ST. MARTINVILLE – Trailing by double digits with less than two minutes to play, Leesville needed a something special to happen to keep its season alive.
Nothing fell from the sky and a ball did not stick to the side of a helmet, rather, the Wampus Cats executed and hit home run plays to defeat St. Martinville 53-49 Friday night at St. Martinville High School.
Trailing 49-39 with 1:17 to play Leesville running back D'Ante Gallashaw ran it in from 10 yards out to make it 49-46 to give the Wampus Cats life.
With no time to have a defensive stand, Wampus Cat kicker Benjamin Ward delivered a perfect onside kick, which was recovered by Leesville with just over a minute to play.
Ward missed a PAT earlier in the game but came up two onside kicks that were recovered.
"Last week, he struggled a little bit, but this week, he rose to the occasion," Leesville head coach Robert Causey said about Ward. "That's the beauty of sports. You never get down on yourself because you always have another one. What a great lesson for him and for the others. If you ever have a bad week or a bad day, the sun is going to rise, and you're going to have another chance."
With 42 seconds left on the clock, quarterback Jacob Mount hit Noah Allain streaking up the middle of the field for a 22-yard touchdown to give the Wampus Cats the lead.
The defense held on in the final seconds, and the comeback was completed.
"That was such a good team we faced," Causey said. "That is the best team we've faced. I knew we were going to have trouble stopping them. They were so huge upfront, and those backs were so strong. We were right a lot of times, but we couldn't make plays because they were better than us. Our kids didn't flinch. We just needed we needed a couple of stops. We had to be aggressive and go with some onside kicks to steal a possession here or there. That's why you practice them.
"I'm just tickled to death for our community. We packed the house. Everybody got their $10 worth. It was just a great high school football game against a great opponent."
The win puts Leesville in the state quarterfinals for the first time since 1995, where they will take on No. 2 Warren Easton.
The Wampus Cats took an early 7-0 lead in the first quarter with a 5-yard touchdown run by Caleb Gallashaw following a Tiger fumble.
However, St. Martinville answered with a 9-yard touchdown by running back Travien Benjamin to make it 7-7.
Benjamin was an issue for the Wampus Cats, recording six total touchdowns for the Tigers - five rushing and one receiving – and 186 yards on 36 carries.
Benjamin punched in a 1-yard score on the next St. Martinville possession to put his squad up a touchdown, but Leesville tied it up on a 1-yard Mount run with 6:34 to go in the first half.
After another Benjamin touchdown, the Wampus Cats kept pace with a 3-yard touchdown run by Caleb Gallashaw with 2:02 to play.
St. Martinville quarterback Markavon Williams hit D'Aaron Marshall with a 3-yard score to take a 28-21 lead into the break.
The Tigers got the ball to start the half but were kept off the scoreboard for the first time since the opening drive.
"Defensively, we just couldn't get off the field," Causey said. "We just couldn't make plays. They even threw a perfect halfback pass. It was frustrated at times, but you have to keep plugging away."
A 3-and-out by the Wampus Cats led to a 10-yard touchdown by Benjamin to extend the St. Martinville lead to 35-21, but Caleb Gallashaw found the endzone for the third time to close the gap to one score.
After the missed PAT, the Wampus Cats recovered the onside kick and scored three plays later on a 27-yard touchdown throw from Mount to Duwon Tolbert to make it 35-33.
Mount was 7-for-12 for 105 yards, and Tolbert caught four passes for 59 yards.
Another Benjamin touchdown led to a 41-yard touchdown run by D'Ante Gallashaw on the next Leesville possession with 5:45 remaining in the game.
"We didn't give up," Gallashaw said. "We have a lot of faith in our team. I give it up to my o-line and my coaches.
"It feels good. We made history for our school. Everybody doubted us and took us out of the playoffs, but we're in the semifinals now."
D'Ante Gallashaw had a team-high 163 yards on 24 carries, while his brother, Caleb Gallashaw collected 46 yards on 10 carries.
"He's D'ante," Causey said. "That's what he does. He's a servant leader. He's a quiet guy, and he serves other. He just competes and does what he is supposed to do. He does it with such great effort."