VILLE PLATTE -- The Ville Platte Bulldogs rebounded from last week’s tough Tee-Cotton Bowl loss with a huge win against cross-parish rival, Pine Prairie, 28-13. Although it is only the second game of the season, it was almost a make-or-break win for the Bulldogs.
“This was a must-win game,” admitted a happy Jorie Randle, Ville Platte’s head coach. “With the district we play in (Welsh, Kinder, Notre Dame), early season wins are everything. We believe that we can make the playoffs, but in order to do so, we need to win a few of our non-district contests.”
Next week, Ville Platte travels out-of-town for the first time this season, going to Lake Charles to tangle with Washington-Marion.
Pine Prairie falls to 0-2 on the year and must travel to Beau Chene on Friday.
There were several important story lines as the Bulldog-Panther game developed, starting with a spotlight thrust upon junior back-up quarterback, Terrian Roy.
On Wednesday, Roy found out that he was going to replace 4-year starter Brandon “BJ” Veazie. The senior is suspended indefinitely for violating LSHAA regulations.
Roy, who normally is a defensive back, grew into the role as the game developed. He threw two touchdowns on 9-of-10 passing, and he ran for a scrambling, tackle-breaking score.
“Kudos to Terrian,” praised Jorie Randle. “Before the game, he was nervous. I was nervous for him. But, he really stepped it up and did a great job. He settled down and played better and better as the game went on. He’s a great athlete, and now he’s got to drive the car.”
The other story line was the Bulldog defense against senior Panther running back Jerrod “JJ” Simms, who rushed for over 1,500 yards last season. Simms ran for 185 yards in a loss to Tioga last week.
As the game played out, Simms ended up with 103 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries. However, for the most part, the Bulldog defense, anchored by senior Travian Ardoin, kept his gains from being dangerous.
“Let me give a shout out to Coach David Barham, our new defensive coordinator,” Randle said. “I credit him for our boost in general to our defense. He came in with a fresh set of eyeballs, able to assess our talent pool in a new way. He saw things in our players from a different perspective. He really was able to instill confidence in our unit.”
Meanwhile, Bulldog tailback – and Tee Cotton Bowl MVP – Jamal Byers showed Simms wasn’t the only running back who can pile up triple-digit yards. The junior bested Simms, going for 116 yards, a touchdown, and a two point-conversion on just 23 carries.
A last major story line involved two Panther touchdowns that were annulled by the referees, one of which in obvious error.
Down by just two touchdowns with more than 15 minutes to play, Pine Prairie pinned Ville Platte back on its five-yard line after a great punt. Two plays later, Roy and Byers miss-connected on a backwards pass in the end zone.
Byers couldn’t see the ball due to shadows in the end zone and a visor that was getting fogged in the humidity, and he missed the pass.
The ball was clearly thrown behind the line of scrimmage. When it fell to the ground, a Panther defender recovered it in the end zone, for an apparent touchdown. It would have cut the lead down to just one more score.
However, the sideline referee blew the play dead, signaling an incomplete pass as the play was in action, nullifying the Panther score. The Pine Prairie sideline was incensed. The head official ruled that the whistle was inadvertent, and the Bulldogs were able to replay the down.
Although Ville Platte was later forced to punt, it clearly benefited from a blown call.
“That was an unfortunate call,” Randle admitted. “I’ve been on the other side of that kind of call. It should have been a touchdown.”
The other call came a little earlier in the game, this time on a 40 yard apparent touchdown reception by Simms that was waived off for offensive pass holding. Although the play happened on the far side of the field from the Panther bench, they were certain the call was wrong.
After the game Panther head coach Yves Prince was calm and reflective about the officiating.
“It’s just a bad call,” Prince judged. “We had two touchdowns called back. The game should have been tied going into the fourth quarter. But, I don’t blame officials for losses. It was a tough call, and we’ll just have to take the loss. That’s life. We can’t control the calls. We can only control what we do on the field.”
Friday evening’s game started with a scoreless first quarter, and the line of scrimmage staying near midfield. The Panthers took the lead in the second quarter with a big defensive hit and a heads-up fumble recovery.
Panther defender Kyler Carson jammed Byers, who had broken for a long run, knocking the ball loose. Simms, who also plays defense for Pine Prairie, scooped up the ball on the hop, returning it more than 30-yards down to the Bulldog 16-yardline.
Four plays later, Simms dragged a couple of Bulldog defenders across the goal line for a touchdown. Place kicker and lineman Landon Johnson nailed the extra-point, giving the Panthers a 7-0 lead.
Ville Platte changed up its offense at that point, trusting Roy to make plays through the air. And the junior signal caller responded.
Roy went 6-for-6 the rest of the quarter for 79 yards, including a 21-yard pass to junior receiver Tyler Jones.
Roy would score with 1:32 to play in the half on a beautiful keeper down the right side of the field. On the 27-yard run, Roy made a couple of jukes, breaking tackles before scampering into the end zone.
The Bulldogs missed the point-after-try and trailed 7-6, but things looked positive for the ’Dogs. The defense seemed to be in control of the line of scrimmage, Simms was looking fatigued, and Roy was gaining confidence, relieving Byers from having to carry the offense by himself.
The Panthers opened the second half with a thin lead. Initially, Simms seemed to have found a second-wind, taking Pine down to the Bulldog 25-yard line. But a fumble on the snap turned the ball over to Ville Platte.
The opportunistic ’Dogs immediately turned the turnover into points. On the next play, Roy hit Byers on a swing pass to the left side. Byers broke a couple of tackles and went 75 yards to pay dirt. He even scored the two-point conversion, putting Vile Platte up 14-7.
Pine Prairie fumbled again on the snap of their very next play. Ville Platte recovered again.
This time, it took the ’Dogs five plays to score, with Roy on the sideline nursing a cramp. Byers lined-up in the Wildcat, scoring on an 11-yard run. However, the two-point play failed, leaving Ville Platte up 20-7.
Over the next three minutes, the quarter changed, and Pine Prairie felt itself victimized by the two officiating calls.
Ville Platte appeared to play more conservatively on offense as time wound down in the fourth quarter. A fumble recovery, however, gave Ville Platte good field position and an opportunity to play more aggressively.
Facing third-and-17, Roy hit split end Ernest Roberts, Jr., who caught the ball at the line of scrimmage. With just the cornerback in front of him, Roberts stiff armed the tackle and raced 60 yards down the sideline for a touchdown.
Byers notched his second two-point conversion, to push Ville Platte to a 28-7 lead.
Pine Praire, facing a three score deficit with only five minutes to play, opted to change out quarterbacks, replacing freshman Chase Freeman with Damon Malveaux.
Malveaux, who is a dual-threat to pass or run, was able to gain some traction against a tiring Bulldog defense. The Panther senior led Pine on a 52-yard drive, capped with a 13-yard touchdown strike to Simms. The two points failed, setting the score at 28-13, with less than three minutes to play.