Battle of unbeaten state powers to decide who goes to Superdome

Patrick LeBranch scores in the fourth quarter of Destrehan's quarterfinal win over Ruston. (Photo by Ellis Alexander)

22 wins. 0 losses. 

But someone loses for the first time Friday night when unbeaten Destrehan travels to unbeaten Zachary for a Class 5A semifinal matchup – and the other is headed to the Superdome. 

For a little while on Friday night, it seemed Destrehan might host this week’s semifinal. No. 9 West Monroe was leading top-seeded Zachary in their quarterfinal game in the moments following Destrehan’s 24-10 victory over Ruston, and had that held, the latter would have traveled to Destrehan. 

But Zachary rallied to force overtime and ultimately win, 37-34 in the battle of perennial state powers, Eli Holstein’s pass to Charles Robertson spelling the difference. Destrehan must now travel to Zachary where it hopes to land the first win against the unbeaten Broncos this season. These teams are a combined 21-0, Zachary at 13-0 and Destrehan at 9-0. 

Holstein presents perhaps the stiffest test for Destrehan in terms of stopping a dominant individual talent this season. The quarterback is a Texas A&M committed junior, a pocket passer and in the midst of an excellent season. Incidentally, this will be the second time in a matter of three games Destrehan has faced a junior quarterback already committed to play at a Division I school, as the Wildcats faced Woodlawn’s Rickie Collins in a round two matchup. 

“He’s a big, strong kid. He can throw it and he can run it. We’ll certainly have our hands full,” said Destrehan head coach Marcus Scott. “They scheme really well. He has several weapons, too … he’s what you’re looking for in terms of a prototypical pocket passer. He throws the deep ball really well. Texas A&M is getting a very good player.”

That Woodlawn team is the lone common opponent between Destrehan and Zachary. DHS bested Woodlawn 29-20 in round two; Zachary defeated the Panthers 35-28 in a midseason matchup. Woodlawn was the lone regular season team to finish within single digits of the Broncos, but Zachary has played some close ones since the postseason began, with a round two 24-21 win over No. 17 East Ascension also on the team’s resume.  

Robertson is Holstein’s favorite receiver, and committed to Louisiana-Lafayette. In the win over West Monroe, he caught seven passes for over 100 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns.

“He’s a big receiver. He can go up and make acrobatic plays against tight coverage, and he’s a physical blocker as well,” Scott said.

Running back Cameron Stewart paces the ground game, and he rushed for 92 yards last week.  

“They have the quarterback and the receivers but they also do a really good job running the ball. This is a very balanced attack. People look at them and might think this is a finesse, passing team. Not true. They play a physical style of football, even as a spread team.”

Defensively, safety Kylin Jackson is another of the state’s top stars and is one of the top ranked recruits for the class of 2023. He’s a big hitter and playmaker.  

“They’re good up front and sound in the secondary. They run to the ball well and they have a lot of depth. (Jackson) really stands out. He’s very good with the ball in the air, but he’s physical in the run game as well. He’s a complete player,” Scott said.

These programs are not at all unfamiliar with one another, though the last meeting of the teams predated many of its players. In 2018, the teams squared off in the 5A semifinals on a night of hard rain and tough conditions. The score didn’t match the scene, however – this was a shootout, one won 67-57 by Zachary.  

Both programs are used to playing deep into the postseason. Zachary won three 5A championships in four seasons, earning the crown in 2015, 2017 and 2018. Destrehan, meanwhile, continues to build upon its run of incredible consistency: the Wildcats’ game Friday night will mark the seventh semifinal game in nine years for Destrehan. 

“It says a lot about the program Coach (Stephen) Robicheaux was able to establish,” Scott said. “To be able to continue that tradition is something we really have focused on. These are two programs with rich traditions and it should make for a great matchup.”

Going on the road to play at a difficult stadium for a visitor to win, Scott said shutting out the noise and hype surrounding a state semifinal game is a major point of emphasis.

“They key is to settle down early and play. All the fanfare leading into the game … it’s about focusing on your job and executing.” Scott said.

 

About Ryan Arena 2561 Articles
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