Mustangs running back Marquis Alexander (in gray) sweeps around the right end, pursued by a pack of Panthers during last Friday’s game between Avoyelles High and Bunkie Magnet. Avoyelles beat Bunkie, 42-7. {Photo by Raymond L. Daye}

Avoyelles bashes Bunkie in annual 'A-B' Game, 42-7

{This article is about two of the parish's three football-playing schools. Avoyelles travels to Menard in Alexandria, Bunkie visits Buckeye in the "Battle of the Panthers" and Marksville hosts Lutcher all later tonight. For full details of those games, see next week's editions of the Weekly News and Bunkie Record.}

It doesn’t have a catchy nickname like “Catskin,” but the annual “A-B Game” between Avoyelles and Bunkie is still a parish tradition.

The Mustangs continued their domination of the series over the past several years by running roughshod over the Panthers, 42-7.

Avoyelles’ six touchdowns were all on the ground -- five on bursts of 5-15 yards to cap long drives and one 91-yarder by senior running back Jacorian Frasier.

Coach Andy Boone was heard expressing a level of dissatisfaction over the Mustangs’ 50 percent success rate on two-pointers.

He was also concerned that his team gave up too many long passes and lost a drive-ending fumble.

Other than those issues, “we did what we wanted to do,” Boone noted.

Panthers Coach Nick Pujol made no excuses for the lopsided score.

“Avoyelles physically beat us in every sense of the word,” Pujol said.

PRE-GAME

Pujol said he expected the game to be “short” because both teams would be primarily running the ball, grinding out yardage in long drives.

“We’re young and inexperienced,” Pujol said. “We will be running a lot because we have a lot of two-way players and we want to shorten the game as much as possible. Avoyelles will also be running, which will shorten the game as well.”

Boone said he expected Bunkie “to throw everything they’ve got at us -- onside kicks, going for it on 4th down, the whole works. They always do.”

Pujol conceded that he might try an onside kick “depending on the conditions,” and could go for a 1st down on 4th down “if we are in good field position. If we’re on our side of the field, we will punt. My first option for kick off is to kick it deep and try to put it in the endzone for a touchback.”

Boone said he expected his Mustangs to win against Bunkie.

He admitted he honestly expected to lose the season opener against Livonia the week before “because they were better than us.” He thought the Mustangs would be able to stay close and possibly get lucky enough to pull off an upset.

Those hopes were alive late in the second quarter, but evaporated quickly in the final minutes of the first half against the Wildcats.

“We shouldn’t have lost by 54 points. They scored three touchdowns in the last two minutes of the first half. We fumbled on the 1 foot line and they ran it back 99 yards for a touchdown. We fumbled the kickoff and they scored on the next play. Then on the first play after that kickoff we fumbled and they scored one play later.”

Boone also pointed out that the Wildcats scored their last TD with no time remaining in the game.

“Now I have been known to run up the score, but I have to think in that situation if I had the option of kneeling the ball I would have taken a knee,” Boone said. “But it’s part of the game.”

The Panthers were also on the bad side of a mismatch in Week 1, falling to archrival Marksville 32-0 in the traditional “Catskin” game. In addition to recording the shutout, Marksville doubled Bunkie’s offensive output in that game.

Both of those games are what losing coaches euphemistically call “learning experiences” for their players.

THE GAME

Avoyelles took control of the game early and never looked back.

The Mustangs received the opening kickoff, held the ball for over six minutes and capped the 12-play drive with a 14-yard burst by halfback Marquis Alexander. Halfback Brody Knott added two points to make it 8-0 at 5:44 in the first quarter.

Alexander was the top ground-gainer of the night with 19 runs for 144 yards and two touchdowns.

Bunkie covered the onside kick at its own 48 yard line and immediately started moving in the wrong direction with back-to-back penalties.

A good punt by Mitchell Hukins pinned the Mustangs back on their own 9 yard line.

On the next play, Frasier broke through the line and it was off to the races for a 91-yard TD.

The two-point run failed, making the score 14-0 with 2:36 left in the first.

Frazier carried the ball six times for 132 yards and had two kickoff/punt returns for 30 yards.

Avoyelles kicked deep -- a rarity for the ‘Stangs -- and made the visitors start on their own 20.

The Panthers had two one-yard runs and an incomplete pass to bring Hukins back on the field. Hukins sent the pigskin sailing to the Avoyelles 31.

A promising drive was cut short when the Mustangs lost the ball on the Bunkie 18 yard line with 9:34 remaining in the half.

Bunkie then put together one of its best drives of the night -- a 10-play effort that eventually stalled, leading to another good punt by Hukins.

From their own 12, the Mustangs marched methodically down the field to the Panther 10, where Alexander darted into the endzone for his second TD with 1:21 left in the half. Malik Berry ran the ball across for the extra two points, increasing the lead to 22-0.

A recovered squib kick was taken away by a controversial penalty.

The officials said a Mustang delivered a “blind side” block. The AHS coaches argued the contact occurred because the Avoyelles player was trying to get to the loose football and the Bunkie player was in his way. There was no block involved. The contact occurred well away from where the football was being covered by a gray-shirted Mustang.

The Panthers moved the ball to the Avoyelles 10 yard line, aided by a 20-yard completion that most people on the Avoyelles side of Mustang Stadium could’ve sworn was knocked to the ground by an AHS defender.

Apparently, the pass from QB Graham Rebouche -- who had 102 of Bunkie’s 111 passing yards -- didn’t quite reach the ground before it was plucked from the air by receiver Bruce Hukins.

The Panthers spiked the ball to stop the clock and then sent Mitchell Hukins out to try a field goal. However, the snap was mishandled and Hukins was unable to get the kick away before the last seconds of the first half ticked off.

Bunkie was given a little present to start the second half when the Mustangs’ onside attempt struck one of its players before the ball went 10 yards. This gave the Panthers the ball on the Mustang side of the 50.

Bunkie kept the drive alive on a 4th down pass to the Avoyelles 35. They gained one yard, lost two yards and threw an incompletion to make it 4th and 11 at the Mustangs’ 36.

The Panthers' “play of the game” occurred, when Rebouche threw a strike to Bryce Howell for a 36-yard touchdown. Hukins nailed the one-pointer and it was 22-7.

“Let’s make it a game right here,” Bunkie senior offensive/defensive lineman Koby Galland encouraged from the sideline during the kickoff to the Mustangs.

The brief glimmer of hope was extinguished by a 12-play drive capped by a 4-yard scoring run by Knott, who also added the two-point run to make the game 30-7.

Bunkie’s next drive ended with losing a fumble on the Avoyelles 43 yard line.

The Mustangs took the ball and scored early in the 4th quarter on a 9-yard run by quarterback John Mose. The two-point run failed, making it a 36-7 ballgame.

The Panthers put together another decent drive with four consecutive first downs before the Mustangs' defense stiffened and the drive stalled on the Avoyelles 20.

AHS had a nine-play drive that ended with an 11-yard scoring run by Berry with 3:39 left in the game. The two-pointer failed, giving the Mustangs their final 42-7 result.

Bunkie kept the ball for the rest of the game, but was unable to move into Mustang territory or pose any scoring threat.

POST-GAME

Despite the beating, Pujol was encouraged by some things he saw during the game.

“The level of effort is where it needs to be, but we just aren’t physical enough,” he said. “That is on us as coaches. We have to bring that out in practice. I believe we are going in the right direction. We have a lot of young players. For many of them, this is their first year playing high school football. There will be growing pains.”

Pujol said the painful truth for the Panthers this year is that “we have to play a clean game with no mistakes to have a chance, due to our lack of experience and depth."

Boone was pleased with what he saw -- and, perhaps more importantly, what he didn’t see -- during the contest with Bunkie.

The Mustangs did not self-destruct nor were they ever seriously obstructed by the Panthers’ defense.

However, Boone cautioned his charges in the post-game huddle to enjoy the win but to forget it after the weekend.

“Monday we have to start getting ready for Menard,” Boone said, “and Bunkie is no Menard.”

AVOYELLES JOURNAL
BUNKIE RECORD
MARKSVILLE WEEKLY

105 N Main St
Marksville, LA 71351
(318) 253-9247