The Leesville Wampus Cats ended their 2023 regular season with a District 3-4A championship and a first-round home playoff game against 3-7 St. Martinville. What they got for their season’s labors was a date with a team ranked #26 but with the ability of a much higher-ranked team. The resulting 46-40 St. Martinville victory surprised the Leesville crowd and left them wondering what had just happened!
Leesville took the opening kickoff and scored in less than two minutes when Xavier Ford raced in from 45 yards out for a 6-0 lead. Ford continued his outstanding late season form, rushing for 291 yards and 5 TDs on a whopping 54 carries.
The trouble for Leesville was Tigers’ running back Stephen Blanco who led his team with 244 yards rushing and four touchdowns (2-53-9-20). He also returned the opening kickoff of the second half for a 75-yard score.
Just as quickly as Leesville scored, the Tigers struck twice in a hurry for a 14-6 lead. Blanco went in from one yard, and QB Kaiden Zenon added a one-yard score before Leesville could adjust. The Tigers opened the second quarter with a 54-yard TD run from Blanco for a 20-12 lead. The Wampus Cats hit back with an 11-yard scoring pass from Corbitt Robbins to Isaiah Farley and a 60-yard blast from Ford. St. Martinville answered the call with Blanco, who plunged for a one-yard score and dashed for another from 20 yards out before halftime. The Tiger defense held Leesville on four straight plays from inside the three-yard line to finish the first half with a 34-26 lead.
Following Blanco’s 75-yard kickoff return to start the second half, St. Martinville was up 40-26. The teams traded scores to close out the third quarter. Leesville scored with 12 minutes to play in the game on a two-yard run by Ford. Robbins hit Farley with the two-point conversion pass to make it 46-40.
The Leesville defense kept St. Martinville out of the end zone in the fourth quarter, and when Farley intercepted a pass thwarting a Tiger drive at the LHS eight-yard line, the Cats were back in business. They drove to the Tiger eight-yard line before being stopped by yet another goal-line stand. The Leesville defense forced a three-and-out, and with fourteen seconds to play Leesville got the ball back for two plays. The game ended with a lateral play that was snuffed out to end the contest.
The 46-40 loss ended another monster year for junior All-State RB Xavier Ford. He finishes his third year at LHS with over 2400 yards rushing and 32 scores, moving into second place on the all-time LHS rushing list behind Cecil Collins, the 1996 Louisiana Mr. Football. Wide receiver Isaiah Farley set the new single season receiving record for LHS with 58 receptions this season to go along with 15 TDs. QB Corbitt Robbins finishes the 2023 campaign with over 1400 yards passing, 13 TDs, and only five interceptions.
St. Martinville advances to the regional round of the Division II non-select playoffs and will host #10 Jennings on Friday night. The DeRidder Dragons are also alive in the playoffs as they travel Friday to face #1 North Desoto.
FOR STAT LOVERS
Leesville missed two PAT kicks. Leesville was two out of four on 2 pt. conversion tries. Leesville left six points off the board on special teams — the exact margin of the loss!