By Dan McDonald, McD Media/Special to Acadiana Postgame
When St. Thomas More’s Cougars strike quickly, they can be dangerous ... especially when the Cougar coaching staff gives quarterback Will Bellamy the freedom to check off  plays.

That’s what Bellamy did Friday night on the first play from scrimmage, and his quick-strike score to Trevor Begue set a tone that rarely changed all evening.

“Will checked to that play,” said STM head coach Jim Hightower.

“That play” was a crossing route to standout receiver Trevor Begue, one that Begue eventually took 80 untouched yards for a touchdown on the first offensive play of the Cougars’ Division II select quarterfinal game against E. D. White’s Cardinals.

Things went downhill for the visitors the rest of the way, as STM scored 49 unanswered points and ended up with a 49-7 win that set up the Acadiana area’s game of the year next Friday night.

The second-seeded Cougars (9-2), who scored all but one time they had the football against the overmatched Cardinals, will host sixth-seeded and district rival Teurlings Catholic in the Division II semifinals. The Rebels, who beat the Cougars 42-28 in their regular-season matchup at TCHS’ Rebel Stadium, advanced to the semifinals with a surprisingly easy 36-14 win over third-seeded De La Salle on the road Friday night.

If the Cougars were looking ahead to a potential rematch with the crosstown rivals, they certainly didn’t show it on Friday. STM scored three times on its first nine plays from scrimmage, and the only time they didn’t hit the end zone against the seventh-seeded Cardinals (7-5) was on a second-quarter interception and a fourth-down stop at the E. D. White one-yard-line in the fourth quarter.

Evan Trahan was a thorn in the visitors’ side all night, rushing for three scores and gaining 135 yards on only six carries as part of the Cougars’ 260-yard rushing attack. That came on only 25 carries as STM averaged well over 10 yards per carry on the ground.

“Give the guys up front a lot of credit,” said Trahan, who was not touched on scoring runs of 71 and 24 yards late in the first and late in the second quarter. “None of that’s possible without those guys. They made some massive holes. Going in, we were hesitant about the run game because they (E.D. White) give you so many different looks.”

The look the Cardinals gave on the first play was the wrong one, as Bellamy got his 29th touchdown pass of the year and Begue outran the defense to his 16th receiving score of the year. It was the only catch of the game for Begue, who added a 41-yard run on a reverse in the third period after STM had already locked up its quarterfinal win.

“We didn’t call that in advance,” Hightower said. “They were in the wrong coverage and Will saw it. It happened so quick, a lot of times when you score that quickly you sort of struggle from then on, but this team showed a lot of maturity.”

Bellamy hit six-of-nine passes for 133 yards, before leaving the game in the third quarter. After his early strike to Begue, and the STM defense forced a punt, he drove the Cougars 48 yards in six plays before hitting Griffin Hebert with a perfect fade throw in the corner of the end zone. That 11-yard score made it 14-0 before six minutes had elapsed.

“Will did a really nice job with the offense,” Hightower said. “That’s what you expect from a veteran. But I was proud of our defense, too ... they made the plays they needed to. They (E. D. White) have three really good running backs and they do a good job of spreading the field.”

Trahan did the rest of the damage while the game was still a contest, breaking a second-down play up the middle and down the sideline for 71 yards with 1:35 left in the first quarter to give the Cougars a 21-0 lead. After the lone interception stymied one drive, the Cougar defense held near its own goal line and EDW kicker Mike Melancon misfired on a 30-yard field goal – his first miss of the season.

Six plays later, Trahan capped a six-play, 80-yard drive with a 24-yard counter that boosted the lead to 28-0 with 1:40 left before halftime. He later added his third touchdown on a one-yard run on STM’s first drive of the second half.

“We went in confident,” Trahan said, “but that first play, we sort of knew from there how the rest of the game was going to go. I think that opened up the running game for us, and it really gave us a lot of confidence.”

Begue’s run midway through the third quarter made it 42-0, and backup quarterback Matthew Gardner hit backup tight end Matthew Gautreaux with a 72-yard pass two minutes later for the Cougars’ final score.

The Cardinals, who had topped Loyola Prep in the opening round of the Division II playoffs last week while STM had a bye, broke the shutout with an impressive 99-yard drive that took up eight minutes of the final quarter. Backup running back Blake Grabert broke a 35-yard run up the middle for a touchdown with 1:39 left.

Now the Cougars can prepare for the Rebels, with one team assured of a trip to the Superdome for the Division II finals. STM will host that game courtesy of a new LHSAA rule that assures the higher-seeded team of a home game in the semifinal round.

“Teurlings is awfully good,” Hightower said. “They’re very solid and they have strong personnel. We’re going to give it our best shot and see what happens.”

St. Thomas More 49, E. D. White 7
E. D. White                          0              0              0              7              --             7
St. Thomas More                21            7              21            0              --             49
First Quarter
STM -- Trevor Begue 80 pass from Will Bellamy (Bailey Raborn kick)
STM-- Griffin Hebert 11 pass from Bellamy (Raborn kick)
STM -- Evan Trahan 71 run (Raborn kick)
Second Quarter
STM -- Trahan 24 run (Raborn kick)
Third Quarter
STM -- Trahan 1 run (Raborn kick)
STM -- Begue 41 run (Raborn kick)
STM -- Matthew Gautreaux 72 pass from Matthew Gardner (Gabe Pontiff kick)
Fourth Quarter
EDW -- Blake Grabert 35 run (Mike Melancon kick)
                                  EDW      STM
First Downs               12           15
Rushing Yards        54-206   25-260
Passing Yards           24          205
Total Yards               230         465
Comp-Att-Int           6-10-0     6-10-1
Punts-Avg.              5-35.0       0-0
Fumbles-Lost            1-0          0-0
Penalties-Yards        2-10       2-20
RUSHING -- EDW: Brandon Legendre21-81, Nik Shanklin 16-55, Blake Grabert 4-49 1 TD, Hayden Tortorich 4-29, Hunter Tabor 6-minus 2, Kairon Brooks 3-minus 6. STM: Evan Trahan 6-135 3 TD, Chris Primeaux 5-44, Trevor Begue 2-52 1 TD, Matthew Gardner 3-20, Gabe LeBouef 5-10, Evan Domingue 2-1, team 2-minus 2.
PASSING -- EDW: Tabor 4-7-0, 25 yds., Legendre 2-3-0, minus-1. STM: Will Bellamy 5-9-1, 133 yds., 2 TD; Gardner 1-1-0, 72 yds., 1 TD.
RECEIVING -- EDW: Andrew Hebert 1-14, Shanklin 2-2, Legendre 1-8, Scott Ford 1-0, Tortorich 1-0. STM: Griffin Hebert 3-32 1 TD, Begue 1-80 1 TD, Gautreaux 1-72 1 TD, Jamison Thibodeaux 1-21.
Records: E. D. White 7-5, St. Thomas More 9-2. Next: STM hosts Teurlings Catholic in Division II Select semifinals Friday.