Leesville is not taking it easy in its non-district schedule, and its Week 1 matchup with Jennings gave the Wampus Cats all they could handle.
Knotted up after regulation, the Wampus Cats scored on its first play of overtime and held Jennings scoreless to take home the 48-41 win.
"We're just so inexperienced, and it was one of those games where it started off bad, and we improved as it went along," Leesville head coach Robert Causey said. "The mistakes that were made early were fixed as the game went on. Our kids grew up last night. Every week is going to be a brawl like that. Our kids are resilient and never quit. We're never going to stop playing hard. That's indicative of our community and their spirit."
The Wampus Cats forced overtime with a 53-yard touchdown run by Caleb Gallashaw with 3:01 left in the fourth to tie it up at 41.
Leesville got the ball first in overtime, and quarterback Jacob Mount hit tight end Noah Allain for the 10-yard score.
"Offensively, we wanted to take what they give us," Causey said. "That's our mantra. We wanted to get the ball to our athletes and let them make plays. We started five offensive linemen that this was their first varsity football game they ever played. I'm not saying they played perfect, but considering the circumstances, those kids played lights out."
On the Jennings possession, a tackle for loss put the Bulldogs in fourth-and-long, and a sack by Tyler Javery on fourth down ended the game.
"He didn't even start the game, but he was a kid that rose up when it was time for him to stand up," Causey said.
Jennings led 27-13 midway through in the second quarter, but a pair of Leesville scores tied it up at the half.
"You just teach them that you're not going to quit," Causey said. "You try to design things in your offseason program to put kids under stress to teach them to be resilient. We've been fortunate to make some comebacks. I credit to what we've done over the last four years, and our kids believing in it. It makes you proud to see them fight through it, like a parent. You're proud to see your kids overcome stuff and be successful."
The Wampus Cats took the lead in third with a 60-yard touchdown pass from Mount to receiver Khrystian Hoffpauir, but Jennings retook the lead with a 1-yard touchdown run by Trevor Etienne with just under four minutes to go in the game.
"We handled the dive well, except one cutback," Causey said about his defensive scheme. "Our whole game plan was to take away the dive. We did that, other than two plays when they went big on us with some extra linemen. I can see why schools around the country are interested in (Etienne). He's a fast, thick kid. He's going to give people problems for the next three years."
The road doesn't get any easier for Leesville with Lake Charles College Prep coming to town, but Causey knows games like these need to be a successful program.
"There are no cupcakes on this schedule," he said. "Everyone loves to have them. Who doesn't love cupcakes? It is what it is. You can tell the success of your program but the quality of the teams on your schedule. We have a top team in Class 3A loaded with Division I talent – some of the best talent assembled in Lake Charles. They have a receiver with an offer from Miami, a running back with an offer from Kent State and a quarterback that is going to be recruited by everybody. They have 4.4, 4.5 speed everywhere, so our work is cut out for us. It's not what they do, but what we do. We have to get better at our fundamentals and try to eliminate the silly mistakes. You schedule teams like this to make you better at the end of the year."