Razan Keller provided the exclamation point and Tyler Morton was the eraser.
Keller scored on a 20-yard touchdown run with 34 seconds left in the game to put the final touches on a 233-yard, three-touchdown effort as Destrehan defeated rival Hahnville 36-23 on Friday night on Boutte to finish as the undefeated champions of District 7-5A.
The touchdown run by Keller came as the Wildcats (7-1) capped a 13-play drive that ate up 7:27 of the clock as Destrehan’s power running game wore down the Hahnville defense.
“That was the plan, to hit them straight in the mouth; see them back down slower and slower. I just executed over them,” Keller said.
Keller, a senior running back, and freshman Shane Lee pounded away at the Tiger defense throughout the second half.
“We just played to our strength,” Destrehan coach Marcus Scott said. “We knew we have a big running back. We have two kids who are over 200 pounds running the football. We have a young offensive line, but they are big and they are physical. We had an opportunity to take advantage and play to our strengths.”
Earlier in the week, Hahnville coach Daniel Luquet referred to Morton as Destrehan’s eraser because it seemed that whenever the Wildcats’ front seven might make a rare mistake, Morton was there in the secondary to prevent any damage.
Against Hahnville (5-3) on Friday, Morton had two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
“I felt like I had to come up big for my team. I made the plays, and we came out with the victory,” said Morton.
“He really has a knack for making big plays and being around the football,” Scott said of Morton.
Morton’s recovery of a Cole Villasenor fumble at the Hahnville 33-yard line set up Destrehan’s go-ahead score after the Wildcats trailed most of the game.
On the first play following the fumble recovery, Keller ran right up the middle for 31 yards. Keller scored on the next play, and a two-point conversion gave Destrehan the lead at 29-23 with 10:23 left in the game.
Hahnville faced fourth-and-8 from the Destrehan 40 on the game’s next possession when Morton intercepted an Andrew Naquin pass at the 18-yard line.
The Wildcats went on their long drive and Razan’s third rushing touchdown of the game sealed the win for Destrehan.
“It’s always special when you are able to come out and establish the line of scrimmage and really control the clock and really control the ball game,” said Scott.
Destrehan trailed 16-7 at halftime and came out and scored on the opening possession of the second half.
Razan could have had a four-touchdown night but fumbled as he neared the goal line, but lineman Jhase Gooden fell on the ball in the end zone to narrow the gap to 16-14.
“If you get the ball to start the second half, you want to come out and put some points on the board and do something positive,” Scott said.
“We had all the momentum, and we went into halftime with the lead. We just have to learn to come out with the same intensity that we play with in the first half. We continue to come out and give up a touchdown in that first drive (of the second half) and it just deflates you,” said Luquet.
Hahnville answered on its initial possession of the second half on a 30-yard touchdown run by Naquin on fourth-and-8 to build the Tigers’ lead back up to a two-score margin at 23-14 but would not score again.
The Tigers’ effort was hampered by the loss of running back Trey LaBranch. LaBranch suffered a left foot injury in the second quarter and spent the rest of the game on the sideline on crutches.
Both teams showed early jitters.
For Hahnville, the first manifestation came on its opening possession of the game when LaBranch fumbled three plays into the contest, with Adam Nagele recovering for Destrehan at the Tigers’ 31.
Unable to move the ball, the Wildcats lined up for a field goal but Will Bryant was unable to even attempt a 48-yard kick as a bad snap from center had to be run by Morton, the Destrehan holder, at the Wildcats’ 44.
Hahnville took advantage of the miscue when Naquin hit tight end Collin Zeringue for a 27-yard touchdown pass and a 6-0 Tigers lead at the 5:58 mark of the first quarter.
An on-side kick attempt by the Tigers was unsuccessful, with Destrehan taking possession at midfield.
“We felt like we had to steal possessions,” said Luquet. “I expected them to come out and do what they did in the second half to open the football game. I think they were trying to be themselves and spread the football out and get the ball to their playmakers, but at the end of the day, we are undersized up front and they got into some heavy sets.”
Destrehan needed only five plays to score. A 32-yard tackle-breaking run by Keller down to the 1-yard line set up a quarterback sneak by Jai Eugene to give the Wildcats their only lead of the second half at 7-6 with 3:47 left in the first quarter.
The teams exchanged turnovers before Hahnville go the ball at the Destrehan 43 following a punt.
Enjoying favorable field position throughout the first half, the Tigers took advantage when Naquin tossed to tight end Collin Zeringue over the middle for an 18-yard touchdown for a 13-7 Hahnville lead at the 7:13 mark of the second quarter.
Another Wildcat mistake, this one a bad center snap in punt formation, gave Hahnville the ball at the Destrehan 31.
The miscue resulted in a 19-yard Tate White field goal at the 1:42 mark of the second quarter, allowing the Tigers to take a 16-7 halftime lead.
Both teams now await Sunday’s announcement of the Class 5A playoff bracket.
Destrehan entered Friday’s game No. 4 in the unofficial power rankings and will have a home game to open the playoffs. At No. 18 going into the game, Hahnville has to await the outcome of other games to see if the Tigers might slip into the top 16 in order to host in the first round.