KENTWOOD — Few teams in Louisiana have made as many trips to the state championships as the Kentwood Kangaroos. But the last time the Roos made it to the Superdome was in 2003.
“That’s too long a drought for Kentwood,” second-year Roos coach Jonathan Foster said Friday night. “But hey — we’re there now.”
They are indeed after their MVP candidate quarterback Shyheim Carter delivered another fist full of big plays to lead top-seeded Kentwood to a 27-14 Class 1A semifinal victory over Oak Grove under the water tank in Kentwood.
The victory sent Kentwood (12-1) on to the Mercedes-Benz Dome next week to take on Haynesville, a 34-14 winner over Arcadia, in a matchup of two of Louisiana’s most decorated prep football programs.
Carter scored a pair of first-half touchdowns to give Kentwood a lead it would not relinquish and went on to rush for 147 yards on 13 carries with three TDs. He also threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Jaleel Hampton and added a late-game interception as a defensive back.
“I try to get everybody involved, but when I have to pull it down and run it or do whatever I’ve got to do, I just do it,” Carter said.
“He’s a special player, probably one of the best I’ve ever coached against,” said Oak Grove coach Ryan Gregory, whose team did the best it could trying to play keep away from Carter and his mates, and almost pulled it off.
The Tigers (9-4) out-gained the Roos 332 to 231, and fullback Sam Philley was a beast with 33 carries for 133 yards, three pass receptions for 41 more, and also threw a trick-play 35-yard touchdown pass to Kohl Milligan with 7:41 to play in the fourth quarter that pulled Oak Grove to within 20-14 following a two-point conversion run by Jaylan Holt.
And Oak Grove had another chance when Ben McNeil intercepted a Carter pass at the OGHS 3 with 5:43 to go. But seven plays later, Oak Grove QB Jackson Wyly threw a pass that was tipped by Kentwood DB Trey Palmer and deflected to Carter for an interception at the Tigers’ 32. On the next snap, Carter weaved through the Oak Grove defense for a 32-yard touchdown run to clinch the berth in the Dome with 2:17 to go.
“He made lot of plays when they needed him to,” Gregory said. “I thought our kids played as hard as they could play. (Kentwood) had a few bounces go their way, and I’d like to have a few back, but they’re a great football team, really hard to stop.”
“You ride him, and he just made plays like he did in the first half when he broke that long run, and he made some plays in the second half for us as well,” Foster said of Carter. “He’s just amazing. I’m so glad he’s on our team.”
Despite running just 10 offensive plays to Oak Grove’s 38 in the first half, Kentwood led 13-6, answering a long opening touchdown drive by Oak Grove with a pair of Carter highlight runs. The visiting Tigers ground out an 11-play, 75-yard drive on their opening possession, capped off when Wyly swept in from 8 yards out. The PAT kick failed, however.
Kentwood answered quickly after Oak Grove tried some trickery on the ensuing kickoff that backfired, giving Kentwood the ball at the Oak Grove 30. Carter kept, spun out of trouble in the backfield and motored 17 yards to tie the game as the Roos also missed their point-after try.
The Roos took the lead when Carter ran a read option and kept, and sprinting 53 yards untouched to put Kentwood on top. This time, Jacoby White’s PAT kick was true for a 13-6 lead with 8:53 left in the half.
“They’re a smart team,” Carter said. “Their head coach tried to keep the ball out of our hands so we we wouldn’t go score, because we score fast. They tried holding the ball, but our defense did a phenomenal job.”