Destrehan senior running back Kyle Edwards should have been dead tired after Friday night’s Class 5A state semifinal at Wildcat Stadium.
The Alabama commit ran for 209 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries as the seven-seeded Wildcats earned a 27-17 victory over No. 11 Haughton, but he still had energy.
The senior raced around the field with the “D” in the DHS flag trio to celebrate with the fans.
“Everyone doubted us at 4-3, and now, we’re in the Dome,” said Edwards, who had 1,580 yards rushing and 24 touchdowns before Friday night. “When I had the flag in my hands, it was just letting everyone know that this was for Destrehan. This was all for my team and my community.”
While Edwards powered the offense, it was the Destrehan defense that forced three second-half turnovers, including a goal line interception by junior Jaden Harding to seal the victory.
“All we talked about all week was that when the clock hits zero that Destrehan was going to the state championship,” said senior defensive lineman Noah Taliancich, who had a fumble recovery. “We focused all week on this moment.
These seniors have been to three semifinals, and this is the first one that we won. I can’t describe this feeling.”
The path back to the championship was challenging.
Leading 13-10 at the half, Destrehan’s defense forced a three-and-out, and the offense took advantage. Damaruis Jackson found Quincy Brown for a 31-yard touchdown catch and a 20-10 lead.
Then, the defense came up with big play after big play. With the Bucs in the red zone, C.J. McWilliams fumbled on a reverse pass attempt, and Taliancich recovered to end the threat.
Edwards seemingly put the game out of reach with his third touchdown – this one on a 40-yard run – for a 27-10 lead with 5:56 remaining, but the Bucs made things interesting.
Just two minutes later, McWilliams hauled in a 13-yard touchdown catch to cut the lead to 27-17. McWilliams recovered the onside kick, but Destrehan’s Lynard Harris recovered a fumble two plays later to end that threat.
Harding’s interception on the ensuing drive allowed the Wildcats to run out the clock.
“We just had to play our brand of football,” senior linebacker Dylan Whitted said. “This one is for all the doubters.
This is for all people who said that we weren’t going to make it. They said we were going to lose in the first round.
This is for all of those people.”
Haughton quarterback Peyton Stovall threw for 354 yards on 32 of 49 passing with two touchdowns and an interception. Tristan Sweeney (14 catches, 152 yards, TD), McWilliams (9 catches, 90 yards, TD) and Matthew Whitten (8 catches, 78 yards) were his favorite targets. The Bucs struggled on the ground finishing with 35 yards rushing.
Destrehan amassed 304 yards of total offense including 85 yards passing.
Wildcats coach Stephen Robicheaux said his players were able to find a way to win.
“I’m proud of the kids for continuing to play hard and for being resilient,” he said. “They just kept plugging away and fighting. We got it done when it counted, and we’re still playing. This is amazing. I’m so happy for these kids. These kids stayed with the program, and now we’re going to the Superdome.”
The Wildcats rode the legs of Edwards in the first half as the Alabama commit scored twice en route to a 13-10 halftime advantage.
The Bucs (11-3) outgained Destrehan 164 to 150 yards in the first half, but the Wildcat defense stood tough in the red zone, holding Haughton to a touchdown and two field-goal attempts in three first-half red zone trips.
Destrehan took the lead on its second drive when Edwards broke through the line untouched and raced 49 yards for a score.
Haughton answered with a 70-yard drive that spanned five minutes. The Bucs converted on fourth down, thanks to a 15-yard catch by Whitten. Stovall capped the drive with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Sweeney to tie the game.
Haughton seemingly took the lead on its next drive when Whitten knifed into the end zone but a block in the back penalty negated the score. The Bucs settled for a 35-yard field goal by Carter Jensen for a 10-7 lead.
But once again, Edwards answered as his power running resulted in a 5-yard score and a 13-10 lead after a missed extra point.
Haughton drove into Wildcats territory late in the half, but the defense came up big, forcing the Bucs back and Jensen’s 40-yard field goal attempt went wide left to preserve the halftime lead.