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Destrehan punches its ticket to state finals with 27-22 triumph

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  • George Becnel
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  • December 05, 2014 - 11:40pm

Photos by Jarrod Monaret/LA Sports PhotographyJohn Williams scores on a second quarter 52-yard screen pass, helping Destrehan to a 27-22 win.

Holding a 21-3 halftime lead and forcing a West Monroe fumble on the Rebels’ first play from scrimmage in the third quarter, the Destrehan Wildcats seemed on the verge of a blowout victory in their Class 5A semifinal game Friday night in Destrehan.

When the Wildcats failed to score after the fumble, a Destrehan punt was downed at the 1-yard line. West Monroe went 99 yards in slightly more than minute to get back in the game and in what seemed like a blink of the eye to Wildcat fans, the Rebels scored a total of 19 third-quarter points to take a 22-21 lead.

Facing gut-check time, the Wildcats answered West Monroe’s final score with a 3-yard touchdown run by Will Matthews, and the Destrehan defense came up with big stops on fourth-and-short situations on the Rebels’ final two possessions to preserve a 27-22 victory.

The win sends the 14-0 Wildcats to the Class 5A state championship next Saturday in the Superdome against Acadiana, a 9-3 winner Friday over Zachary. Destrehan is the fourth seed while Acadiana is a No. 15 seed.

“We were up 21-3 and all of a sudden, the game just turned on us. We get them down on the (1-yard line) and they go 99 yards and scored. Our kids came back. I’ve never so proud of a bunch of kids in my life,” Destrehan coach Stephen Robicheaux said.

“I’ve been wanting to go to state since I was a little kid. We’ve talking about it forever and I’m glad we were able to accomplish our goal, but we’re not done yet. We’re still hungry,” said Destrehan running back Will Matthews.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I’m looking forward to it,” Destrehan quarterback Kohen Granier said of the state-championship game.

The Wildcats seemed poised to deliver a knockout blow mere moments into the third quarter. West Monroe got the ball to open the second half trailing 21-3 when a fumble by Rebels running back Devonte Williams was recovered by Destrehan safety Brandon Scott at the West Monroe 44.

Facing third-and-5 from the 38, the Wildcats opted to pass the ball instead of going for a run and a potential four-down territory situation. Following an incomplete pass by Granier, the Wildcats downed a punt at the 1-yard line.

Three plays later, West Monroe quarterback Robert Scott Foust connected with Johnny Johnson on a 38-yard strike down to the Destrehan 32. On the next play, Williams, who rushed for 122 yards, got the ball, broke loose at the 20 and raced to remaining yards for a touchdown to make the score 21-10 at the 9:34 mark of the third quarter.

The Rebels (11-3) recovered what appeared to be an onside kick, getting the ball back at the Destrehan 46.

“I won’t say it was unintentional but it’s OK, whatever you want to call it,” West Monroe coach Jerry Arledge said of the play.

Regardless of the intent, it worked out in West Monroe’s favor. Aided by a pass interference call that helped advance the ball to the Destrehan 19, the Rebels scored two plays later on a 10-yard keeper by freshman quarterback Slade Bolden. Bolden and Foust, a sophomore, alternated throughout the game at quarterback. Foust’s pass on a two-point attempt was incomplete, leaving the score at 21-16 at the 7:26 mark of the third quarter.

Late in the third quarter, a snap over the head of Granier in shotgun formation, was recovered by West Monroe’s Regan Murray at the Destrehan 15-yard line. Bolden ran up the middle on the next play for the touchdown. Another two-point conversion attempt failed as the Rebels held a 22-21 lead with 2:41 left in the third quarter.

Reeling from 19-straight points by West Monroe in the third quarter and all the momentum now on the side of the Rebels, the Wildcats needed to make something happen.

The Wildcats drove from their own 35 down to the West Monroe 6-yard line, when Destrehan faced fourth-and-inches. Electing not to kick a field goal for a potential two-point lead, the Wildcats lined up to seek a fourth-down conversion. The Rebels jumped offside, giving Destrehan a first down at the 3-yard line. Matthews scored on the next play and an attempted two-point conversion pass by Granier failed, leaving the Wildcats with a 27-22 edge with 10:57 still to play in the game.

“I knew we had confidence in ourselves and we could get it back. I wasn’t worried too much,” Granier said after his team fell behind.

The Rebels marched on their next drive. Facing fourth-and-2 from the Destrehan 30, Bolden was stopped for no gain.

West Monroe got the ball back at its own 18 with 4:30 left following a punt. Facing fourth-and-2 from the Destrehan 28, the Rebels gave the ball to Trey Coleman. Coleman tried to bounce outside but Scott was there from his safety position to stop the Rebels running back a yard short of the first down with less than two minutes remaining in the game.

“Make the stop to get to the Superdome. Make the stop to get to state,” Scott said of what was going through his mind on the last defensive stop. “That’s what we did.”

Two plays later on second-and-4, Matthews powered his way for 9 yards and a first down, allowing the Wildcats to run out the clock.

“I was running and (Robicheaux) said we needed one more first down. When I got the ball, I kept pushing and pushing and pushing. I wasn’t trying to go down. Actually, if I could have scored, I would have scored. I got the first down and my team kept pushing me,” Matthews said.

“Games aren’t won or lost in the first half. We self-inflicted too many turnovers that first half that led to points but we say all the time that games are not won or lost in the first half. We came out and made a game of it. We just couldn’t come up with a big stop on that last drive of theirs when they went ahead of us,” said Arledge.”

Matthews had many more productive outings than the 65 hard-earned yards he gained on 21 carries against West Monroe, but none may have ever been as important.

“Their defense was amazing. Their front line, those were some big guys. I give credit to their whole defense. They played us well the whole game,” Matthews said.

The Wildcats went into the game knowing running right at West Monroe would be an almost impossible task. They quickly found out trying to get to the perimeter with the running game would be just as difficult against a big, physical, and quick Rebel defense.

On West Monroe’s first possession of the game, the Rebels faced first-and-15 from their own 30 when a high snap went over the head of Bolden. He pulled the ball down and found the middle of the field completely open. He received a great block at the Destrehan 40 on his way to a 52-yard gain to the Wildcats’ 18. West Monroe was forced to settle on a 29-yard Ian Alexander field goal and a 3-0 lead.

With Destrehan limited to 14 yards rushing on 13 attempts in the first half and quarterback Marquise Darensbourg off to a 1 for 3 start four only 4 yards to open the game, Granier entered the contest.

On his first play, Granier hooked up with Tremaine Armstrong down the right sideline for a catch-and-run play of 50 yards. On the next play, Granier found Alfred Smith in the left corner of the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown and a 7-3 Destrehan lead.

Defense and an opportunistic offense characterized the rest of the first half for Destrehan.

A 41-yard interception return by Destrehan’s Raekwon Morgan on the ensuing drive down to the West Monroe 19 set up a 2-yard off-tackle run by Matthews and a 14-7 Wildcats lead.

Gerald Wilbon’s recovery of a Lushawn Ware fumble midway in the second quarter eventually led to a 52-yard touchdown pass from Granier to John Williams. The Wildcats actually had to punt on the possession but a roughing-the-kicker penalty gave Destrehan new life. On the next play, Granier tossed a screen pass to Williams, who turned the short toss into a 52-yard touchdown and a 21-3 Wildcats lead with 7:09 remaining before half.

Granier finished 11 of 14 passing for 188 yards and two touchdowns.

George Becnel | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

George Becnel is an award-winning journalist and has been a sports writer and editor for more than 30 years.