DENHAM SPRINGS - What was a night of frustration for Zachary High was a night of elation for Denham Springs High.
DSHS claimed a 28-14 victory and a share of the District 4-5A title with a balanced attack that included a shutdown defense that stifled the Broncos’ spread offense.
Zachary coach Neil Weiner was ejected in the third quarter after the Broncos appeared to score a touchdown that could have made it a 14-point game.
The Broncos were penalized for illegal procedure, negating the TD. Weiner threw his headset and was ejected after two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties with 9:34 left.
There were no would-haves or could-haves for the Yellow Jackets (7-3, 4-1), who finished in a tie for the 4-5A title with Central (6-4, 4-1). DSHS claimed a district title for the first time since 2008.
Andrew Ayres had two interceptions and a fumble recovery for a DSHS defense that disrupted Zachary’s rhythm much of the night.
Anthony Bracy ran for 87 yards on 21 carries and Kyle Cedotal was 10-for-18 for 157 yards and three TDs for a DSHS team that built a 21-0 halftime lead. Dron Singleton had four catches for 97 yards and two TDs.
“We want to run the ball, and it sets up the play action pass,” DSHS coach Dru Nettles said. “We feel like it complements the running game.”
Mason Pace finished 15-for-32 for 179 yards for Zachary (7-3, 3-2). The Broncos managed just 51 rushing yards.
“Our offensive and defensive coaches made great adjustments at halftime,” Weiner said. “We had a great return and an unfortunate penalty took a touchdown off the board. I lost my composure, threw a headset. I’ve got be able to keep my cool.”
Denham Springs set the pace with two first-quarter drives. The Yellow Jackets took the opening kickoff and drove 66 yards in 13 plays to score.
There were 11 running plays to fuel the drive, including an 18-yard run by Bracy. Cedotal scored on a 1-yard dive on fourth-and-goal with 4:41 left, completing a drive that consumed 7 minutes and 11 seconds.
Zachary managed only three first downs in the opening half and one came on the Broncos’ first play - a 15-yard pass from Pace to Dillon Beard.
Three plays later, DSHS forced a punt. A five-play, 76-yard drive followed.
The Yellow Jackets their own breaks as Cedotal tossed a play-action, 35-yard scoring pass to Sterling Suggs.
Another Zachary punt followed, leading to another DSHS score. The Yellow Jackets caught ZHS out of position with another play-action pass - a 28-yarder from Cedotal to Singleton - making it 21-0 with 8:28 left in the half.
It looked like the Broncos got the break they needed when Jordan Welch returned the second-half kickoff 40 yards to the DSHS 35. The Broncos’ appeared to score on Laddarius Vessell 1-yard run, setting off the sequence in which Weiner was ejected.
Another Cedotal TD pass - this one a 31-yarder to Singleton - made it 28-0 with 2:51 left.
A 49-yard screen pass from Pace to Ron Pennington made it 28-7 with 2:29 left in the third quarter. Ty Simpson had an interception for Zachary, giving the Broncos the ball at DSHS 38. Ayres made his first pick.
Zachary scored its other TD with 3:51 to go in the game on a 17-yard pass from Pace to Boston Scott. The Broncos recovered an onside kick, but two plays later, Ayres sealed the win with his second interception.