KENTWOOD — Southern Lab wasn’t going to lose the District 6-1A title without a fight — but in the fourth quarter Friday night against Kentwood, the Kittens ran out of juice.
The Kittens fell behind by 19 points after the first quarter, then rallied for 18 unanswered points. But Southern Lab’s last-ditch drive late in the fourth quarter failed, giving Kentwood a 19-18 win and the district championship.
Kentwood (9-1, 5-0) is headed for a high seed in the 1A playoffs, while Southern Lab (5-5, 4-1) will miss the postseason while serving a one-year postseason ban for LHSAA violations.
“I came in five days before the first game," said Southern Lab coach Darrell Asberry, a former Kittens quarterback who took over after Marcus Randall was dismissed. "They didn’t know me; I didn’t know them. Just the way we’ve grown, I’m proud of them.”
Kentwood jumped out to a 19-0 lead in the first quarter thanks to a host of big plays. Turns out, it was all the Kangaroos needed.
“I knew it was going to be a heavyweight fight,” Kentwood coach Jonathan Foster said with a smile. “Our kids — they went toe-to-toe, man, and that’s what it takes.”
The Kangaroos led 6-0 after quarterback Larenz Morris hit wide receiver Radarrian Robbins for a 73-yard pass down the left sideline.
On the ensuing drive, Southern Lab quarterback Quincy Mitchell couldn’t handle the shotgun snap, and Kentwood recovered the ball at the Lab 10-yard line. Morris then ran for a 10-yard score and a 12-0 advantage.
Set up by a 51-yard pass from Morris, Kangaroos running back Devion Hookfin ran for a 1-yard touchdown later in the quarter, and the ensuing PAT by Tadron Lee gave the home team a 19-0 edge.
But the Kittens clawed back in the second quarter with their own big plays.
Hookfin, subbing for Morris at quarterback, fumbled the shotgun snap, and Southern Lab recovered in Kentwood territory. Mitchell later hit running back Ty Davis on a screen pass for a 13-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 19-6.
The Kittens struck again in the second quarter with a 16-yard touchdown run by Davis, slicing the deficit to 19-12 at halftime.
After a scoreless third quarter, Mitchell unleashed a 25-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Charvis Thornton, which cut the score to 19-18 about halfway through the fourth quarter.
But Mitchell’s ensuing 2-point conversion attempt failed.
The Kittens took the ball back with less than 5 minutes on the clock. They furiously drove into the red zone, thanks in part to a 34-yard pass from Mitchell. But the Kangaroos defense held strong, forcing a turnover on downs with 1:30 left on the clock.
Southern Lab gashed Kentwood for 243 yards rushing, but Kentwood gained 219 yards through the air to seal the win.
“The kids did a great job fighting back,” Asberry said. “As coaches, we’ve got to do our job to get them in the right place and the right position to make the right plays. Our kids were incredible tonight. We started off real flat. We finally got our life going, and I’m proud of them.”