LAFAYETTE — First wins are never easy, even when your team jumps to a 34-point lead well before halftime.
That’s the position that Woodlawn coach Daniel Luquet was in Friday night at Lafayette High, where his Panthers held that huge advantage and then had some anxious moments before holding on for a 47-34 victory.
“We’ve been on the other end of that,” said Luquet, who took over at Woodlawn this year and got his first head coaching victory after opening losses to Hahnville and Destrehan. “It’s something you have to learn from, and I think we learned a lot tonight.”
What the Panthers (1-2) learned is that they have weapons in quarterback Jamari Nelson, receiver Taj Sullivan and running back Javin Myers.
Nelson completed 9 of his 10 first-half passes for 183 yards and had four touchdown passes in a period of just over 8 minutes, continually burning the Lafayette High secondary for quick-strike scores. Two of those touchdowns went to Sullivan on quick passes of 3 and 9 yards, with Sullivan finishing his night with nine catches and 109 yards.
When Nelson wasn’t throwing for those scores, he was getting the ball to Myers. The junior had a 52-yard touchdown run with 4:55 left in the first half that gave Woodlawn that 41-7 lead, and he finished with 189 yards on 19 carries.
The host Lions (2-1), who had rolled up 87 points in their first two victories over Peabody and Opelousas, rallied with a 52-yard touchdown pass from Dwight Youngblood to Archie Ducote 1:42 before halftime, then scored on their first two possessions of the second half.
Trey Davis’ 2-yard run with 10:04 left, moments after Keshawn Young’s 67-yard setup run, cut the margin to 41-26 after a second missed extra point, but an interception of Youngblood by Dillan Whitehall on Lafayette High’s next drive set up a clinching 27-yard scoring run by Darion Johnson with 1:58 left.
Even that one was big, negating a Lafayette High score only 21 seconds later after Trey Davis’ 75-yard run and a 5-yard Youngblood-to-Ducote touchdown with 1:37 left. An onside kick went out of bounds to end the final threat.
“Hats off to Lafayette High,” Luquet said. “A lot of teams would have given up down like they were in the first half. We’ve played three very talented football teams with great traditions, and that’s the kind of tradition that we’re trying to build here. We’re just excited to get out of here with a win.”
Nelson, who had only one touchdown pass in Woodlawn’s first two games, finished with a sterling 16-of-20 throwing performance for 243 yards. That coupled well with the Panthers’ 236 rushing yards, with Woodlawn getting 354 yards in the first half alone thanks to Nelson’s breakout performance.
“He’s worked really hard since way back in the spring,” Luquet said. “He’s a senior that’s waited his turn, and the great thing is that he’s paid his dues and now the sky’s the limit for him.”
Johnson’s 9-yard run capped a five-play, 84-yard drive the first time Woodlawn touched the football, but Lafayette High countered when Troy Williams took the ensuing kickoff back 87 yards for a tying score with 5:04 left in the first period.
From that point on, the Panthers took over the rest of the half. Nelson hit Sullivan with the 3-yard score, connected with Jordan London for a 15-yard touchdown, found Quincy Vessel behind the secondary on a 68-yard scoring pass and had the second TD to Sullivan all between the three-minute mark of the first period and the 6:40 mark of the second quarter.
“We haven’t been in that many situations like that,” Luquet said of the big lead. “We know we have to learn as a team from that. But at least we know the process, and what we’ve been installing is working.”
The Lions could have been even closer but were stopped on fourth down at the Panther 6 midway through the third period. Young’s 1-yard run with 32 seconds left in the quarter came just before the Lions forced a punt and he broke his long run to set up Davis’ touchdown.
Young, who had missed most of the first two games with a shoulder injury, finished with 165 rushing yards for the Lions.