If anyone left the Destrehan-Higgins game at halftime on Friday, they missed a thrilling Wildcat comeback from being down 12-0 to forcing overtime.
Unfortunately, they fell to the Hurricanes 26-20, but their fierce play in the second half was as if head coach Chris Stroud had given a Lombardi-esque halftime speech in the locker room.
“We just told them to relax,” said Stroud. “We reminded them that the defense was playing good enough to win and that we just had poor field position. And we just asked the kickoff return team to get us good field position and we said let’s make it a one touchdown game on the first drive.”
No one played a more important role in that comeback than running back Kevin Smith who invigorated the team when he followed his coach’s instructions and returned the opening kickoff of the second half 87 yards for a touchdown. Now that star wide receiver and defensive back Rickey Jefferson is out for the season, Smith has been even more important to this team in the last two weeks. And with all three of Destrehan’s touchdowns this past Friday, he has lifted the team up onto his shoulders.
“Kevin has been solid, and had another great game on both sides the ball with over 180 all purpose yards and six tackles,” said Stroud. “He has to continue leading our team on both sides of the ball down the last stretch of the season.”
Smith had some help scoring his other two touchdowns as sophomore quarterback Donovan Isom stepped in for injured starter Dillan Dent in the second half and led the team on those two long scoring drives, completing four passes for 44 yards. Stroud thought his young quarterback and his team stepped it up in the second half.
“Everyone played at a different level after Kevin’s kickoff return for a touchdown,” said Stroud. “You could also see Donovan’s confidence growing as the game progressed.”
The Wildcat defense played aggressively Friday night, forcing five fumbles and recovering two. Defensive end Dereck Robinson was responsible for two of those forced fumbles.
“We played well all night, but then on the goaline early and in the overtime period, we didn’t make the big play when we needed it most,” remarked Stroud. “But you have to be proud of how hard our defense plays. We play with such great effort and pursuit, but we cannot allow teams over 250 yards rushing and that’s what we gave them.”
After facing top ranked teams for the past four weeks, Destrehan gets a reprieve this week against the 0-5 John Ehret Patriots. Facing such tough opponents may have been beneficial in the long run as they have prepared this team for a tough district schedule. However, Stroud is trying to get many of his players healthy again after such hard fought games.
“We are definitely prepared but the injury bug has us right now,” said Stroud. “We had six starters out Friday night versus Higgins. Facing that four game stretch has taken its toll physically on us. Not only were they the top teams in state but they were very physical football teams.”
That injury bug still has a hold on Dillan Dent’s shoulder as he will not be under center this week. However, that will not prevent him from contributing. Stroud says that Dent will still play cornerback and wide receiver in Rickey Jefferson’s vacated slot.
Ehret, like Higgins, has a very talented, dynamic quarterback in Mike Alexander. And Stroud says that the game plan will not change much because of that.
“We’re just going to keep having continued emphasis and reps in practice on containing and tackling,” he said.
Stroud still sees consistent play as the key to his team coming away with a victory this Friday.
“We need to put four quarters of solid football together, rebound emotionally after another close, tough, overtime loss and continue to play good defense,” he stated.
The Patriots are seemingly a good opponent for that to take place. The two teams will face off this Friday in Destrehan at 7 p.m.