KAPLAN — Thanks to a dominant second half, the Kaplan Pirates defeated the Northwest Raiders 44-27 to advance to the second round of the Class 3A nonselect playoffs.
Kaplan held a 22-21 advantage at halftime, but the defense stepped up in the second half to put the clamps on the No. 20-seeded Raiders of St. Landry Parish.
“In the second half, we started playing fundamentally sound,” Kaplan coach Stephen “Tank” Lotief said. “We started playing team football instead of individual football and we did a great job like I thought we were capable of doing.”
The Pirates received the ball first, and killed five minutes off of the clock on a drive capped by a 5-yard touchdown run by Julius Johnson.
A two-point conversion run by Johnson put the Pirates up 8-0.
One minute later, the Raiders got on the board with a 41-yard score by sophomore running back Matthew Rideau to cut Kaplan’s lead to one point.
On Kaplan’s ensuing drive, the Pirates used an eight-minute drive that resulted in a touchdown on a 2-yard pass from Jade Herpin to Grant Frick. Another successful conversion gave Kaplan a 16-7 advantage.
Northwest quarterback Chris Lee responded with a keeper straight up the middle for 38 yards and a score to cut its deficit to 16-13.
Herpin found tight end Kerry Kass for a 9-yard touchdown with 19 seconds remaining before halftime.
Nineteen seconds was just enough time for Lee to connect on a 67-yard bomb to Mathew Guillory for a touchdown.
A successful two-point conversion sent Kaplan into the locker room with a 22-21 lead at halftime.
Northwest started the second half with the ball, but a costly fumble on the exchange between the center and Lee forced a fumble, and Kass recovered it at the Raiders 38.
“As a coach, that is my fault,” Northwest coach Chris Edwards said. “In this weather, I should have had the center out here snapping and getting ready.”
Kaplan cashed in a few plays later on a 10-yard run by Frick to give Kaplan a 30-21 lead.
The Raiders’ next possession ended in turmoil, as Lee was sacked at his own 23 on fourth down by Arizona State commitment Jalen Bates.
Johnson scored from 3 yards out a few plays later to give Kaplan a 17-point cushion.
“We talked about needing one stop,” Lotief said. “They put it on the ground, and our offense stuffed it in.”
Northwest scored its only points of the second half on a 3-yard pass from Lee to Guillory with a little more than seven minutes left in the game.
Frick put the game out of reach on a 15-yard touchdown run with 2:35 left in the game.
“My team performed well,” Edwards said. “I’m disappointed in the loss, but our guys fought hard. Give all the credit to (the Pirates). They are moving on and they deserve it.”
Kaplan’s next game is against Union Parish, which defeated the Pirates last season in the quarterfinals. Union Parish defeated Madison 44-6 on Friday.