The La Marque Cougars learned some tough lessons Friday night in Houston. Unfortunately, lessons learned during the playoffs are most often season ending. After a year where the Cougars were usually talented enough to overcome their mistakes, Cougar physical, mental and emotional errors were just too much to overcome against top ranked Navasota. The Cougars season ended with a 31-20 loss.
The physical: Two bad snaps by La Marque’s punt team led to two Rattler touchdowns and a fumble on the five stopped the Cougars final comeback bid in the 4th quarter.
The mental: Eleven penalties stalled La Marque’s offense repeatedly. The turning point of the game was early in the 2nd quarter. With the Cougars trailing 7-6, 1st and goal from the 3, La Marque failed to score on four attempts. On third down, from the one yard line, a La Marque lineman jumped early, moving the ball to the six. The inability to score on this drive set really set off a momentum shift that the Cougars couldn’t overcome.
The emotional: La Marque had never been in this situation at halftime during this season, trailing by 11 there was plenty of time for them to get things together. But the focus was not where is should have been. Expectations can be a double edged sword. La Marque kids are taught their whole lives that anything short of State is a failure. When things started going against them, several players didn’t have the mental toughness to keep their composure. The situation wasn’t helped by the La Marque stands where many turned on the team and coaches very quickly, adding fuel to the fire. The correct football mentality is a fine line between intensity and control. It only takes a few players crossing that line for a situation to spiral out of control. La Marque’s coaches did an outstanding job at the half trying to halt the panic and drama that had infected their team. It might have worked if La Marque had gotten a momentum changing play after the break, but they didn’t and the poor behavior couldn’t be stopped.
On the message boards I’ve seen a lot of second guessing from La Marque supporters about the coaching. If any of you are reading this, a few things to consider. The game plan the La Marque coaches implemented would have worked, against an outstanding team, if they had been able to execute on the punt team and/or score from the two. The Cougars did not lose because they didn’t pass enough or ran the wrong defense, they lost because they didn’t execute. The game plan was sound and so are the offensive and defensive philosophies. The bottom line was that the Cougars did not play well, if they had, they would have beat Navasota, and beat them with the plays and defenses they ran.
Second; It’s easy to blame coaches for the lack of discipline on the field, I’m sure nobody was more disappointed than Coach Jackson and his staff with the way some of the kids responded to adversity. La Marque is a very tough place to coach, opinions being yelled from the stands, incredibly high expectations and second guessing from all sides have an impact on the coaches’ ability to reach the kids. I hope people in La Marque look at those things before putting the entire fault on the coaches.
It’s sad to see each season end, especially when expectations are so high. Leaving Houston after this game was tough, knowing I won’t get a chance to see these people again. Hopefully the lessons this game should have taught will be learned and the Cougars will be back and improved in 2013.