Destrehan halts Central rally

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Sports Editor

Is it 2007, or 2008?

The similarities for Destrehan are striking between the two, as an undefeated streak and a trip to the Superdome are intact — again — after the Wildcats locked up a 21-14 win over Central-Baton Rouge in a Class 5A semifinal game at Destrehan.

Destrehan, winners of 28 straight and the No. 2 seed in 5A, are off to face No. 1 West Monroe this Saturday in the Superdome for the state championship game.

After losing its starting quarterback, running back, and two starting wide receivers after the 2007 title season, few gave Destrehan a chance to return to the Dome — and fewer still imagined it would be with an undefeated record.

Count DHS Coach Stephen Robicheaux among them.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think we’d be in this position,” he said. “If you came to me before the season and told me we’d be 13-0 and going to play West Monroe in the Dome, I’d probably have said you were crazy.”

Crazy or not, Destrehan won a third straight playoff nailbiter on Friday night — a game that went down to the wire despite Destrehan holding a two-touchdown lead over Central (11-2) with less than three minutes left.

Marshall Charles’ 14-yard touchdown run in the third quarter gave Destrehan a 21-7 lead, and it seemed that it would be more than enough cushion for one of the state’s best defensive units.

But when Central quarterback Ed Cutno — playing for injured starter Will Briscoe, who left the game with an injured knee in the first quarter — found Josh Johns for a 24-yard touchdown, it cut the lead to 21-14.

Destrehan recovered an onside kick attempt, but Central held and had one last chance with 1:25 left.

But after a holding penalty, Cutno dropped back at his own 15 and fired deep, but was intercepted by Devon Walker to ice the win.

“These kids know how to fight through adversity,” Robicheaux said. “They just find a way to keep winning.”

Central held the first lead of the game when Cutno’s 21-yard touchdown run put the Wildcats ahead 7-0.

That lead held for much of the first half, as DHS had trouble finding its offense. When that’s happened throughout the team’s win streak, the defense usually creates a spark — this was no different.

With Central driving to perhaps go ahead by two scores, Antonio Parker intercepted a Cutno pass five yards deep in DHS’ endzone and returned it 105 yards for a score. The extra point failed, and Central remained ahead 7-6, but it was a momentum changing play.

“They’re marching down, and all of a sudden, Antonio picks it and takes it all the way. That was a big momentum boost,” Robicheaux said. “All it took was that spark.”

Destrehan took a 14-7 lead after a 40-yard scoring pass from Wynrick Smothers to Brandon Armstrong, followed by a two-point conversion as the two connected again.

Destrehan turned it over four times, to three Central turnovers. Armstrong had seven catches for 124 yards. Smothers completed 11-of-23 passes for 170 yards, a touchdown, and an interception.

Destrehan avoided becoming the latest victim in a string of upsets by the No. 14 seeded Wildcats, who defeated No. 3 Brother Martin and No. 6 Acadiana in its two previous games.

But Robicheaux doesn’t buy talk of those being conventional upsets.

“People say, ‘upset, upset’. But that’s a really solid club. They’ve got a tremendous defense and an offense that’s been able to make the plays to win these games. They’ve got a quality team.”

But in the end, it wasn’t enough to keep Destrehan away from a Dome return.

“We’re all just really excited to be going back there,” Robicheaux said.