Destrehan took to the road with payback on its mind for its Class 5A semifinal matchup with defending state champion Acadiana.
But on this night, it wasn’t to be.
The top-seeded Wrecking Rams, which bested the Wildcats a little over a year earlier in the 5A state championship game, are moving on to Natchitoches for their second straight championship game appearance after earning a 23-0 win over DHS, riding a dominant second half to victory.
Acadiana led 3-0 at halftime, but quickly widened their lead in the third and fourth quarters. That forced Destrehan away from its offensive strength and gave an additional boost to a Rams defense that was already playing at a high level.
“It hurts,” said Destrehan senior defensive back Jaden Harding, who intercepted a pass to halt an Acadiana drive late in the first half. “We came out here thinking we’d come out and beat them, and get our revenge from last year. But it was just a different ballgame out here.”
Destrehan head coach Marcus Scott credited Acadiana for its strong performance, noting his Wildcats brought a spirited effort but ultimately couldn’t overcome their own mistakes against an elite opponent Friday night.
“The kids gave us everything they had all season,” said Scott. “Tonight was no different. Obviously, it had to be over for someone. There can only be one champion and they deserved to win tonight. We have to get better.”
Acadiana (10-1), the top seed in 5A, garnered some early momentum after a trick play gone awry for Destrehan (10-2). Quarterback Jai Eugene got the ball back on a flea-flicker pitch and fired a pass downfield, but it was intercepted by Drai Anthony.
Acadiana took a 3-0 lead thanks to the leg of Jesus Martinez, who booted a field goal to cap an early second quarter drive after the No. 5 seeded Wildcats’ defense stiffened to force a 4th and 7 after a Dylan Gibbs tackle for loss.
Destrehan began to garner some momentum on a drive midway through the quarter, pushing the ball down the field and reaching the Acadiana 30 yard line, where DHS faced a 4th and 3. The Wildcats sent the field goal team on, but then called timeout to regroup before electing to go for the conversion. DHS sent on a power formation, and the scenario was similar to its second round game against Dutchtown, where DHS turned a 4th and 3 into a long Razan Keller touchdown with the same personnel on the field.
But this time, a Keller run to the right side was swallowed up by the swarming Rams defense.
Acadiana took over and started to march. A DHS personal foul penalty moved the ball to the 50, and soon it was the Rams deep into DHS territory with less than a minute left in the half. Rams’ quarterback Jerimiah Brown looked to go over the top for a potential touchdown, but with 15 seconds left Harding intercepted the ball to end the threat.
“We were in a cover 3, and my man ran a short route,” Harding said. “I saw the tight end come across the middle and Tyler (Morton) come down (to defend), so if I don’t make the play on that it’s a touchdown. I had to come up and make the play right there and try to change the momentum of the game.”
Destrehan received the ball to start the second half. But the Wildcats couldn’t muster a drive and were forced to punt. Acadiana took control of the game on its ensuing drive, and did it on a big run by Brown, who kept the ball and raced 52 yards down to the Destrehan 1-yard line. Tyvin Zeno punched it in for a score to make it 10-0 with 8:51 left in the third quarter.
“We couldn’t get a drive going to start the second half … they took advantage of some good field position and put points on the board,” Scott said. “Against a team like this, to go down two scores … it’s always tough. There were a few times we had some positive things going on and we needed to cash in.”
On Destrehan’s next drive, quarterback Jai Eugene looked long for Calvin Bullock, but the ball fell incomplete. Acadiana held firm on a third down run and DHS couldn’t convert, and it was forced to punt.
Acadiana scored again with 27 seconds left in the third, this time Omiri Wiggins capping the drive on a 1-yard score to make it 17-0.
The Rams made it 23-0 with 5:10 left on Keven Williams’ 14-yard touchdown run.
Destrehan’s last offensive gasp was intercepted when Eugene targeted Bullock downfield, Anthony picking it off for his second interception of the night and setting up Acadiana to close the game out.
The Rams’ “Veer Machine” option offense generated 22 first downs and more than 300 yards of offense, with Zeno’s 105 yards leading the way.
It brought to an end what was a 10 game winning streak for Destrehan, one that began in Week 2 against a St. James team that hadn’t lost a game in over a year prior.
It was also the swan song for a senior class of Wildcats that established their team as one of the state’s elite defensive teams, backed by a strong running game, and a true championship contender.
“We’re a brotherhood,” said Harding. “We all came up as freshmen playing together. It’s why we played so well. So … for all the seniors, it hurts. It hurts.”