AMITE — Injuries to two of Amite’s top playmakers hurt the Warriors a chance to win a district title this season. But now that the Warriors have their field general back behind center, they’re setting their sights on some gaudier bling.
The defending Class 3A state runner-up opened their bid to return to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in dominant fashion Friday night. The Warriors exploded for 54 points against Port Barre in the first half to settle the issue early as the 11th-seeded Warriors advanced to the regionals with a 54-0 romp at Russell Memorial Stadium.
Quarterback Elijah Walker, in his second game back after missing time with an ankle injury, was nearly flawless, throwing for two touchdowns and running for another, all the while getting his playmakers involved as well. Walker hit his first five passes and finished 5-for-6 for 129 yards and two touchdowns in just two quarters as Amite works to overcome the loss of star running back Kenner Harrell for the season with a knee injury.
“We’re just getting better as a team,” Walker said. “We kept our head (through all the injuries). We knew we were going to make the playoffs. We’re getting back healthy and getting everything back together. We’re playing hard.
“Last year we went to the Dome. We’re trying to go back.”
Amite (6-5) is still on track for that, advancing to a second-round matchup against North Webster, a 29-27 winner over Port Allen next week. Amite beat North Webster in its run to the Dome, and first-year Warriors head coach Zephaniah Powell figures Walker’s presence gives the Warriors a chance to do it again.
“When Elijah’s at quarterback, we’re completely different,” Powell said. “Him throwing the ball, he’s special. He really works at it.”
Amite did all its heavy lifting in its big first half before the teams played a running time in the second half. The Warriors defense was suffocating, allowing just 79 with five takeaways, four of which led to touchdowns. The defense even added some points with a 39-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Devin Atkins.
Devonta Smith and Josh Perry had interceptions, and Chad Jackson and Mark Wilson also recovered fumbles for the Warriors, who also got points from special teams. Port Barre simply had no answers for Amite’s big-play attack.
“Just a tough draw coming out in the first round,” Port Barre coach Mac Mistric said. “We knew we were going to have our hands ful. They’re a very talented football, team and we made way too many mistakes tonight to allow us to remain in the game. It kind of got away from us early. You don’t recover from those kind of mistakes early in a game against an opponent like that.”
Milton Sanders started the barrage with a 12-yard touchdown run less than two minutes into the game, then an interception by Devonta Smith set up the Warriors for Sanders’ 59-yard scoring blast. Walker flipped a two-point conversion pass for a 14-0 Amite lead with 8:11 left in the opening period.
Amite scored on a third consecutive series when Chad Jackson fielded a Port Barre punt, bought himself some running room with a nice move and sprinted 69 yards up the right sideline to score and make it 20-0 before the Red Devils managed their initial first down.
Amite, which finished with 313 yards, proved it could sustain a drive, too, going 84 yards in 12 plays to make it 28-0. Trayon Cook’s 26-yard sweep was the key play in a drive capped by Walker’s 1-yard touchdown keeper and Walker’s two-point pass to Smith.
A fumbled punt snap by the Red Devils (5-6) set Amite up at the Port Barre 37, and on the next snap Walker hit Smith with a 37-yard touchdown pass that made it 34-0 — the first of four TDs in a 21/2-minute span.
“We wanted to challenge them and see how they would play us, if they could run with us,” Powell said. “When he completed the first pass, he gave me a little look and it was like, OK, we’re able to do a little bit more in the passing game. We were able to use our speed tonight.”
A fumbled punt snap gave Amite the ball at the Port Barre 39, and Walker drilled Andrew Jones with a 39-yard touchdown pass that made it 40-0. Atkins then took the ball away from Port Barre running back Judith Sylvester and sprinted 39 yards to make it 46-0. Port Barre fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Jackson — who led Amite with 87 rushing yards on 13 carries with two TDs — recovered for Amite at the Red Devils’ 7, and Sanders scored from the six three plays later to complete the scoring.