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The Louisiana Bulldogs broke out to a first-half lead and then held on for their initial win of the season at home against the Mark Twain Tigers on Friday, Sept. 20. The Bulldogs are now 1-3 on the year.
With 33 seconds to go in the game and the Tigers seemingly marching for a score, junior linebacker Dallas Castagna stripped the quarterback of the ball at the 25-yard line. Senior linebackers Tristan Castiglia and Austin Rule pounced on the pigskin to ice the 14-12 victory
“They kept playing hard and that was the key,” said Head Coach Greg Purdum about his first win at Louisiana. “I’m very proud of them. They’re getting better each week. The big play at the end was huge.”
The Bulldogs took advantage of two Mark Twain penalties as the game started and drove to the five-yard line with 3:22 to go in the first quarter. Junior running back Cody Brown ran it up the middle for a score at the 1:50 mark. Senior running back Brycen Cropp then missed the extra point.
Twenty seconds later, Louisiana got the ball back at the Mark Twain 29-yard line when junior defensive lineman Hank Calvin recovered a fumble.
Louisiana fumbled the ball right back to start the second half but the Tigers couldn’t respond on offense.
Mark Twain punted deep in their territory and junior wide receiver-kick returner Elijah Oblinger caught it with room to run. Oblinger found a hole on the left side, faked a defender and sprinted 45 yards to the Tigers three-yard line with 8:50 to go in the half.
Sophomore running back Lane Rule rambled in for a touchdown on the next play. At the time it didn’t seem significant, but Rule ran the two-point conversion in to make it 14-0 with 8:47 to go in the half.
After Louisiana turned the ball over on downs at the Mark Twain 48-yard line with 2:48 to go in the half, the Tigers marched right down the field. However, Oblinger intercepted a pass with an over-the-shoulder catch in the end zone with 13 seconds left to squash the drive.
The Bulldogs had confidence coming out for the second half, but with only 19 players dressed, Louisiana began to wear down as the two quarters progressed.
The Bulldogs fumbled it away to Mark Twain with 8:13 to go in the third quarter, but the Tigers couldn’t respond as Louisiana’s defense stiffened again.
Brown scampered for 35 yards to the Mark Twain 14-yard line with 4:07 to go in the third quarter, but Louisiana ended up turning it over on downs at the five-yard line at the 2:21 mark.
That’s when the Tigers got back in the ball game.
Taking advantage of the Bulldogs strong pass rush, the Tigers threw a screen pass to the left side that went 85 yards to the Louisiana 10-yard line.
On the next play with 27 seconds to go in the third quarter, Mark Twain’s Trey Arndt ran it in from the 10. The two-point conversion failed and it was 14-6.
Mark Twain recovered an onside kick with 23 seconds left in the third quarter but the Tigers’ first drive of the fourth quarter stalled.
Louisiana took over on downs at the Tigers 32-yard line after a bad punt snap at the 9:46 mark, but fumbled the ball right back.
Mark Twain drove to the Louisiana 34-yard line with 2:51 to go in the game. On a fourth down, Tigers tight end Dalton Hawkinson caught a long bomb from quarterback Ethan Mack for a 35-yard score.
With the fans screaming, the Bulldogs defense and stopped a two-point conversion sweep to the right at the half-yard line to make it 14-12.
Another Mark Twain onside kick was recovered this time by Louisiana. But the Bulldogs couldn’t make yardage and turned the ball over to Mark Twain on downs at the Tigers 44-yard line with 50 seconds to go.
Mark Twain then completed a long pass down the sideline and was knocking on the door at the Louisiana 21-yard line with 41 seconds left. That’s when the Louisiana defense forced the fumble and recovered to win.
Sophomore quarterback Zach Richardson had a tough game, with zero completions on four passing attempts and minus-one yard rushing on nine carries.
However, Richardson’s teammates picked him up with 231 yards rushing on 48 attempts for a 4.8 yards per carry average.
Lane Rule had 16 carries for 93 yards and Brown had 12 carries for 91 yards.
“Any time you have two backs with almost 100 yards apiece, you’re doing well,” Purdum said. “They’re learning to follow their blocks.”
Austin Rule added 35 yards on seven carries and Castagna ran four times for 13 yards.
Castiglia proved to be a monster on defense, with eight solo tackles and four for losses.
Lane Rule was credited with 6 1/2 tackles from his defensive backfield spot and Castagna had 5 1/2 tackles.
Austin Rule and senior defensive back Brycen Cropp both had 4 1/2 tackles. Junior defensive back Tyler Francis had four tackles.
Oblinger had three tackles, while Calvin had 2 1/2. Junior defensive lineman Ricky Love had 1 1/2 tackles, as did Brown. Sophomore defensive lineman Davin Lindsay had a tackle assist.
The Bulldogs are scheduled to play at home against the Palmyra Panthers at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 27.