Asa Marshall, SM’s leading rusher with 117 yards on 12 carries, picked off two Opelousas passes, returning one for 71 yards and another for 30, to provide much of the spark that gave The ’Ville (2-7, 1-4) its second win of the season while Opelousas sunk to 0-9, 0-6.
Opelousas turnovers set up two SM scores in the first half as well as the Tigers’ only TD of the second half. That came on the final play of the game with Opelousas threatening to score at the SM two. OHS quarterback Jamal Rainey coughed up the ball as he fought to get into the end zone and SM’s Jamiah Nelson picked it up and ran 99 yards for the TD with no time showing on the clock.
Despite the outstanding defensive plays, St. Martinville struggled on offense, finishing with just 128 total yards. And that included one 75-yard run by Marshall on SM’s first play from scrimmage.
Opelousas took the opening kickoff and used up almost six minutes in driving to the SM nine before fumbling the ball away.
The Tigers took over at the 15 and Marshall broke loose, finally being dragged down from behind at the OHS 10. But the tigers were unable to punch it in, as a holding penalty set them back and Clifton Chaisson’s 4th down pass fell incomplete.
Four plays later the visiting Tigers fumbled again, with SM’s Da’Quan Wiltz recovering at the OHS 19. This time The ’Ville would not be denied and Chaisson sneaked in from the one on the first play of the second period. Josh Delahoussaye’s PAT kick made it 7-0.
Opelousas stormed back when Mckenzie Porter broke a 34-yard gain to the SM 21. The visitors picked up another first down at the 8, but back-to-back penalties moved them to the 20. That’s when Marshall got his first steal, returning it 71 yards to the Opelousas 11. Eddie Nelson got SM’s second TD on a 7-yard sprint around end, but the PAT kick was wide.
St. Martinville got a big break when the Tigers blocked Opelousas’ first punt attempt, getting the ball in excellent field position at the OHS 13. Three plays later junior Chaisson scrambled six yard to pay dirt. The PAT kick was blocked, but SM led 19-0 just before intermission.
The Tigers got the ball right back when Marshall notched his second steal, returning the ball 30 yards to the OHS 41. But time ran out before the Tigers could cash in on the turnover.
Opelousas controlled the ball for much of the second quarter, driving to the SM 18 on its first possession before bogging down and then getting the ball right back when Chaisson fumbled at the 20.
This time Opelousas would not be denied, taking advantage of an interference penalty against SM in the end zone that gave the visiting Tigers a first down at the seven. Two plays later Rainey punched it in from the one and the PAT made it 19-7 just as time expired in the third period.
The game settled into a defensive struggle until Chaisson coughed up the ball when he was sacked, setting Opelousas up at its 42. Ronlad Brown broke loose for 12 yards and Porter added five to the SM 41. But the threat ended when Jude St. Julien fell on a Porter fumble at the 30.
The Tigers couldn’t get a first down and had to punt. But the Opelousas receiver muffed the catch and SM got the ball back at the OHS 21. St. Martinville came up short on 4th-and-8 and Opelousas took over at its 23 with 2:35 remaining.
The visitors put together a fine two-minute offense, advancing to a first down at the SM four with only seconds remaining. Two quarterback sneaks netted only two yards and a frantic third try resulted in the Rainey fumble that Jamiah Nelson alertly scooped up and returned the length of the field for the touchdown that ended the game.
Opelousas finished with 232 yards rushing and 48 through the air but was repeatedly frustrated by the seven turnovers.
St. Martinville closes out its season at home Friday against the 8-1 Northside Vikings, who can seal the 6-4A title with a win.