a gusty performance for Morgan City (Thursday night)," Washington said. "I have to give credit to my defense for keeping their composure and really clamping down.

"This is a signature win for us, if we can stay composed and win a couple more there is an opportunity there for us."

Early on, however, it appeared as though the Tigers would spoil the Patriots' Homecoming night as Morgan City opened with a 17-point lead.

After an Ellender fumble on the opening drive was returned to the Patriots' 16-yard line by Trent Thomas, Morgan City's offense struck first when Keyvan Marsh (14 carries, 35 yards, one touchdown) scored on a 3-yard touchdown run to put the Tigers (4-2 overall, 0-1 in district) ahead 7-0 with 8:48 to play in the opening quarter.

Another Patriot turnover, this time an interception by Tiger defensive back Brett LeBouef, was returned 49 yards to the Ellender 5-yard line. However, the Patriots defense held and the Tigers settled for a 27-yard Flores Serize field goal with 6:16 to play to increase their lead 10-0.

The Tigers added another score in the quarter after blocking a Patriot punt. Thomas scooped up the ball and returned it to the Patriots' 11.

Two plays later following a false start penalty, Jacolbi Francis (12 carries, 32 yards, one touchdown) scored from 16 yards out to put Morgan City ahead 17-0.

Ellender answered on the ensuing kickoff with a 95-yard touchdown by Kevin Lucien with 4:18 to play in the first quarter to cut the Tigers lead to 17-6 following a failed extra point.

After recovering a Morgan City fumble, the Patriots inched even closer with another score at the 8:24 mark of the second quarter.

Patriots quarterback Dustin Creppel (18-for-32, 271 yards three touchdowns, two interceptions) found Dan Mitchell from 12 yards out to make the score 17-12.

Creppel followed that with a 58-yard touchdown strike to Lucien (three catches, 88 yards, one touchdown) on the Patriots next possession to give Ellender its first lead, 18-17, with 6:08 to play in the second quarter.

The Tigers added a score with 48 seconds to play in the first half when Nguyen (11-for-19, one touchdown) connected with Travion Jones (three catches, 22 yards, one touchdown) on a 10-yard touchdown pass, to put Morgan City ahead 25-18.

Ralph Singleton (82 yards rushing, two touchdowns; 58 yards receiving) accounted for all the Patriots scoring in the second half, finding the end zone from two yards out with 2:02 to play in the third quarter to cut Morgan City's lead to 25-24.

Singleton's second touchdown, and the ultimate game winner, came on a fourth-and-goal from the Tigers' 3. Singleton ran in unscathed prior to the successful two-point conversion attempt to put Ellender ahead 32-25 with 7:53 to play in the game, leading up to the dramatic finish.

"This is a team victory," Singleton said of the win. "Everyone did their part (Thursday night). We worked hard all week and knew what we had to do. We came out and showed not to count us out."

The Patriots out-gained the Tigers, 387-254, in total yards. Travion Jones led the Tigers with 108 yards on four catches.