DENHAM SPRINGS – The belief Denham Springs had in the first three-plus minutes of Friday’s encounter with reigning Class 5A state champion Zachary quickly turned to disbelief.
That’s how quickly Sean Burrell, one of the nation’s fastest 400-meter runners, turned the tide of the District 4-5A encounter at Yellow Jacket Stadium.
With Denham Springs riding a wave of early momentum and two-touchdown lead to open the game, Zachary snatched it right back and never let go.
Burrell took Jose Ortega’s kick, found a crease up the middle and sped untouched for a 97-yard touchdown, effectively kick-starting an avalanche of 62 straights points in No. 6 Zachary’s 62-20 victory Friday over Denham Springs.
“That was big,” Zachary coach David Brewerton said. “We stress those change of momentum plays, and that was one of them. We came out flat. Our fans were flat. The whole stadium was flat. It usually is when we come here for some reason. It took us a little while to cranked up.”
Zachary quarterback Keilon Brown added: “That’s where it all started off with Sean Burrell on the kick return. It just sparked the energy for us."
The Broncos (5-2, 3-0) opened a comfortable 35-13 at halftime with five touchdowns that averaged 60.2 yards per score.
Brown accounted for 453 total yards (274 passing, 179 rushing) and six touchdowns, including five through the air with three going to Chris Hilton, the state high-jump champion.
Hilton finished with 4 catches for 123 yards and Jadarion Davis 4 for 120 yards and a score.
"As an offense we started off a little slow and they scored 13 points and we had to answer what they did," Brown said.
Brown followed up Burrell’s kickoff return with a 31-yard TD run to give Zachary the lead for good at 14-13 with 1:20 remaining in the first quarter.
The junior standout started to settle into a passing rhythm with three first-half TD passes, including two of 34 and 58 yards to Hilton, while Whitfield turned an intermediate gain into an 81-yard score.
“Our guys don’t quit,” Denham Springs coach Bill Conides said. “We were still very positive at halftime. Defense makes a stop and what really hurt us is when we didn’t score in the red zone coming out in the second half.”
DSHS, which allowed 393 of its 582 yards in the first half, forced Zachary into a three-and-out and punt on its first series of the second half.
The Yellow Jackets (4-3, 1-2) drove 79 yards in 10 plays, reaching the Broncos’ 12-yard line on Luke Lunsford’s 29-yard pass to Kaleb Drummer, but Lunsford was incomplete on fourth-and-seven at the 4:10 mark.
Zachary made it 42-13 with just under three minutes left in the third quarter when Hilton showed off his high-jumping ability, going up to catch a 21-yarder along the sideline after Brown’s pump fake froze the defense.
Misfortune also struck when Josh Preston’s low line-drive punt careened off the back of his linemen, creating a loose ball which Ole Miss commitment Tyler Judson picked up and returned for an 11-yard score.
DSHS ended a 12-series scoring drought and stopped Zachary’s onslaught in the final minute of play when Lunsford found Hunter Bond for a 3-yard TD.
Lunsford finished 23 of 46 for 262 yards with a pair of TDs and two interceptions. He set school single-season records in the process in yards (1,982) – breaking Chris Lee’s 1,937 mark in 1987 – and TDs (21) – snapped Kyle Cedotal’s record of 20 in 2011.
Drummer (8-112, TD) led the Jackets in receiving, followed by DJ Williams (5-69) and Bond (4-88).
Treveon Muse led the way on the ground with 19 carries for 74 yards and a 4-yard TD that made it 6-0. The Jackets finished with 38 yards rushing on 29 attempts, a figure that factors in Zachary’s five sacks against Lunsford for minus-34 yards.
“We had them schemed up well,” Conides said. “I thought the game plan was good and everything we wanted to run schematically was there. It was just a matter of making mistakes and they beat us pretty good up front.”
DSHS couldn’t have scripted a better opening, scoring on its first two possessions, for an eye-opening 13-0 lead after Drummer took a screen pass from Lunsford, cut off Bond’s block, for a 17-yard touchdown.
“It was a wake-up call because we started a little bit slow," Brown said. "We had to learn from what the (DSHS) defense did and we had to answer.”
That’s where Burrell, the state 200 and 400-meter champion, ignited Zachary’s switch, which accounted for 49 points over a 25-minute span.
“An untouched kick return for 97 yards,” Brewerton said. “We never really looked back after that.”
ZACHARY 62, DENHAM SPRINGS 20
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Zachary 14 21 14 6 - 55
Denham Springs 13 0 0 7 - 20
DSHS – Treveon Muse 4 run (kick blocked)
DSHS – Kaleb Drummer 17 pass from Luke Lunsford (Jose Ortega kick)
ZHS – Sean Burrell 97 kickoff return (Sean Patrick O’Brien kick)
ZHS - Keilon Brown 31 run (O’Brien kick)
ZHS – Chris Hilton 34 pass from Brown (O’Brien kick)
ZHS – Chandler Whitfield 81 pass from Brown (O’Brien kick)
ZHS – Hilton 58 pass from Brown (O’Brien kick)
ZHS – Hilton 21 pass from Brown (O’Brien kick)
ZHS – Tyler Judson 11 punt return (O’Brien kick)
ZHS – Jadarion Davis 27 pass from Brown (kick failed)
DSHS – Hunter Bond 3 pass from Lunsford (Ortega kick)
18 First Downs 19
34-308 Rushes-Yards 29-38
274 Passing Yards 262
13-18-1 A-C-I 34-26-2
3-29.7 Punts-Avg. 6-34.7
1-0 Fumbles-Lost 0-0
5-66 Penalties-Yards 5-30