WATSON – Live Oak coach Brett Beard decided to roll the dice and it paid off.
The Eagles had just scored on their first possession after halftime to take a 21-14 lead over Ponchatoula, running the ball seven times before Rhett Rosevear hit Trennon O’Quin on a 25-yard play action pass. With a kicker battling a foot problem and a defense doing an excellent job of containing the Green Wave offense, Beard elected to go an onside kick.
Live Oak recovered the ball at midfield and two plays later Hagen Long ripped off a 31-yard touchdown run up the middle to cap a 14-point swing Friday and give the Eagles a 28-14 lead en route to defeating Ponchatoula, 35-14, in the season opener for both teams.
“Going into halftime, we knew we had to create a little momentum,” Beard said. “We weren’t giving them momentum; we just weren’t finishing drives and kind of hit a little stall. With our kicker (Cole Crenshaw) being hurt, all he could really do was kick a sky kick or take a shot.
“I talked to the defensive coordinator (Brian Smith) and I said ‘hey man, I’m going to take a shot,” Beard said. ‘I’m going to trade 20 yards, either you’re going to get it on the 30 with a sky kick or the 50 with an onside kick. You good with that?’ He said, ‘I think so’ and I said, ‘Well let’s roll.’”
Said Live Oak defensive lineman Jalen Lee, an LSU commitment, “The sideline just went crazy. “It was a trust thing. (The coaches) trust us to go out there and get the ball back (if they failed to recover the kick).”
Beard’s confidence in his defense was justified. The Eagles (1-0), to that point had nearly shut down the Green Wave offense led by LSU commitment TJ Finley.
Live Oak held Ponchatoula (0-1) to 147 yards of total offense - 48 rushing and 99 passing on 10-of-27 passing.
Counting sacks and penalties, the Green Wave finished with just a net yardage of 119 yards and scored one touchdown from scrimmage on Braydon Johnson’s 29-yard run in the second quarter Elijah Winters’s 76-yard punt return.
Live Oak’s defensive line was disruptive early and often, effectively forcing Finley out of the pocket. It wasn’t just Lee getting pressure on Finley, as nearly every member of the defensive line and linebacking corps ended with a sack or pressure of their own.
“Our coaches always preach that the best coverage is getting pressure on the quarterback and making him throw it quick,” Lee said. “We did that tonight.”
Live Oak rushed 47 times for 246 yards, bolstered by Long’s 140 yards on 17 touches (8.2 yards per rush) that included a 56-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Kee Hawkins provided an additional 65 yards on 23 rushes (2.83 average) and the first two touchdowns on a pair of one-yard runs.
Quarterback Rhett Rosevear finished 9-of-14 for 125 with a touchdown and two interceptions. He engineered an opening scoring drive – 16 plays, 82 yards taking eight-plus minutes off the clock
The Eagles opened the game with a statement 16-play, 82-yard drive that took eight-plus off the clock with Hawkins scoring from a yard out.
Live Oak 35, Ponchatoula 14
Score by Quarters
Ponchatoula - 7 7 0 0 14
Live Oak - 7 7 14 7 35
LOHS: Kee Hawkins 1 run (Cole Crenshaw kick)
PHS: Elijah Winters 76 punt return (Jake Leitz kick)
PHS: Braydon Johnson 27 run (Leitz kick)
LOHS: Hawkins 1 run (Crenshaw kick)
LOHS: Rhett Rosevear 25 pass to Trennon O’Quin (Crenshaw kick)
LPHS: Hagen Long 31 run (Crenshaw kick)
LOHS: Long 56 run (Crenshaw kick)
First Downs 4 12
Rushes –Yards 8–48 47– 246
Passing Yards 99 125
C–A–I 10–27–2 9–14–2
Punts-Avg. 5–35.4 5-36.4
Fumbles Lost 1 0
Penalties–Yards 3–35 3–30