Marksville keeps streak alive, retains Catskin with 35-14 win over Bunkie

Some may speculate the annual Catskin game has lost some of its intensity and luster over the last decade.

Don’t you believe it!

The long-standing rivalry between Marksville and Bunkie, who are separated by just 17 miles, is still just as intense as ever.

Why? Because the Catskin game is THE rivalry game in Avoyelles Parish, and one of the biggest rivalries in the state.

And even though Marksville, who entered Friday night’s game on a seven-game-win streak, has dominated the series, Bunkie, who last beat their arch rivals in 2009, proved it can still rise to the occasion.

The final score Friday on a blazing hot September evening in Warren Douglas Memorial Stadium was Marksville 35, Bunkie 14.

The victory is the eighth in a row for the Tigers, which is the longest win streak either school has had in the 69-year-old series. The last time Marksville lost to Bunkie was in 2009 by a 13-0 score.

Bunkie still holds a 34-33-2 overall lead in the rivalry, dating back to 1950. The game was suspended for the 2015 and 2016 seasons, allowing the Catskin to stay in Marksville until the rivalry resumed in 2017.

“I said it last week (after the jamboree) that I didn’t think we had right the mindset … we were not ready to play,” said Bunkie Coach Nick Pujol. “We challenged them all week in practice to come off the bus believing they could win.

“I told them everything in your life happens twice,” said Pujol. “It happens first in your head and then in real life. I told them if they didn’t get their heads right first, then they were never going to produce on the field.”

Pujol’s message got through to his team.

‘RIGHT MINDSET'

“I thought we did come out with the right mindset and I think it showed. We played a heck of a first quarter … first half,” said Pujol. “When we kicked the onside kick to begin the game we were nervous about them getting the football first. Because of the size difference, we felt they would take the ball and run it down our throats.”

Marksville coach J.T. Dunbar also had challenged his team not to take Bunkie lightly but said his team was caught off guard by Bunkie’s early play.

“They (Bunkie) grabbed the momentum when they recovered that onside kick on the opening kickoff,” he said. “They had us back on our heels.”

Bunkie used the momentum and field position to draw first blood as Ex’Zavian Burnette (3-41 yards) snagged a 24-yard pass from Graham Rebouche (10-18-1, 140) for the TD at the 8:22 mark in the first quarter.

“The kid ran a great vertical route and made a great catch,” said Dunbar. “It put us behind the eight ball but I thought the team did a great job responding.”

On the ensuing kickoff Daniel Miller returned it 40 yards, setting the Tigers up with a first and 10 at the Bunkie 47.

It took Marksville just eight plays to punch it in for the score as Bruce Moseley powered his way in from the five. The 43-yard drive took just 2:40 off the clock.

The Marksville defense, after giving a 25-yard reception to Jaleel Christmas, stiffened and forced Bunkie to punt.

BLOCKED PUNT

However, Triston Jacobs blocked the punt and returned it 11 yards setting up the Tigers at the Panthers 39.

A 28-yard reception to Daniel Miller (3-51 yards), a 10-yard reception to Braydon Flores (4-61) and a 10-yard run and Marksville found itself leading by a touchdown (14-7) with 11:24 to go in the second quarter.

“I thought we did a great job of responding,” said Dunbar. “The defense stepped up and our offense got clicking in the first half.

“To be honest,” he continued, “we were surprised when Bunkie went to a 3-3 stack like we play instead of their traditional 4-2-5. We didn’t handle that very well.”

Hanging onto a 14-7 lead, the Tigers could have added to that total after Luke Normand recovered a Bunkie fumble on the ensuing drive.

Starting from its 47, Marksville’s offense sputtered with a couple of costly penalties and negative yardage plays that forced the Tigers to punt.

Bunkie could not capitalize and punted the ball back.

“Our mistakes kind of added up here and there, but that’s a Week 1 thing,” Pujol said. “We weren’t efficient as we needed to be offensively. We missed tackles, too.

“We made a few plays but we also left a few out there,” he continued. “We had a couple of deep balls and we just didn’t hang onto the ball.”

With the ball back at their 36, Marksville went right to work.

A 20-yard run by Te’Darius Weaver and an 11-yard reception to Miller had the Tigers at the Panthers 30. After a short run by Travonta Antoine, Marksville looked in good shape.

Fortunately, a 10-yard holding penalty did not derail the drive as quarterback John Small (9-12-0, 164 yards) hit Weaver with a 37-yard strike.

“It was a nice-looking TD -- a well-thrown pass and run after the catch,” said Dunbar. “Te’Darius just continues to come up big for us and John Small is getting it done at quarterback. He is very efficient and just has that presence on the field.”

NOT PLEASED

Dunbar was not as pleased with the second half performance.

“We were not playing very well and we are a better team than what we showed in the second half,” he said. “We were hurting ourselves with penalties and mental mistakes.”

Still, the Tigers were able to come up with some big plays and big hits in that half.

Triston Dunbar had a pick-six which he returned for 31 yards with 7:37 left in the third. Miller capped a five-play drive highlighted by a 25-yard reception by Flores with a three-yard run to make it 35-7 with 3:25 left in the quarter.

But THE play of the night may have come from Gavin Laird, whose monster hit to help stymie a Bunkie drive, served to wake up his defensive teammates.

Despite giving up a late fourth quarter score to Bunkie – Jyrien Washington’s 29-yard TD pass – Marksville’s defense limited the Panthers to 135 total yards -- 140 yards passing and minus 5 yards rushing on 31 carries.

Marksville finished with 250 total yards – 86 rushing and 164 passing.

“We played hard tonight but we didn’t play smart,” said Dunbar. “We just need to clean up some things -- and we will start Monday.”

“I think our defense played admirably tonight,” said Pujol, “but I’m encouraged overall by our performance.

“We still have things we need to clean up,” he continued, “but I don’t think our mistakes were physical. It was mostly just mental.”

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