Julie Fitzpatrick was a nervous wreck standing in the end zone at Lee Hedges Stadium Friday night in the LHSAA Division I semifinal matchup between Byrd and John Curtis.
Her baby, Jason Little, was part of the biggest error of the game for the Jackets early in the fourth quarter while filling in for quarterback Lake Lambert. But a few minutes later, Little scored the winning touchdown while filling in for fullback Venzell Thompson in a thrilla that was a whole lot better than the one in Manilla. Byrd moves on to the state championship game against Catholic-Baton Rouge for the first time since 2015.
“I just don’t know if I can take this anymore,” said Fitzpatrick, who was shooting game action for the team. “I’m getting too old for this. But this is definitely my last (child), so I won’t have to.”
Moments after the final horn sounded and the celebration of Byrd’s 14-13 victory over the Patriots (6-5) subsided, a heavy fog enshrouded the field so thick you couldn’t see the clean-up crew working at midfield. That fog seemed to wash away memories of Byrd’s 3-6 campaign from a year ago and cleanse what has been a 10-0 run to the state title game.
Few people were more relieved at Byrd’s victory over one of the state’s most storied programs, and owners of 27 state championships, than Jason Little. Near the end of the contest, he knelt near the far end of the far end of the team bench with his head down as if in prayer. His prayer was answered when defensive teammates Carson Bruno and Junior Brown intercepted last ditch efforts by Tylen Taylor to preserve the win.
“I came off the ball and wasn’t blocked so I started backing up,” Bruno said. “I saw him cock his arm back so I just put my hands up and it went right into them. I was gone. My body was hurting so I couldn’t make it to the end zone, but I tried.”
Playing without a single superstar, this Byrd continues winning, defeating teams and converting doubters to their magic.
Running the Byrd offense with precision, Lambert received a minor cut on his leg in the third quarter and was forced to leave the game for one play. Enter Little, who fumbled the handoff with Thompson and the ball went into the hands of a John Curtis linebacker Kylin White. Two plays later, Curtis took a 13-7 lead and appeared in control of the game at that point.
“It was wild. I’m the backup quarterback in case something bad happens, and Lake came out with a bloody leg, so I did what I could to get it done,” said an exuberant Little. “I’m so happy for coach Suggs.”
The Jackets responded with a 69-yard drive capped by Little’s 1-yard dive.