Jai Eugene has seen plenty throughout his three seasons as Destrehan’s starting quarterback, but one thing he hadn’t seen much of this particular season has been the second half – Destrehan’s had the luxury of resting their senior passer after taking big leads into halftime in each of its first 10 wins.
Well, he hasn’t forgotten how to close out a game.
Eugene scored two touchdowns in the second half – including a backbreaking 50-yard run – and accounted for five total as No. 3 seed Destrehan held off No. 14 Dutchtown 35-14 in the second round of the Division I non-select playoffs.
The Wildcats (11-0) who had a bye in round one, advance to face East St. John in a rematch of the district foes’ battle in Week 9, one won 48-7 by Destrehan.
Daniel Blood scored two touchdowns and Dutchtown had no answers for the senior wide receiver all night.
Kevin Adams and Travon Thomas each intercepted Pierson Parent passes in the fourth quarter of the win, with Adams’ pick setting up the drive that saw Eugene race for the night’s final touchdown, putting DHS ahead 35-14 and short circuiting a Dutchtown rally. Destrehan led 21-0 at halftime and 28-7 late in the third quarter, but Dutchtown was threatening to make things quite interesting after a Parent rushing score made it 28-14 and the Dutchtown defense recovered a Destrehan fumble at midfield.
Dutchtown (7-4) converted a 4th and 5 via a screen pass from Parent to Gary Dukes and was driving midway through the fourth quarter. But Parent dialed up a deep ball down the sideline that found the hands of a leaping Adams, who hauled in the throw for a massive momentum swing back in Destrehan’s favor.
“We needed it,” said Adams. “I knew that was their key player and that they were looking to get him the ball in that spot. I just made a play, using the gifts God gave me … they were moving the ball and we needed a stop.”
Then came Eugene’s game-clincher.
“Read-option – their guy followed the running back so I just took it. My mindset was to finish the game,” Eugene said. “We started off hot, 21-0 … we needed to put it away, do whatever it takes.”
Thomas picked off Dutchtown to end the Griffins’ next drive.
“(Adams) made a great play, then Travon came right back with another,” said Destrehan head coach Marcus Scott. “We wanted to make sure to get them into some obvious passing situations and give our guys a chance to make some plays. They came up big.”
Destrehan scored its first two touchdowns of the night on a pair of scoring passes from Eugene to Daniel Blood, the first a 35-yarder, the second from 25 yards.
Dutchtown drove to the Destrehan 40, but Arrington Adams tackled Parent for a 2-yard loss to force a punt early in the second quarter.
Destrehan drove right back down the field as the Eugene to Blood combination continued to dominate – a 47-yard gain brought the ball into Dutchtown territory. A Eugene keeper for 20 yards, then a sneak at the 1 for Eugene’s first rushing score of the night made it 21-0.
Dutchtown started the second half with a time-consuming drive that ended with a Lekedrin Harvey run for a score that got the Griffins on the board.
Destrehan answered immediately, getting on the move on the back of another Eugene to Blood long gain, this one seeing Eugene buy time to find Blood cutting across the middle for an eventual 50-yard gain. That set up another Eugene touchdown run.
This was a different kind of game for Destrehan, which had not been challenged in the second half at all this season, let alone in the fourth quarter.
“I think it’s good to get into one of these kinds of battles and see where you are,” said Scott. “We made plays when we had to. Even at this point, we still have things to clean up, but we came out and got a win over a really good Dutchtown team.”
As for his quarterback, Scott said Eugene is often eye-opening, but at this point rarely surprising.
“You have 4 back there, and sometimes he’s just gonna make things happen,” Scott said. “His leadership, his ability to throw it and run it like he does … you can see the things that make him special.”
Eugene said his team has eager to get back on the field after a week off – this is a group on a mission. And, as has become quite the tradition at Destrehan, the Wildcats will once again be playing football on Thanksgiving week.
“I’m just thankful to have these guys around me,” Eugene said.