The John Ehret Patriots are going to the Superdome for a state championship game for the first time in 30 years after surviving a tense defensive battle against Mandeville.
With the aid of a fourth-quarter Mandeville fumble, the Patriots held on for a 7-6 nailbiter Friday night at Hoss Memtsas Stadium.
“The difference in the game was that we made our mistake early, and they made one late,” Ehret coach Corey Lambert said. “I’m just so proud of these guys, the effort. They hung in there and they won.
“I was a 10-year-old kid in this community when Ehret last went to the Dome (in 1985). I’m just so glad for this community.”
The Patriots, seeded ninth, will play No. 2 Zachary, which beat No. 6 Parkway 41-27, at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
In four playoff games, Ehret’s defense has allowed just 20 points. It held Mandeville to minus-34 yards rushing and sacked quarterback Cody Orgeron seven times for minus-63.
However, Mandeville (10-4), seeded 12th, trailed 7-6 but had reached the Ehret 8 with 9:46 left in the game. Then, quarterback Cody Orgeron’s toss to running back Taron Jones was fumbled, the ball squirting back to the 16. Ehret (12-2) recovered.
Mandeville didn’t get a chance again, except for a desperation 69-yard field-goal attempt by Joseph Bulovas with 12 seconds left that fell short.
“They made more plays than us, especially at the end,” Mandeville coach Guy LeCompte said, his team losing in the semifinals for the third time in five seasons.
Mandeville appeared to be threatening one last time after getting the ball with 1:50 left. However, after getting to the Ehret 44, Orgeron threw a screen pass to Jones that the Patriots smothered for a 4-yard loss.
“If we could’ve gotten a little closer, we’d have had a chance,” LeCompte said.
Bulovas had kicked two field goals, including a 47-yarder at the 9:59 mark of the third quarter that pulled the Skippers within one point. That came after Ehret’s mistake — a fumble at its 15 on quarterback Travis Mumphry’s pitch to running back Dejon Harris.
“We kept them out of the end zone,” Ehret defensive end Robert Green said. “I think that was big.”
Ehret held a 7-3 lead at halftime, with all of the scoring coming in a 1 minute, 49-second span of the first quarter.
The Patriots took a 7-0 lead with 7:55 left in the first quarter on Dejon Harris’ swing pass to Tyron Williams. Williams caught the ball 4 yards past the line of scrimmage on the left sideline, broke a tackle, eluded a defender and went into the end zone. That capped a 63-yard drive on Ehret’s first possession.
However, Jones returned the ensuing kickoff from the Mandeville 7 to the Ehret 36. Five plays later, Bulovas kicked a 35-yard field goal at 6:06.
The defenses took control after that. Ehret held the Skippers to 49 yards in the first half, including minus-12 yards rushing. Cody Orgeron completed seven of 11 passes but for 61 yards and was sacked four times for minus-27 yards.
Mandeville stiffened, too. Ehret gained 100 yards rushing, but much of that was early. Moving their defensive linemen around and using stunts, the Skippers forced three consecutive punts, then got an interception, and the Patriots let the clock run out on their final possession to end the half.
In the second half, Ehret mustered just 38 yards, 28 rushing and 10 passing.