The inaugural Roy Walton Bowl could not have honored its namesake any better.
In a back-and-forth football game between two teams that Walton once coached, Tates Creek held on to beat Lafayette 32-27 Friday night.
An emotional Commodores Coach Mike Harmon presented the game ball to Roy's widow, Norma Walton, after the victory.
"This is very special," said Harmon, who played for Walton at Tates Creek in the late 1980s. "To see Norma and Coach Walton's daughters out here means so much.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
"It was special, too, the way these two teams played their guts out and gave everything they had in his honor."
Tates Creek had to stage a late rally to break a five-year losing streak to Lafayette.
The Commodores trailed 21-12 before putting up three touchdowns in the last seven minutes.
Brandon Shrout's 30-yard scoring run lit the fuse on the comeback. Quarterback Dee Christopher's 4-yard TD on a busted play regained the lead for Tates Creek. And Dennis Oxidine's 65-yard interception return made it 32-21 with 1:41 left.
But Lafayette almost overcame that deficit.
Marlon Johnson's 90-yard kickoff return for a TD closed the gap to 32-27.
The Generals then recovered the onside kick, but couldn't capitalize. But they got another chance when Tates Creek lost a fumble on its own 15.
Lafayette quarterback Jeremy Smith tried four passes, but all fell incomplete as time ran out.
Jontez Jones and Shrout led Tates Creek's ground attack. Jones ran for 99 yards and Shrout had 86 yards and two TDs.
Christopher threw for 101 yards and a TD.
The Generals' Johnson put on a show with his kick returns. Besides that 90-yard kickoff return, he also returned a punt 72 yards for a score, and also had a 57-yard punt return that set up a Lafayette TD.
Johnson finished the night with 288 all-purpose yards.
His brother Bubba Johnson ran for 75 yards.
Tates Creek looked in control when it scored on its first two possessions of the new season. Christopher hit Anthony Bell with a 6-yard TD pass, and Shrout scampered 16 yards for a TD a few minutes later.
Lafayette, meanwhile, needed a boost, and it got one from Marlon Johnson. The speedy senior ripped off a 72-yard punt return for a TD with four minutes left in the first half.
The Generals' defense was energized by the big play. On Tates Creek's next two snaps, Trey Benson sacked Christopher for a 6-yard loss, and David Kenner smothered Jontez Jones for another 6-yard loss.
On third and long, Christopher completed a pass to Bell, but he was hit and fumbled. Bubba Johnson recovered at the Tates Creek 26.
Lafayette successfully played beat-the-clock, with Bubba Johnson scoring from the 1 with five seconds left in the half.
Marlon ran in a two-point conversion to give the Generals a 14-12 halftime lead.
Tates Creek 12 0 0 20—32
Lafayette 0 14 7 6—27
TC—Anthony Bell 6 pass from Dee Christopher (kick failed). TC—Brandon Shrout 16 run (pass failed). L—Marlon Johnson 72 punt return (kick blocked). L—Bubba Johnson 1 run (Marlon Johnson run). L—Bubba Johnson 7 run (Matt Green kick). TC—Shrout 30 run (kick failed). TC—Christopher 4 run (Shrout run). TC—Dennis Oxidine 65 interception (run failed). L—Marlon Johnson 90 kickoff return (pass failed)
Records — Tates Creek 1-0; Lafayette 0-1