ERATH — Top-seeded West Feliciana’s defense went big-game hunting in Friday’s Class 3A state regional playoff game with Erath’s Elijah Mitchell squarely in their crosshairs.
The thought of devising a game-plan to limit Mitchell — the state’s leading rusher, resulted in an inspired effort and helped the Saints extend their dream season.
West Feliciana kept Mitchell in check, holding the Louisiana-Lafayette commitment well below his season’s average while the Saints erupted for a 42-14 victory Friday over No. 17 Erath at Robert J. Segura Memorial Field.
The Saints (12-0) return home next Friday to host the Northwest-Jena winner in their third consecutive state quarterfinal.
“We have some guys that feel they should be ULL commits, too,” West Feliciana coach Robb Odom said of his defense. “They had something to prove. They have offers from some schools, but they wanted to show that ULL should be looking at them, too.”
The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Mitchell came in with 2,699 yards and 42 touchdowns, averaging 245 yards per game against a West Feliciana defense allowing 43 yards rushing per game.
Mitchell wound up with 21 carries for 81 yards — 23 coming on his first carry — and didn’t carry the ball after the third quarter. He was also held out of the end zone.
“It starts with our defensive line,” Odom said “They play our system and technique. We’ve got a good three (line, linebackers, secondary) levels, and they play together.”
Quarterback Derek Turner (12 carries, 143) and Davon Harris (seven carries for 92 yards) combined for five touchdowns — Turner three and Harris two — for West Feliciana, which rushed 36 times for 355 yards and outgained Erath 405-288.
Erath (8-4), which has never won a second-round game, appeared to have grabbed a 7-0 lead with 6:26 remaining in the second quarter when Coy Leblanc returned an interception 18 yards.
However, the Bobcats were whistled for a roughing the passer penalty, and Turner, on the next play, went the distance from 79 yards out to give the Saints a 7-0 instead.
“That was definitely the blow that took us out pretty early,” Erath coach David Comeaux said. “I thought the interception was clean, and they hit the very next play. They’re a really good football team.”
Turner’s long-distance score triggered a 21-point run over the remaining six minutes of the quarter, a surge that defensive tackle Zakk McKeehan contributed to with a fumble recovery on Erath’s next possession after Turner’s score.
Davon Harris scored on West Feliciana’s first play from 38 yards, and the Saints closed the half with a seven-play, 83-yard drive that Turner capped with a 26-yard score for a 21-0 halftime lead following Luke Stelly’s extra point.
The Saints made it 35-0 at the four-minute mark of the third quarter on scoring runs of 13 yards from Harris and 26 from Turner, the latter which was set up by Dynall Anthony’s fumble recovery.
“We’ve got playmakers on offense, and it took us a while to get rolling, but it’s nice to know you don’t have to panic or try anything fancy,” Odom said. “We can let our defense do the job.”