DESTREHAN – Zachary will seek its third Class 5A state football championship in four seasons in next week’s Allstate Sugar Bowl LHSAA Prep Classic, but not until the Broncos catch their breath.
In one hair-raiser of a football game, the reigning state champions survived a game of make-it-take-it to record a frenetic 67-57 Class 5A state semifinal road victory Friday over Destrehan.
Tailback R.J. Allen and quarterback Keilon Brown stood tall once again for the District 4-5A champions. They served as linchpins in an offensive effort that produced 441 yards and seven touchdowns rushing, 596 yards total and two additional scoring passes plus a key fumble recovery returned for a touchdown.
“It was pretty crazy,’’ Zachary coach David Brewerton said. “When you’re in those types of situations, you always want to know how your team is going to react. It doesn’t matter what happens. It doesn’t matter if you give up an 80-yard touchdown, it’s still about the next play. I’m proud of the way our team responded tonight.”
Allen rushed for 265 yards on 18 carries with touchdown runs of 9, 3, 81 and 7 yards, while sharing sparkplug honors with Brown who accounted for 309 yards and four touchdowns with his running and passing.
Brown rushed for 154 yards on 11 attempts with touchdown runs of 47 and 35 yards. He also completed 9 of 17 passes for 155 yards with scoring passes covering 67 and 16 yards to wide receivers Chandler Whitfield and Chris Hilton.
Zachary (12-2) now seeks its third state championship in four seasons, all under Brewerton, with a Dec. 8 match against No. 1 seed West Monroe in the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Prep Classic scheduled for 7 p.m. in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The Broncos finally gained separation from the host Wildcats in this free-for-all of football game in the third quarter when punter Sean Burrell ran 35 yards on a faked punt to give Zachary the lead for good at 40-36 with 7:51 left in the period.
Cornerback James Weatherspoon then picked up a Destrehan fumble two plays after the faked punt and raced 45 yards for a touchdown that accounted for a 47-36 advantage that grew to 54-36 following Allen’s 81-yard dash up the sideline.
A 45-yard run for a touchdown by Brown after the Broncos defense forced the Wildcats to turn the ball over on downs provided Zachary’s final touchdown and a 67-50 advantage with 1:48 remaining.
Allen had runs of 53 and 53 yards to set up two other touchdowns in addition to his 81-yard gallop.
Brown’s two lightning bolts from 47 and 45 yards culminated two of nine scoring drives the Broncos junior directed that covered 67, 97, 62, 3, 62, 57, 81, 77 and 45 yards.
Brown and Whitfield connected on a picture-perfect 67-yard scoring pass on Zachary’s first snap from scrimmage to erase a 7-0 deficit and establish what the Wildcats would be facing throughout. Brown’s pass hit Whitfield in stride on a deep streak down the right sidelines.
In addition to his scoring catch, Whitfield returned a kickoff 91 yards in the second quarter to set up Allen’s second touchdown run and Zachary’s fourth of five in the first half.
Destrehan (12-2) piled up 510 yards of offense and 24 first downs despite playing the second half minus LSU running back commitment John Emery, who was held out due to a lower left injury that Robicheaux said “doesn’t appear to be serious.’’
Much of the Wildcats yardage was supplied by the passing of senior quarterback Harold Blood Jr., who threw for 331 yards and three touchdowns while completing 30 of 45 passes. Blood also rushed for a 16-yard touchdown.
Emery rushed for first-half 86 yards on 14 carries with touchdown runs of 6 and 1 yards. His running mate, Kyle Edwards, additionally rushed for touchdowns of 6 and 4 yards as the Wildcats rushed for 179 yards.
“That is a good football team with a lot of firepower,’’ Brewerton said. “We played well enough to win the game, that’s the main thing. Obviously, we’ve got some things to clean up. But I’m really happy with the focus of our team right now.’’
Zachary spent much of the rainy evening fending off Destrehan challenges after surrendering up a 33-30 halftime lead to a lightning-like two-play, 68-yard drive by the Wildcats that gave the District 7-5A champions their final advantage at 36-33 with less than two minutes expired in the third period.
It was then that Brewerton opted for the faked punt and Weatherspoon turned in the evening’s biggest defensive play to ignite the Broncos.
“It was crazy,’’ Robicheaux said. “You’ve got great athletes on that (Zachary) side of the field and when you do that’s what going to happen. I just wish we could have stayed with them.”
ZACHARY 67, DESTREHAN 57
Score By Quarters
Zachary 13 20 21 13 - 67
Destrehan 14 16 13 14 - 57
First downs 18 24
Rushing 441 179
Passing 155 331
Total offense 596 510
Passes 9-17-0 30-45-0
Penalties 4-43 4-37
Punts 2-31.5 3-47.0
Fumbles/lost 5-2 2-0
DHS- John Emery 6 run (Mike Ehrmann kick).
ZHS - Chandler Whitfield 67 pass from Keilon Brown (Ethan Patrick O’Brien kick).
ZHS- R.J. Allen 9 run (Kick failed).
DHS- Carson Rieder 10 pass from Harold Blood Jr. (Ehrmann kick).
ZHS- Keilon Brown 47 run (O’Brien kick).
DHS- Ehrmann 34 field goal.
DHS- John Emery 1 run (Kick failed).
ZHS - Allen 3 run (Kick failed).
DHS- Kyle Edwards 6 run (Ehrmann kick).
ZHS- Chris Hilton 16 pass from Keilon Brown (O’Brien kick).
DHS - Kyle Edwards 4 run (Kick failed).
ZHS- Sean Burrell 35 run (O’Brien kick).
ZHS- James Weatherspoon 45 run (O’Brien kick).
ZHS- Allen 81 run (O’Brien kick).
DHS - Carson Rieder 19 pass from Harold Blood Jr. (Ehrmann kick).
ZHS- Allen 7 run (Kick failed).
DHS - Koby Hollins 3 pass from Harold Blood Jr. (Ehrmann kick).
ZHS- Brown 45 run (O’Brien kick).
DHS - Harold Blood Jr. 16 run (Ehrmann kick).