SLIDELL - It didn't much look like a defending Class 5A state champion squad that took the field Friday night in its season opener.
But, for No. 2 Zachary, a win is a win - and that's just fine with them.
Zachary overcame a sluggish first half and pulled away in the second half for a season opening 28-7 victory over Northshore at Panther Field.
Zachary (1-0), one of three teams in District 4-5A ranked in the preseason Top 10, did its best to show off its talents against an undermanned Northshore squad.
Quarterback Keilon Brown was the star for Zachary, throwing for 55 yards and a score, while rushing for 94 and two more TDs.
Brown said the wet and muddy field was a bit of a problem for the Broncos.
"We are used to being on turf, so being sloppy and nasty, we had to make an adjustment," Brown said. "We just knew we had to pick it up in the second half and put points on the board."
Zachary coach David Brewerton knew it was going to be a rough night.
"Offensively, we just could not get going," he said. "We couldn't produce but we took advantage of some opportunities and were able to put some points on the board. You just have to win games like this. It didn't look pretty and we certainly didn't look like a top-five football team, but we did get the win and that is all that matters."
Zachary scored the only points of the first half in the first period when Brown hit Chris Hilton for a five-yard score with 1:55 left in the first quarter. The score capped a 14-play, 60-yard drive for the Broncos.
The rest of the first half looked like it was the first game of the season for both teams, who committed numerous mistakes. Zachary had 35 yards in penalties, including a costly block in the back that negated a punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter.
Northshore had its own problems, fumbling twice and missing a 35-yard field goal. The Panthers managed just one first down in the half and had just 25 yards passing.
Zachary managed to play a bit better in the second half, if only because Northshore handed the Broncos several opportunities to extend the lead.
After forcing punts on the first two possessions of the second quarter, Northshore quarterback Michael Benedict was hit as he dropped back inside his own 5-yard line and fumbled in the third quarter.
Brown took it upon himself to get the Broncos in the end zone, pushing his way in on a sneak to give Zachary a 14-0 lead.
After a Northshore three-and-out, Zachary drove 59 yards for its next score, thanks in large part to Brown's arm and legs. The signal-caller had 17 yards passing on the drive and capped it with another sneak from a yard away to make it 21-0 with 10:30 left in the game.
Zachary's final score came with 2:32 left in the game, as Kyle Landry rumbled in from 29 yards away to put the Broncos up 28-0.
Northshore (0-1) avoided a shutout, scoring on a 16-yard pass from Benedict to Cade Fleetwood with 1:02 remaining.
RJ Allen had 61 yards rushing for Zachary, while Landry finished with 58 yards on seven carries.
Benedict finished with just 35 yards passing and Branyan Bounds had 33 yards on the ground for the Panthers. Northshore finished with just 56 yards of total offense and three first downs, one via penalty.
Brown praised the other side of the ball for helping get the win.
"Even though we were doing bad and had our backs against the wall, the defense had our backs," he said.
Zachary at Northshore
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Zachary 7 0 7 14 - 28
Northshore 0 0 0 7 - 7
ZHS - Chris Hilton 5 pass from Keilon Brown (Ethan Patrick O'Brien kick)
ZHS - Brown 1 run (O'Brien kick)
ZHS - Brown 1 run (O'Brien kick)
ZHS - Kyle Landry 29 run (O'Brien kick)
NHS - Cade Fleetwood 16 pass from Michael Benedict (Andrew Stein)
17 First downs 3
38-213 Rushes-yards 21-21
55 Passing yards 35
7-19-0 C-A-I 5-15-1
6-37 Punts-avg. 7-40.9
1-1 Fumbles-lost 3-3
8-85 Penalties-yards 5-35