Nov. 16, 2013
BEAUMONT – More than 30 minutes after the conclusion of Saturday night’s game against Stephen F. Austin, Alex Ball still couldn’t believe it. With 20 seconds left in the game, the freshman kicker had to set up for a kick three times before eventually sending the ball through the uprights in the north end zone to hand the Lamar football team a 46-45 victory.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet, and I’m still kind of in disbelief,” Ball revealed. “I watched it go up and it started drifting to the left, and I was like, ‘Come on, come on, please, please.’ Then my holder jumped on me and everyone jumped on me, and I guess I made it. It was a very unusual experience that I haven’t been able to have a lot, and it was great.”
The field goal capped a late comeback as the Cardinals (5-6, 2-4 Southland) charged back from nine points down over the game's final five minutes.
Ball, who made four field goals on the night, was one of a number of standout performers as both Caleb Berry and Reggie Begelton etched themselves into the Lamar history books.
Berry, who is experiencing the most prolific season a quarterback has put together in the red and white, was excellent once again, completing a school-record 43 of 55 passes for 393 yards and three touchdowns. The junior now holds single-season marks for touchdowns (28), completions (274), passing yards (3,002) and total offense (3,171).
“When you watch him on film from last year into this year, and even from earlier this year to now, you can just see the way that Caleb has progressed,” head coach Ray Woodard said. “We’re going to get him back for another year, and I’m proud of the way that he’s matured and developed. He looked like a veteran quarterback, and that’s what we needed tonight.”
His favorite target this year played a big role on Saturday as Begelton caught 18 passes for 167 yards and a pair of scores, breaking J.J. Hayes’ mark of 14 catches, which was set against McNeese State in 2011. The Beaumont West Brook graduate now holds the single-season school record for catches with 75.
“We’ve been in close games all year, and we were able to take advantage of it tonight,” Begelton said. “I was really hungry for this win, and I cared about that more than my overall performance. It’s all for the team. I wasn’t really thinking about the records.”
SFA (3-8, 1-5 Southland) threw the first punch of the night as quarterback Brady Attaway found Tyler Boyd for a 55-yard touchdown inside the game’s first two minutes, but the advantage was short-lived for the Lumberjacks as Berry marched the Cards down the field with a 12-play drive that ran more than six minutes off the clock and culminated with a touchdown strike to Mark Roberts from 11 yards out.
The element of surprise played a role just moments later as LU recovered an onside kick. Berry found Roberts once again, this time for 22 yards to move back into SFA territory. Following a six-yard scramble, he connected with Begelton to move inside the 15, and Kade Harrington’s number was called four straight times as he crossed the goal line to give the Cards their first lead over the visitors from Nacogdoches since the football program’s restart in 2010.
Harrington finished the night with 23 carries for 105 yards and 11 catches for another 66. Roberts had three grabs for 34.
Montez Hunter ended the ensuing drive with his first career interception, but LU was unable to capitalize. Attaway followed up the LU three-and-out with four completions over the course of a nine-play drive, with the last going to Marquis Mosley for a 20-yard score.
Momentum swung right back toward the Cards in the early goings of the second quarter. LU took the lead on a 28-yard Ball field goal, and Hunter blocked a Nick Bruno punt that was recovered in the end zone by Nashon Davis for an LU touchdown to take a 24-14 lead.
Unfortunately for the Cards, SFA answered with 14 straight points to go into the half up 28-24.
Berry put together another long drive to start off the third quarter, taking up nearly five minutes before ultimately settling for a Ball 35-yarder to pull within one at 28-27.
After an SFA drive stalled around midfield, Berry went back to work. The Needville native followed up a first down toss to Begelton with a 41-yard pass to Payden McVey to move deep into Lumberjack territory. Harrington picked up 15 yards over a pair of carries to set-up first-and-goal, and Berry hit Begelton twice to cross into the painted turf for a 33-28 lead. The two-point attempt failed.
Jordan Wiggs booted a field goal to end the third, and Ball answered with another to kick off the fourth and maintain a five-point Card advantage.
However, Attaway was able to find Boyd once again, hitting the wide receiver for a 71-yard touchdown as SFA grabbed the 38-36 edge.
Boyd ended the night with nine catches for 229 yards.
Following a three-and-out by the LU offense, Attaway attempted to put the game on ice, driving down into Lamar territory, but Kevin Johnson, who started the season as a wide receiver, picked off a pass in the end zone to preserve the two-point deficit.
The Cards were not as fortunate five minutes later as a Gus Johnson 81-yard run set up a Joshawa West one-yard carry to give the Lumberjacks a 45-36 lead with 4:59 left in the game.
Gus Johnson ended with 165 yards rushing for the Lumberjacks.
After a 33-yard Kevin Johnson kick return, Harrington and Payton Ploch rushed for 22 yards over the first four plays to move into SFA territory. Berry found Harrington once more for 11 yards and then connected with Begelton twice, the last of which went 20 yards for a score. Ball converted on the extra-point attempt to bring LU back within two.
After a failed onside attempt, SFA took over on the LU 36-yard line. Gus Johnson picked up four yards on the first two plays, and Attaway tossed it to Boyd to set up a fourth-and-one. SFA called Johnson’s number once again, but the entire LU defense joined in to stuff the junior halfback for no gain.
“That was a beautiful thing to see,” Woodard said. “They called a timeout, and we were able to set up our defense. We came off the ball low and hard and were able to get some penetration. It was a big, big play in a big time.”
Berry came back out with 2:20 left on the clock. Once again, Begelton was the big target as Berry hit him for 36 yards over two plays to move down to the SFA 33. After getting tackled behind the line of scrimmage for a loss, Harrington picked up 11 on third-and-12, to move down to the 24 yard line and set the stage for Ball’s heroics.
Attaway, who finished the night with 342 yards through the air, tried for a last gasp victory, but Kevin Johnson played the role of spoiler grabbing his second interception of the night to send the crowd at Provost Umphrey into a frenzy.
“For me and my family, this win is nice, but this is really about the team,” Woodard said. “This has been an easy team to coach this year. They work hard every day and they’re fun to be around. They deserve this win tonight, especially the seniors.”
Lamar will close out the 2013 season next week at Provost Umphrey Stadium against archrival McNeese State. The Cards will be looking to secure a sixth win on the season, which would mark the most since 1979.