Catholic High Bears win Division I state title over Jesuit

Jude Papillion, Sports Editor

The top-seeded Catholic High School Bears defeated the second-seed Jesuit High School Blue Jays 14-10 to win the 2021 Louisiana High School Athletic Association Division I State Championship in a highly anticipated matchup. The two powerhouses faced off on Saturday evening at Yulman Stadium on Tulane University’s campus.

The Bears, from Baton Rouge, entered the contest with a 11-1 record while the hometown Blue Jays entered the game with a 10-0 record, and their first New Orleans Catholic League title in 10 seasons

Sophomore quarterback Daniel Beale led Catholic in passing, completing 10 of his 21 passes for 90 yards and one touchdown. Tae Nicholas led the Bears in rushing and was named MVP after finishing with 109 yards on 25 attempts. Nicholas also had 31 receiving yards on two receptions. 

Five-star recruit Shelton Sampson Jr. tied Nicholas in receiving for Catholic with 31 yards. Despite his slow game, Sampson made a critical 14-yard reception on the game’s final drive to keep the ball in the Bears’ hands.  

Senior quarterback Jack Larriviere led Jesuit in passing with 112 yards and used his legs to score the only Blue Jay touchdown of the evening. Larriviere also led the Jays in rushing with 33 yards, while Jasper Parker contributed another 23 yards on the ground. 

Jace Larsen was Jesuit’s leading receiver with five receptions for 109 yards. Larsen also threw two passes and completed both of them for a total of 45 yards.  

The Bears finished the game with 217 total yards, and while Jesuit had 53 second-half yards, Catholic had 131 second-half yards, with 85 coming on the ground. 

Catholic’s defensive performance was a key factor in their victory. While neither Beale nor Larriviere threw interceptions during the game. The Bears’ defense blocked a punt that led to a touchdown, forced -43 yards on tackles for loss and sacked Larriviere four times for -39 yards. Despite Jesuit’s run-heavy offense that shut down many formidable opponents throughout the season, it was the Bear defense that shut down the Blue Jay rushing attack when it mattered. 

Catholic’s defense forced a three-and-out on the game’s first drive forcing the Jays to punt. The snap went over the head of Jesuit punter William Hudlow, who scooped the ball and tried to punt it near the endzone. The Bears blocked the punt, and Catholic’s Josh Robertson recovered the ball for a touchdown, giving Catholic a 7-0 lead with 10:45 to go in the first quarter.

The Bears stopped the Blue Jays on fourth-and-1 on the next drive resulting in another scoring drive for the Catholic. Beale found Daniel Harden in the endzone for a 6-yard touchdown with 4:14 remaining in the first quarter. 

Jesuit struck back, converting a 26-yard Aiden Corbello field goal that was set up by a 56-yard strike from Larriviere to Larsen.  

The Blue Jays scored again with 5:20 left in the first half, this time on a 3-yard touchdown run by Larriviere that turned out to be the final score of the 14-10 game. 

Jesuit forced the Bears to turn the ball over on downs on their first possession of the second half. Then after a Jesuit punt, Catholic held the ball for nearly the rest of the game on two long drives except for a 4:30 minute drive by the Jays.

On their final drive of the game, Catholic started on their own 8-yard line and used all of the remaining nine minutes and two seconds on the clock to drive down the field and prevent Jesuit from getting the ball back. 

Although the Bears scored no points on the drive, it was arguably their most impressive of the season as they collected six first downs and converted on third down twice. The 16-play, 67-yard drive was capped off by a six-yard Nicholas run on third-and-3 that allowed the Bears to line up in victory formation to clinch the state title. 

Jesuit last appeared in the Division I championship in 2014, when they defeated John Curtis Christian to win the state championship. 

Catholic’s appearance in this year’s Division I title game was their fifth consecutive. Despite the LHSAA rescinding Catholic’s 2017 and 2020 titles prior to this season for unspecified rule violations, the Bears now have two official titles after Clyde Edwards-Helaire led Catholic to victory over Archbishop Rummel in 2015.