PLAQUEMINE — Sitting in the warm confines of his office, Plaquemine coach Paul Distefano finally let out a sly smile.
“I’m not a big fan of punting,” Distefano joked.
It showed Friday.
Tyler Wesley scampered 9 yards on a fake punt in the fourth quarter to extend a late Plaquemine drive and quarterback D’morea Wicks found Louis Conerly from 36 yards out for the go-ahead touchdown to lift No. 1 seeded Plaquemine to a 21-14 win against No. 32 seed McDonogh 35.
The win sends the Green Devils on the road to Lutcher next week after the Bulldogs defeated DeRidder 41-14.
Conerly broke free of the Roneagles defenders three plays after Wesley’s fake, lumbering into the corner of the end zone untouched to relax a tense, cold atmosphere.
“When it was in the air, I knew I had to catch it,” Conerly said. “No one was going to catch me once I caught it. Good throw.”
The Roneagles drove to the Green Devils 22-yard-line in the waning seconds of the game, only to see their upset bid dashed when Plaquemine’s Todd Harris picked off Roneagles quarterback Sidney Wilson in triple coverage in the end zone.
Turnovers were a trend of the evening — the teams combined for six on the evening, including four giveaways by the Green Devils.
“They put us in some tough spots,” Distefano said of the turnovers. “I’m not going to blame the cold or anything. I’m just so proud of our defense. We stressed that special teams and defense win championships. Our defense played championship caliber.”
Wicks botched a handoff to running back Austin Mitchell on Plaquemine’s opening drive, giving it to the Roneagles. Mitchell was again the turnover culprit minutes later, muffing a McDonogh 35 punt deep in his own territory.
But the salty Green Devils defense stepped to the forefront, forcing a turnover on downs culminated by a nice point of attack tackle short of the sticks on Wilson’s short fourth-down pass.
Just three plays later, Wicks committed Plaquemine’s third turnover of the quarter when he floated a deep pass too high for Wayne Toussant, leading to an easy interception for McDonogh defensive back Eugene Clark. This time, the Roneagles capitalized.
Wilson zipped a nice slant over the middle to Omar Spears for 23 yards into Green Devils territory on the second play of the second quarter, setting up Darius May’s 33-yard touchdown scamper to put the Roneagles up 6-0.
The No. 1 seed Green Devils responded on the ensuing drive, marching 65 yards in eight plays, aided by a McDonogh 35 personal foul and a nifty running game.
Preston Russ and Austin Mitchell chipped in for two first downs apiece and Tyler Wesley punched it in from 3 yards out to put Plaquemine on top 7-6 going into the locker room.
Wicks fumbled on the second play of the second half, setting the Roneagles up for Wilson’s 14-yard touchdown strike to Darius Williams.
From there, the Roneagles offense stagnated, thanks in large part to the Green Devil defense, but also the continuation of a season-long trend.
“I saw them on film and I thought man-for-man we were better,” McDonogh 35 coach Wayne Reese said. “We just didn’t finish. We didn’t finish. We had five games that we didn’t finish.”