Live Oak grinds up outmanned Istrouma
WATSON — Live Oak celebrated homecoming and its final home football game in grand fashion Friday with a 49-20 victory over Istrouma that featured a pair of touchdown passes from quarterback Michael Claverie to wide receiver Wesley Fuller.
If truth be told, the Eagles could have scored even more often through the air, and that’s one reason coach Barry “Tut” Musemeche found fault with their rout of an outmanned foe.
“We have to clean a lot of stuff up,” he said. “It’s late in the year.”
Live Oak completes its regular season with a District 4-5A contest at Central this Friday needing a win to assure the Eagles of a spot in the playoffs. Musemeche said a loss would drop their playoff prospects to “50-50.”
The Eagles improved to 4-5 overall, while Istrouma of District 6-2A fell to 1-8 overall. The Indians are winless in five district games but will make the playoffs with a district victory over East Feliciana this Friday, Istrouma coach Johnny Duncan.
Because Istrouma scored 20 points against a 5-A team, Duncan said the Indians still could make the playoffs with a loss.
“I’m totally happy,” Duncan said. “We’re a 2A school, and we dressed out 23 players. They’re a 5A school with 70 players, and we were able to score 20 points.”
Two of the scores came on special teams with Trie Gibson returning kickoffs of 73 and 92 yards for touchdowns. Gibson also ran 33 yards off a fake punt to set up Istrouma’s other touchdown.
“He’s our playmaker,” Duncan said of Gibson. “We’re proud of our special teams. That’s always been our strong point.”
As heroic as the Indians’ efforts may have been, they were no match for Live Oak which wasted no time in flexing its superiority.
Live Oak took the game’s opening drive 70 yards in eight plays with Will Higginbotham scoring on a 6-yard run at 9:57 of the first quarter. Istrouma helped Live Oak along the way with four offsides penalties, as it took the Eagles just 1:54 to score.
“Will Higginbotham ran with energy,” said Musemeche of the game’s leading rusher. Higginbotham paced Live Oak’s overpowering rushing attack with 15 carries for 134 yards. Eight different players carried the ball for Live Oak, which rushed 46 times for 389 yards.
Several dropped passes kept Live Oak from passing for more than 64 yards, but that meant the Eagles still accumulated 453 total yards. The Eagles’ defense limited Istrouma to 134 total yards, including 20 yards passing. Live Oak never punted.
Despite an apparently strong defensive effort, Musemeche said the Eagles “had a problem getting off the field on third down.” In addition, he said most of his defensive starters played on special teams, and the Eagles must do “a much better job” in that area in light of Gibson’s performance.
Gibson didn’t make noise until the second half when Live Oak had the game well in hand after bolting to a 21-0 halftime lead.
Istrouma was forced to punt after making two first downs on the ensuing series, Live Oak embarked on a lengthy march from its 32-yard line.
The Eagles moved down to the Istrouma 31-yard line when Claverie lofted a pass for Higginbotham running all alone down the left sideline. Higginbotham couldn’t hold onto the ball four plays after another Live Oak receiver couldn’t find the handle on a long pass from the Istrouma 43-yard line.
The drive finally ended when Claverie threw an interception under pressure. Live Oak quickly got the ball back when linebacker Rhett Summar recovered a fumble as Istrouma ran an ill-fated reverse off a timeout.
Live Oak finally made good on a scoring pass with Claverie tossing a 17-yard touchdown to Fuller for a 14-0 lead at 9:48 of the second quarter.
The Eagles attempted to pad their lead only to have Cameron Simmons’ 41-yard field goal attempt blocked.
Three plays later Live Oak had the ball back when Justin Webb returned an interception 32 yards to the Istrouma 4-yard line. Kyle Knapps took it the final distance for the touchdown with 2:05 left in the first half.
“Kyle ran with energy and smarts,” Musemeche said. Knapps finished with 54 yards on five carries.
Live Oak bolted to a 35-0 lead with Chris Kelly scoring on a 2-yard run at 7:51 of the third quarter and Claverie finding Fuller in the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown pass at 1:52.
Gibson then sprung into action with his 77-yard kickoff return for a touchdown at 1:39 of the third quarter.
Live Oak answered with a five-play, 65-yard drive in 1:36. Dylan Wang scored the first of his two touchdowns with a 4-yard run four seconds into the fourth quarter.
The Eagles had stopped Istrouma on its next possession only to have Gibson from punting formation race 33 yards for a first down at the Live Oak 33-yard line. The Indians eventually scored on Kelvin Robinson’s 2-yard run at 5:13.
Johnny Duncan Jr., the coach’s son, scored on the two-point conversion to cut Live Oak’s lead to 42-14.
Istrouma tried an onsides kick that didn’t travel the required distance and gave Live Oak good field position at the Indians’ 41-yard line. With Brady Morris replacing Claverie at quarterback, Live Oak marched to a score with Wang scoring on a 2-yard run with 2:12 left. After Simmons kicked six extra points, Noah Cloud took over the place-kicking duties and tacked on the final extra point.
Gibson scooped up Live Oak’s kickoff on his 8-yard line and sped into the end zone for the game’s final touchdown.
That made a happy man of the elder Duncan, who was the team’s strength and conditioning coach until Istrouma’s head coach left after the third game of the season. The principal subsequently departed the school in light of the news that Istrouma will close its doors after this season.
“You have to credit Coach Duncan for doing what he has with all that’s gone on at the school,” Musemeche said. “They put up a fight.”
Still, Musemeche was able to liberally substitute late in the game. Jared Forest made the most of his chance at running back in carrying a fourth down run 37 yards that left him 1 yard short of the goal line. He lost 1 yard on his next rushing attempt before Wang punched it in for Live Oak’s last touchdown.
Even in victory Musemeche already was looking ahead to this week’s encounter with Central.
“We have to stay focused on winning every play,” he said.
Baton Rouge Players of the Week
Live Oak, football
Claverie was a key cog in helping Live Oak snap its three-game losing streak, throwing for 313 yards and three touchdowns in the Eagles’ 55-28 win against district-rival Walker. The junior quarterback completed 15 of his 22 passes, including scoring plays of 54, 51 and 39 yards. Claverie also carried the ball 10 yards for 61 yards as Live Oak posted its third 50-point game of the season to improve to 3-4 on the year.