DENHAM SPRINGS – Denham Springs football coach Bill Conides stood solemn at midfield, hands clasped behind his head watching the victorious team celebrate, singing the school’s alma mater with the band.
Conides needed every second to reflect on just what transpired, his team that a week ago had its heart ripped out is a mind-boggling 64-63 setback against Ponchatoula.
Through the first 32 minutes of Friday’s game, and with his team trailing by 16 points, Conides found out just how much grit and determination his team had, a group that reeled off 24 unanswered points over the last 13 minutes of play for a 37-29 victory over Fontainebleau.
“We were down and they weren’t fazed,” Conides said after commending his team’s character in its comeback. “They knew the mistakes they made and corrected them and came out and played very well.”
Besides what he termed a “hangover” associated with last week’s loss Denham Springs (2-1) overcame a litany of mistakes and stretch of 17 straight points from Fontainebleau (1-2) to persevere for the second straight year over the Bulldogs.
Not only did the Yellow Jackets fail to score from inside the 1-yard line before halftime, they suffered an early third-quarter safety during Fontainebleau’s scoring frenzy that reached 29-13 on Iverson Celestine’s 43-yard run at the 4:21 mark of the quarter.
Turns out Denham Springs was in the infancy stages of a comeback that was reminiscent of a week ago, this time with a happy ending.
“I’m just so proud of our guys,” said Denham Springs quarterback Luke Lunsford. “We never quit.
"I told the guys we’re going to have an opportunity to win this game and we’ve got to go do it. I knew our defense was going to get a stop. We just had to do what we do and that’s score.”
Lunsford, who completed 21 of 34 passes for 300 yards and 3 TDs, engineered three consecutive scoring drives that enabled DSHS to turn that 16-point deficit into an 8-point victory.
“Usually you don’t win games when those types of things happen,” Conides said. “It was nice we were able to overcome those mistakes.”
The Yellow Jackets scored on drives of 9 and 10 plays with Lunsford scoring on a 10-yard run with 1:02 left in the third quarter. He drew his team to within 29-27 at the 8:24 mark on a 27-yard swing pass to Kaleb Drummer, who cut inside of DJ Williams’ downfield block for the score.
The Yellow Jackets piled up 273 of their 452 yards in the second half with running back Treveon Muse leading the way with 133 yards on 24 carries.
Drummer led a balanced wide receiving corps with 7 catches for 126 yards and 2 TDs, while Brycen Longley added 6 grabs for 40 yards, Williams with 4 for 96 and a score, and Hunter Bond went 4 catches for 45 and a TD.
“I love this offense,” Lunsford said. “Coach Conides’ playbook is huge. I think we know how to run everything in it. It’s just awesome when things open up. We practice all week and it happens just like that in the game. It’s a great feeling.”
A week after yielding more than 700 yards, and allowing Celestine to rush 34 times for 297 yards and 2 TDs in the night's contest, Denham Springs’ defense rose to the occasion and got its offense the ball back for the go-ahead points.
The Yellow Jackets slowed down Celestine to the tune of 16 yards on 6 carries in the fourth quarter, and the Bulldogs gained only 16 yards on 14 plays on their last four series of the game.
Linebacker Brennan Leblanc came up with a key fumble recovery at the FHS 23-yard line with 5:42 remaining after DSHS had taken a 34-29 lead on Treveon Muse’s 12-yard run.
Conides was content to take time off the clock and set up place-kicker Jose Ortega for an insurance field goal, something the senior delivered with a 38-yarder with 3:18 showing.
“We tackled better,” Conides said of his second-half defensive effort. “We were able to make plays. In the first half those big plays they had was because we missed tackles. That’s something we’ve got to build on.”
DSHS made a bid for a tying touchdown right before halftime, perfectly utilizing all three of its timeouts on defense to give its offense the ball back at the Jackets 38-yard line with 1:48 remaining.
Williams’ 36-yard catch gave DSHS hope, reaching the Fontainebleau’s 21. Lunsford then looked underneath the Bulldogs coverage on third-and-5, finding Drummer who broke out of a tackle at the 15 and reached the 1-yard line with 32.8 seconds left.
However, that was as close as the Jackets could get. Longley was stopped for no gain on a pass completion and the after hurriedly lining up with the clock ticking under 10 seconds to go, the Jackets weren’t able to get another play off before the horn sounded, going into halftime facing a 12-6 deficit.
“In the locker room there was a lot of silence,” Lunsford said. “We had to find something to motivate us. The game’s not over. We have a whole half of football. We had to take the momentum back and came out and scored on the first drive. It was exactly what we needed to do.”
Denham Springs 37, Fontainebleau 29
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Fontainebleau 6 6 17 0 - 29
Denham Springs 6 0 14 17 - 37
FHS – Christopher Mastio 24 FG
FHS – Mastio 30 FG
DS – Hunter Bond 31 pass from Luke Lunsford (kick failed)
FHS – Iverson Celestine 50 run (run failed)
DS – DJ Williams 36 pass from Lunsford (Jose Ortega kick)
FHS – Jaden Davenport 4 run (Josh Bailey run)
FHS – Safety. Lunsford tackled in end zone
FHS – Celestine 43 run (Mastio kick)
DS – Lunsford 10 run (Ortega kick)
DS – Kaleb Drummer 27 pass from Lunsford (Ortega kick)
DS – Tre Muse 12 rub (Ortega kick)
DS – Ortega 38 FG
16 First Downs 22
45-324 Rushes-Yards 36-152
32 Passing Yards 300
5-14-0 C-A-I 21-34-0
6-39.3 Punts-Avg. 4-38.7
1-1 Fumbles-Lost 2-0
2-15 Penalties-Yards 6-30