For the first 12 minutes of Friday night’s game at Woodlawn, the Plaquemine football team looked like it may have been left behind.
The Green Devils trailed by double-digits twice in the first quarter but rebounded nicely to take a 35-21 win and continue a perfect 3-0 start to the 2014 season.
A defense that made adjustments in the passing game and an offense that used its rushing attack to chew up clock made the difference.
“We always talk about dealing with adversity, and being down 14-0 and being down 21-6, it doesn’t get any tougher than that,” Plaquemine coach Paul Distefano said. “Woodlawn was rolling. They were playing at a very fast pace.”
Plaquemine running back Austin Mitchell, seeing his first action of the regular season, had 126 yards on only eight carries to lead a balanced ground game that finished with 299 yards. Senior Louis Conerly subbed for quarterback D’Morea Wicks, the star of Plaquemine’s victory over rival Brusly a week earlier, after Wicks left with a hamstring injury and helped the Green Devils keep Woodlawn’s offense off the field in the second half.
Defensive back Allen Riley had a forced fumble and interception to help lead a defense that pitched a shutout over the final three quarters.
Woodlawn (2-1) had only two offensive possessions in the second half, going three-and-out each time. Quarterback Charles Brooks finished 14-of-29 for 204 yards but was just 4-of-19 for 46 yards after the first quarter.
“We’re a team,” Riley said. “We just had to stick together as a family and play as one.”
None of Brooks’ first nine passes hit the ground, and he completed 10 of 12 passes for 158 yards and three touchdowns in the first quarter.
The Panthers were riding high when the senior quarterback rolled left on fourth-and-10 from the Plaquemine 30 late in the first, then delivered a strike to leaping receiver Jonathan Scott for a 21-6 lead.
Brooks had earlier connected with Scott from 40 yards out for a 7-0 lead and hit Taj Sullivan on a 21-yard score to make it 14-0.
Down 21-6, however, is where the game turned.
Faced with a fourth down of his own from the Woodlawn 16, Wicks answered his counterpart Brooks when he connected with Mitchell to make it a one-touchdown deficit.
The Plaquemine defense began getting stops against Brooks and Woodlawn, limiting the Panthers to five first downs in the second quarter and Brooks to three completions.
Meanwhile, the Green Devils scored on a pair of long inside-reverse calls, one by Mitchell from 68 yards and the other by Wayne Toussant from 34, to give Plaquemine a 21-0 edge in second-quarter scoring.
“Woodlawn jumps up on somebody like this — 14-0, 21-6 — and you’re thinking, ‘Whoa,’ ” Panthers coach Brett Beard said. “It’s almost like, ‘We’re not used to being here.’ There’s some shock. Things change a little bit instead of just keeping it on the gas and keeping it rolling.”
Up 27-21 going into halftime, the Green Devils chewed 7:51 off the clock to start the second half but were denied a potential back-breaking score when the Woodlawn defense made a fourth-and-long stop from the Panthers’ 34.
Wicks was injured late in the possession and did not return.
But with Conerly making just enough plays and the big Plaquemine offensive line dominating the point of attack, the Green Devils controlled the clock and mostly kept Woodlawn’s offense sidelined.
“We figured all week this would be a game we had to win in the second half,” Distefano said.