by Hunter Bower // GeauxPreps.com Owner

NEW ORLEANS – St. Thomas More’s championship run will be extended for another year as the Cougars fought back from an early double-digit deficit taking down district-rival Lafayette Christian, 35-21, to claim the 2023 Select Division II state championship.

In a rematch from last year’s title game, the Cougars (14-0) used a late rally in the first half to jumpstart an offense that has dominated all season. The championship win is St. Thomas More’s fifth overall and fourth in five years.

Lafayette Christian finished the season with a 11-3 record earning the program’s third runner-up finish in Hunter Landry’s first year at the helm. It was the seventh straight championship appearance for the Knights.

A majority of the first half momentum played into Lafayette Christian’s favor as Ju’Juan Johnson created magic despite being bottled up by test St. Thomas More defense.

The LSU commit was responsible for both of the Knights’ scoring drives with touchdowns of 25 and 21 yards.

However, St. Thomas More began to shift the momentum in the latter part of the second quarter with two scores in the final 49 seconds of the half starting with John Luke St. Pierre’s 22-yard touchdown rush that shortened the lead to seven points.

St. Pierre was chosen as the Most Outstanding Player for STM after totaling 72 yards on the ground accounting for two of the Cougars’ five touchdowns in the game.

Brody Latiolais changed the game as he targeted and picked-off a Ju’Juan Johnson pass attempt, returning 80-yards in for the game-tying score.

Despite a score from Johnson to up the lead to seven in third period, St. Thomas More moved into control and never let up using three rushing touchdowns to put away the game.

Johnson was named Most Outstanding Player for the Knights with 270 yards passing on 24 completions as well as three touchdowns on the ground for 187 yards.

In total, Lafayette Christian amassed an astounding 540 yards in offense while St. Thomas more only needed 324 to get the job done including nine plays of 10 or more rushing yards or pass completions of 20 yards or more.

HOW IT HAPPENED

FIRST QUARTER

• 5:35 – LCA | After a pair of turnovers for each team, the Knights struck first with a Ju’Juan Johnson touchdown run from 25-yards out.

• :12 – LCA | Lafayette Christian extended its lead to a 14-0 score when Johnson found pay dirt again on a 21-yard keeper.

SECOND QUARTER

• :49 – STM | St. Thomas More lit up the scoreboard thanks to a hard-charging touchdown rush from 2-yards as John Luke St. Pierre helped cut the game to a one-score difference.

• :01 – STM | On a last second attempt to find the endzone, Ju’Juan Johnson tossed a momentum-changing 80 interception returned by St. Thomas More’s Brody Latiolais for the tying score before the break.

THIRD QUARTER

• 5:39 – LCA | Johnson ran in his third touchdown of the game on a 5-yard keeper aiding in the Knights effort to regain the lead, 14-7.

• 3:02 – STM | The Cougars responded by punching in a six-yard touchdown run from St. Pierre to cap off a six-play drive to even the score at 21-21.

FOURTH QUARTER

• 7:40 – STM | Sam Altmann plunged in for a 1-yard TD to cap an 11-play, 78 scoring drive allowing St. Thomas More to take its first lead of the day by a score of 28-21.

• 4:24 – STM | Hutch Swilley became the fourth different Cougar to score a touchdown after bulldozing his way through from five yards out to increase the STM lead to two scores, 35-21.