BAINS — There was no denying the gratification pulsating through West Feliciana’s team.
Three straight years of falling painfully short of their intended goal finally gained some closure.
Quarterback Derek Turner accounted for 260 yards and three touchdowns, and running back Derius Davis delivered the opening and final scores of the second half, propelling sixth-seeded West Feliciana past No. 10 Jennings 45-26 in Friday’s Class 3A nonselect state semifinal.
“It feels great,” 13th-year West Feliciana coach Robb Odom. “I’m so happy for our young men and our coaching staff. You don’t know the struggles it’s been to get through this hump. We’re going to enjoy the experience.”
West Feliciana (13-1), winner of 10 straight, advances to its first Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Football Prep Classic at 7 p.m. Friday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The Saints meet Richwood, which defeated Kaplan 15-8.
“It feels good to get it on my home field as a senior,” Turner said. “I’m just thankful for these guys. We’ve played together since we were young.”
Turner rushed 26 times for 204 yards and two touchdowns, helping West Feliciana to a 14-13 halftime lead with scoring runs of 65 and 1 yard.
The Saints, making their fifth semifinal appearance in school history, broke the game open within a minute of the third quarter when Harris, a Louisiana Tech commitment, busted out of a crowd to return the second-half opening kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown.
Two plays later, defensive lineman Taylor Casteel returned a fumble by Jennings quarterback Kole Meyers for a 25-yard touchdown to make it 28-13.
“Our kids played extremely hard but had a little slow start to the third quarter,” said Jennings coach Rusty Phelps, who team finished 10-3. “We just didn’t get our feet back under us. Congratulations to coach Odom and West Feliciana. They’re a class football program.”
Jennings got to within 28-20 with just over three minutes left in third quarter on Darrian Achane’s 1-yard run. But West Feliciana surged again.
Tyriq Sonnier led the Bulldogs, who were appearing in their first semifinal since 2013, with 81 yards rushing on 13 carries.
Kicker Luke Stelly pushed the Saints’ lead to 31-20 with a 40-yard field goal with 21.5 seconds left in the third quarter, and Turner, who was 2 of 7 for 14 yards passing to that point, connected with Derius Davis, a TCU commitment, for a 46-yard TD with 4:59 remaining for a 38-20 lead.
Harris capped the Saints' scoring with 2:11 remaining, finding a hole over the right side and racing to the end zone from 44 yards out.
At that moment, a standing-room-only crowd rose to its feet, and the Saints’ sideline erupted.
“The kids had the will to keep on going,” Odom said. “I’m just so proud to get the opportunity to play in the Superdome.”