Destrehan must slow Acadiana’s veer attack to win 5A state title

Game will kickoff at 7 p.m. on Saturday

The undefeated Destrehan Wildcats will try for their third state championship in seven years when they face off against Acadiana in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Saturday.

The Wildcats advanced to the Class 5A title game after knocking off West Monroe 27-22 last Friday. In that game, Destrehan stormed out to a 21-3 first half lead but had to hold off a West Monroe rally in the third quarter to punch their ticket to the state championship game.

Destrehan took a 7-3 lead on a 15-yard touchdown pass by Kohen Granier to Alfred Smith, and extended their advantage when Will Matthews scored from two yards out. Wildcat receiver John Williams put his team up 21-3 with an electrifying touchdown run midway through the second quarter.

Though Destrehan had all the momentum entering the third quarter, West Monroe put together a 99-yard drive to cut into the deficit. Then the Rebels scored again on a short drive after recovering a kickoff that bounced off a Wildcat.A costly turnover on Destrehan’s next possession allowed West Monroe to take a 22-21 lead. It was a stunning turn of events.

“In five minutes everything went crazy,” Robicheaux said. “All of a sudden it was 22-21. The kids could have folded but they continued to fight and do the things they needed to do to be successful. That’s a testament to their character, hard work and the way they believe in each other.”

The Wildcats fought back on their next offensive series, with Granier finding Smith for a 22-yard gain into Rebel territory. Later, Matthews gave his team a lead they would not relinquish with a short touchdown run.

The Destrehan defense did their job in the fourth quarter, keeping West Monroe from picking up a first down on 4th and 1 late in the game to preserve the victory.

“We knew what we were up against with West Monroe,” Robicheaux said. “They hurt us scheme wise but our kids fought through it and made plays when they needed to. To shut them down on 4th and 1 was just huge.”

Only a sophomore, Granier was instrumental in Destrehan’s win over West Monroe after taking over for starting quarterback Marquise Darensbourg. The two have both played down the stretch, and Robicheaux said that will continue in Saturday’s championship game.

“We’re going to do what we’ve been doing – It has been by committee,” Robicheaux said. “Because of the players around them that do great things, we ask our quarterbacks to manage the game. Kohen did a tremendous job, but that doesn’t mean that Marquise can’t also do a tremendous job.”

No matter who is under center on Saturday, the Wildcats will need a team effort in order to beat an Acadiana team who, like Destrehan, excels on both sides of the ball. Though the Rams struggled during the regular season with early losses to Rummel, Barbe and Carencro, they have been playing at a much higher level in the postseason. Acadiana blanked St. Amant to open the playoffs, then beat Ponchatoula, Mandeville and Zachary.

The Rams are averaging more than 28 points per game, while giving up 16 points per game.

Last season, Acadiana defeated Destrehan 35-7 in the Class 5A semifinal before going on to win the state championship by scoring 77 points. However, only three starters on that high-powered offense returned this season.

Running back Malik Eugene, who has committed to Tulane, leads the Acadiana rushing attack. Fellow running backs Kevin Moore and Donavin Soloman have also had plenty of success on the ground this season.

“They have the same type of offense they had last year when they scored 77 in the Dome,” Robicheaux said. “They run that veer that is hard to stop.”

But Robicheaux said his team gained valuable experience by facing Acadiana last year.

“I think playing them last year will help us,” he said. “It’s hard to look at tape and get a feel for their offense, but our kids have seen it live and they know what to expect.”

While Acadiana’s veer offense gets most of the attention, Robicheaux singled out the play of the Rams’ defense. Last week, Acadiana limited Zachary to just three points in their semifinal win.

“They have the best secondary we will face this year,” Robicheaux said. “Their defensive line is hard-nosed, their defensive ends will keep us busy and their linebackers do a tremendous job. There is no doubt that they are a good football team.”

But Destrehan’s defense has been better, giving up just 10 points per game. With the exception of West Monroe, teams have had difficulty running  against a monstrous Wildcat defensive line that includes Glen Logan, Ed Leonard and Gerald Wilbon.

Destrehan linebackers Tyjon Sanchez, Alex Zayed, Peyton Steib and Allen Pittman make plays all over the field and have improved each game, while the Wildcat secondary has limited the passing attack of every team they have faced this season. Last week, Destrehan safety Brandon Scott recorded 16 tackles and recovered a fumble.

Meanwhile, the Wildcat offense is averaging nearly 39 points per game.  Robicheaux credits that success to an experienced offensive line and talented playmakers like Kirk Merritt, Will Matthews, Alfred Smith and John Williams.

“I think we are playing good ball,” Robicheaux said. “If you score points and play good defense, you are playing good enough to win.”

Kickoff is set for Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Superdome.

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