COVINGTON - Brett Courville threw for 347 yards and three touchdowns and Zach Evans plunged in for a 2-yard

touchdown run with 1:10 remaining as 32nd-seeded Central High shocked top-seeded and previously undefeated St. Paul’s 35-28 as the Class 5A football playoffs began Friday night.

After Central blazed to a 27-7 halftime lead, St. Paul’s scored 21 unanswered points to erase the deficit, going ahead 28-27 with 6:45 remaining.

But Central engineered an eight-play, 80-yard drive to set up Evans’ score, and Courville found Jake Myer for a two-point conversion pass and a 33-28 lead.

Gary Triplett, who had caught all three Central touchdowns and had 202 yards on seven catches, then intercepted a Patrick Duncan pass with 35 seconds remaining that sealed the victory.

Central (7-4) was 33rd in the power rankings but qualified for the playoffs because the Wildcats were the District 4-5A co-champion. The teams had played in the regular season the past two years. St. Paul was also ranked No. 1 in the Louisiana Sports Writers Association poll.

“At 2-4, I told these kids they’re a good football team” Central coach Doug Dotson said. “This is what sports is all about. These kids believed in themselves. They believed in what we told them. The resiliency they’ve shown is incredible. We executed the game plan pulled out this victory.”

St. Paul’s (10-1) had gotten to the Central 44-yard line before the interception.

“We did some uncharacteristic things tonight like turning the ball over,” St. Paul’s coach Ken Sears said. “They’re a great team and did a great job. But our kids played hard and battled back. I’m proud of them.”

Courville went 18 of 28 for 347 yards and the three touchdowns.

Duncan was 19 of 36 for 208 yards and two touchdowns, while Dylan Long carried 13 times for 102 yards and two touchdowns to lead St. Paul’s.

Central drove 80 yards on 13 plays, taking 6:34, on its opening possession, capped by Evans’ 2-yard touchdown run.

The Wildcats then scored on a double reverse flea-flicker, with Triplet catching a 68-yard touchdown pass that was tipped by two defenders before finding his hands.

Courville’s 26-yard TD pass with 6:53 left in the first half - after the Wildcats successfully ran a fake punt to convert a fourth down - gave Central a 21-0 lead with 6:53 remaining in the first half.

St. Paul’s got within 21-7 when Duncan hit Andy Short for a 30-yard touchdown pass off a tipped ball with 42 seconds to go in the first half.

But on the ensuing possession, the Wildcats started from their 16 but got a 40-yard pass on the first play to Triplett, and three plays later Triplett caught a 38-yard touchdown pass with 8.7 seconds remaining in the first half for a 27-7 lead.

St. Paul’s then ran off 21 straight points.

Long scored on a 1-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit to 27-14 with 9:18 remaining in the third quarter. Marcus Gaines then caught a 7-yard TD pass to close the gap to 27-21 with 10:25 left. And Long’s 46- yard touchdown run gave St. Paul’s its first lead of the game.

“We knew they were going to come back in the second half,” said Dotson. “But our offense drove down and won the game for us.”