Destrehan’s Morton the hero as Wildcats move on to semifinals

Safety Tyler Morton (2) celebrates after a big play with teammate Dylan Gibbs in a 2019 Destrehan victory. Morton made another big one on Friday night at Ruston - this one a career highlight and then some.

Destrehan is moving on to the state semifinals.

The Wildcats went on a more than five hour road trip and put together a sensational defensive performance to shut out host Ruston, 6-0, at Grambling State in a Class 5A quarterfinal showdown.

On a rainy night and soaked field, Tyler Morton scored the game’s only points when Destrehan’s playmaking safety scooped up a Ruston (7-3) fumble and returned it for a touchdown with just under eight minutes left to play, breaking what was a scoreless deadlock and ultimately guiding DHS past the 13-seeded Bears. Kelvin Lea came up big down the stretch for Destrehan for a second straight week as well, recovering a fumble late in the fourth to negate one of the last chances for the Bears, who drove inside the Destrehan 15 yard line before Lea created the turnover.

Destrehan (10-1), the No. 5 seed in 5A, will travel to face No. 1 Acadiana in next week’s semifinal. Acadiana felled Mandeville Friday night, 21-0, to advance. The semifinal matchup will represent a rematch of the 2019 5A championship game, in which Acadiana edged Destrehan 8-3 to earn the state crown.

DHS has reeled off 10 straight wins since losing its season opener. It is now one win away from a return to the Class 5A state championship game for a second straight season. The win also means Destrehan will finish as at least a state semifinalist for the sixth time in eight seasons – DHS finished as a state finalist in 2014 and 2019 and as a semifinalist in 2013, 2016 and 2018.

Morton, the Wildcats’ senior safety who has swung several games this season with his knack for creating turnovers, once again delivered for his team.

“That was the play of the game for sure,” said Destrehan coach Marcus Scott. “I’m so proud of the kids and their effort, of our assistant coaches who did an outstanding job preparing them to play … we have a lot of kids on this team who have played a lot of football. They handled the situation like a veteran group.”

Scott said his players went out on the field with a bit of a chip on their shoulder. Ruston boasts one of the state’s biggest, strongest teams, and Scott said the team heard talk throughout the week questioning whether the Wildcats could stand toe-to-toe with Ruston’s punishing brand of football. Destrehan took it to heart, and held Ruston’s star running back Ke’Travion “Bull” Hargrove in check all night.

“There was a lot of talk throughout the week about us not being able to match Ruston’s physical style of play. Quite frankly, we were insulted by that,” Scott said. “Our kids came out with a point to prove.

“Ruston has a very good program and a good tradition. We had to remind our kids of our own tradition. Five of the past seven years, this program has been in the semifinals or state finals. So all the talk about their tradition and all they have on the line, it kind of became a personal thing.”

Destrehan went in with the right intensity, but to channel it, it came down to playing sound assignment football, Scott said, and winning the turnover battle. DHS did not turn the ball over during the game, while the two the team forced in the fourth quarter were critical.

“It was the difference,” Scott said. “We felt like we had to keep the game tight for four quarters, make it a full game. Ruston hadn’t played a close game in over a month because they’ve had such big leads by the fourth quarter, so we felt (a close game) could be to our advantage.”

It was certainly an exercise in patience, though, to not force the issue offensively on a night where the first score increasingly seemed like it could determine the outcome as the game unfolded – which is exactly what happened.

“We faced some adversity, but our kids kept fighting,” said Scott, who has led a team to the state semifinals now in two of the past three seasons – 2020 is his first season as Wildcats’ head coach, and he led Ehret to the Class 5A state semifinals in 2018. “I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

 

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