RAYVILLE — The Class 3A non-select quarterfinal showdown between top-ranked Livonia and No. 9 Rayville had all the makings of an offensive shootout — at least on paper.
Defense nearly stole the show in a battle of who could finally shut down the other.
Livonia turned to a 20-point rally and a huge defensive showing to stop Rayville quarterback Kahmod Naylor for a 26-22 win Friday at Hornet Stadium.
“We got the defensive struggle instead of the offensive shootout,” Livonia coach Guy Mistretta said. “Both played lights-out defense up front, and we finally wore them down.”
The Wildcats (12-0) advanced to the semifinals for a clash with cross-river rival West Feliciana, which defeated defending 3A state champion Union Parish in Farmerville.
Senior running back Malcolm Dedrick rushed 34 times for 209 yards and three touchdowns for LHS.
Livonia mounted its comeback with three touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
Powell connected with Kendrick Paul on a 6-yard scoring pass with 10:13 left in the game. He scored after the Wildcats regained possession on a Naylor fumble with Edwards returned 22 yards.
Naylor passed for two touchdowns and ran for another for the Hornets, whose season ended 10-3.
Livonia took the lead in the fourth quarter when sophomore Christion Edwards dived onto a Dedrick fumble on a 38-yard run.
“I didn’t know if the ball was dead or not, but I just jumped on it out of instinct to make sure we get the score,” Edwards said.
Rayville took the opening lead on Naylor’s 22-yard pass to Desmond Hayes with 5:42 left in the first quarter. The Hornets took advantage of a short punt that gave them possession at the Livonia 33, followed by an 11-yard keep by Naylor.
A Naylor 37-yard keep gave the Hornets a 12-0 lead shortly into the second quarter.
Conversion attempts failed on both touchdowns.
Naylor completed 27 passes for 208 yards and ran 15 times for 79 yards.
Livonia cut the Rayville lead in half on a 37-yard scamper by Dedrick.
Both teams fought to keep the other out of midfield the remainder of the territory. The Hornets managed to keep pressure on Livonia quarterback Cee-Jay Powell, whom they forced into an intentional grounding call for 10 yards just before the half.
The Rayville kept its focus on Powell in the second half. The Hornets maintained pressure on the junior quarterback after a punt that left Livonia deep in its own territory before Rayville defenders sent Powell into the Wildcats end zone for a safety.
“Both teams played a hell of a ballgame,” Rayville coach Lind Bursel said. “We knew Livonia was all hyped as the top seed, but our kids wanted to come out and prove they could compete against them. In the end, we couldn’t capitalize on big plays,” he said. “We just lost to a better team tonight.”