Kevin Adams recognized the play, made a break on the ball and was off to the races – and likewise Destrehan is off to the Superdome, with a chance to bring home a state championship on the line.
Adams’ third quarter pick-six put Destrehan (13-0) ahead by eight and was the momentum changing play as No. 3 Destrehan earned a 21-6 victory over No. 10 Westgate in the Division I non-select state semifinals in front of an ecstatic home crowd.
Jai Eugene’s fourth quarter QB sneak at the 1-yard line netted Destrehan a two-score lead and Lynard Harris finished things off with an interception of his own as the Wildcats are off to their second 5A championship game in the past four years.
Destrehan will face top-seeded Ruston in the state championship game on Friday night at 7 p.m. Ruston defeated Zachary 37-22 to advance.
Adams jumped a route and intercepted a Jaboree Antoine pass at the Westgate 41 – he would keep on running, taking it all the way for a touchdown to push what was a 7-6 halftime lead for Destrehan to 14-6 with 8:43 left in the third quarter.
“In the locker room at halftime, we talked about how someone had to make a play,” Adams said. “I used the gifts God gave me … we fell short (in the Superdome) our freshman year, so it feels good to be able to go back.”
Adams said stopping Westgate began with stopping the run, and that when the ball went to the air, the Wildcats were intent on capitalizing.
“We’ve got the best defense in the state,” Adams said.
His score put a run-heavy Westgate (9-4) attack a bit on its heels, as did a dominating Destrehan defensive effort. While the Tigers kept the normally explosive Destrehan offense more quiet than usual, once the fourth quarter began Destrehan’s offensive line, Shane Lee and Eugene collectively closed the game out.
“We knew (Adams’ play) meant we could control the game from that moment,” Eugene said. “We didn’t score a lot of points tonight, but I’m thankful for the win and thankful for my defense.”
Destrehan returns to the Superdome for the second time in four years, the last time coming in 2019. Friday night’s game was Destrehan’s eighth semifinal in the past 10 years. For head coach Marcus Scott, this was his fourth semifinal round in his past five years as a head coach, three with Destrehan and one in 2018 with John Ehret. This was Scott’s first semifinal win – he said during the week that he hoped this time would be the charm, and indeed it was.
“It’s a special moment,” Scott said. “I’m very excited for our community, our players and our coaches … this was a total team effort. It really has been all year.”
Early in the fourth quarter, Kolaj Cobbins third down tackle forced a Westgate fumble that bounced harmlessly out of bounds, but forced a Tiger punt. Eugene found an opening for a 15-yard run, a play that set the tone for the rest of the drive.
Enter Lee, who surged for a 21-yard run to the WHS 34 before rushing for gains of 4, 13 and 7 yards to set his team up on 1st and goal from the 7.
Eugene carried next and appeared to be on his way to the ground, but somehow maintained his balance and picked up several extra yards to the 1.
“Just trying to win … whatever it takes to win,” Eugene said.
A play later, his sneak behind the right side of the line put Destrehan ahead two scores. A short time later, Harris all but sealed the win with his interception – one that looked to be headed for a pick-six as well had the play not been blown dead due to his helmet coming off – and the celebration was on.
Destrehan took an early 7-0 lead after scoring on its first drive following connections between Eugene and Leslie Jefferson and Eugene and Johnnie Thiel. Lee punched it in to end the drive with a 2-yard touchdown, making it 7-0.
A bit of controversy got the second quarter started when a flag thrown on the final play of the first quarter for illegal participation that was previously waved off was enforced after a huddle by officials. That negated a fourth down stop by Destrehan and kept a Westgate drive alive deep in DHS territory to begin the second quarter.
An Antoine draw delivered Westgate to the DHS 4, and shortly after Derek Williams scored as the Wildcat formation quarterback to make it 7-6 – the extra point attempt failed.
The Wildcats have largely been healthy for much of the season, but fought through the loss of some very key players to win this one. After losing running back Brandon Freeman, the team’s second leading rusher among backs, two weeks ago, this week the team had to go without its most productive receiver and one of the state’s most dangerous punt returners in Daniel Blood, who was sidelined due to an injury suffered in the quarterfinal round.
“You get to this time of year and everyone is banged up, and you need guys to step forward,” Scott said.
Eugene said Blood’s leadership was present throughout the week, even as he couldn’t work on the practice field physically.
“Our seniors stepping up … Daniel doing a great job standing by with the team, leading, even if he couldn’t practice … I’m so glad to be around these guys,” Eugene said.
Lee, meanwhile, said reaching the Superdome has been on his mind for a long time. While many of his senior teammates have experienced the championship game, the junior is in for his first taste of it.
“My dream is to go win it, and it’s time to go complete that dream,” Lee said.