PLAQUEMINE — Plaquemine’s wacky schedule with midterm elections, senior night and homecoming forced coach Paul Distefano to give his team Tuesday off practice.
Add in the thrill of last week’s victory against a previously undefeated St. Michael team and Distefano was admittedly wary.
Could a letdown be in store when Tara — the only team standing between Distefano and a second consecutive district title — came to Andrew Canova Green Devil Stadium?
Not even close.
Junior running back Austin Mitchell scored four touchdowns in the first half, and Plaquemine’s much ballyhooed defense lived up to its billing in a 54-6 drubbing of Tara to clinch a second consecutive District 6-4A championship.
Mitchell, who tallied touchdowns of 29, 13 and 23 yards on three consecutive first half possessions, finished the night with 82 yards on six carries to lead a balanced Plaquemine ground attack.
“Coach was calling the right calls, the holes were just open and I was getting it done,” Mitchell said. “We knew we had it coming in.”
Brian Jordan blocked Tara’s first punt of the game, scooping it up and scampering 61 yards for a touchdown to erase an early interception from Plaquemine quarterback D’Morea Wicks.
Wicks overthrew an open receiver on the third play of Plaquemine’s opening possession, momentarily quieting the boisterous Green Devil homecoming crowd, but Jordan’s unimpeded block of Tara punter Da’monte Coxie’s kick ignited the near-record turnout.
Mitchell’s first touchdown, a 29-yard sweep through the right side, capped a six-play drive that saw both Wicks and running back Preston Russ notch first down runs. Russ, a senior, added a touchdown in the third quarter in his final home regular season game.
Returning the ensuing kickoff, Tara’s James Owens fumbled the ball right back to the Green Devils, who took just four plays to find the end zone when Mitchell plunged in from 13 yards out to make it 19-0 after only 10 minutes of play.
“I’m just real proud of my guys,” Distefano said. “It’s been a grueling season. Six of those ten games on the road. We’re really happy with the situation we’re in.”
Mitchell tacked on two more scores before the half, including one from 23 yards out on Plaquemine’s second play of the second quarter, leading to a 33-0 halftime advantage.
The Green Devils opened the second half much like they ended the first, setting out on an 11-play, 65-yard scoring drive featuring ten runs and capped off with Russ’ 2-yard score — ending the night for most Green Devil starters in advance of next week’s playoffs.
“Four games to get to the state championship and five to win it,” Distefano said. “Try to survive and advance. Need to take one week at a time.”
Sunday’s selection show could be stressful for Tara coach Cooter Mansur, who said after the game he was unsure of his team’s fate. As for the game, Mansur wasn’t coy when addressing how the night got away from the Trojans.
“Plaquemine’s really good,” Mansur said. “That’s what went wrong.”