It wasn’t the normal road for Parkview Baptist to get where it’s used to being this season, but the Eagles found their way to familiar territory in dominant style Friday.
West Feliciana stood as the final hurdle between PBS and a fifth consecutive district championship, and the Saints weren’t much of one as the Eagles blazed to a 56-20 triumph.
The regular season is over for Parkview (6-3, 4-0), which cruised through four district tests without much of a hiccup - winning all four by double digits - and will get a chance to duplicate its 2010 Class 3A state championship despite a 1-3 start this season.
This week also brought an unexpected twist in the road as seven Eagles, including three starters, were suspended by the Louisiana High School Athletic Association for their roles in a sideline brawl against Baker on Oct. 14.
“We had the distraction this week, and we hadn’t had three losses in the regular season since our first year 13 years ago,” PBS coach Kenny Guillot said. “But all we went through made us stronger, and maybe that will help us as we go into the playoffs.”
To punch their postseason ticket, the Eagles stuck to a meat-and-potatoes approach against West Feliciana (5-4, 1-2) with 443 rushing yards on 59 carries.
Conner Hodgeson led the way for PBS with 97 yards and a pair of touchdowns, Hezekiah Randolph rolled up 95 and scored three times and quarterback Cole Wilson added 89 more and a 67-yard gallop to the end zone.
“If we can run our offense like that, we don’t have to do anything real complex,” Guillot said. “Our guys up front did a great job coming off the ball and the backs ran hard.”
As efficient and methodical as the Eagles offense was all night, defense got them off on the right foot, and it didn’t take long.
West Feliciana got the opening kickoff and on the second snap of the night, PBS cornerback Tee Sparrow jumped in front of Preston Cobb to swipe Dennis Bell’s pass and rambled 30 yards for a touchdown with 59 seconds gone.
Then on the Saints’ first play after the ensuing kickoff, a botched snap put the ball on the ground and Landon Brown smothered it for the Eagles. Four plays later, Hodgeson plowed in from 4 yards away and Parkview was on its way to a 21-0 lead.
“Not exactly how we wanted to start,” West Feliciana coach Robb Odom said. “Something like that happens, that’s what good football teams can overcome. We haven’t all season.”
Despite a deficit that grew to 28-0 when PBS plugged away for a 96-yard touchdown drive to begin the second quarter, big plays allowed the Saints to maintain a pulse for part of the first half.
After Randolph’s second short 2-yard TD blast, West Feliciana showed some life when Tre Bailey charged the ensuing kickoff into a stiff wind, scooped the ball off the turf and blazed through the middle of the Eagles’ coverage team for a 76-yard touchdown return.
The Saints’ only other score in the opening half came when Bell zipped a quick slant to Greg Freeman, who caught the ball in stride and streaked past three PBS defenders for a 73-yard TD reception.
Before that, West Feliciana lost points in the first quarter when Preston Cobb’s 78-yard run was wiped out by a block-in-the-back penalty. Cobb was credited with 68 yards, but the Saints couldn’t punch the ball in from the 20.
Once the Eagles got their ground game clicking, they proved to be unstoppable.
Following the Bell-to-Freeman TD, Parkview gashed and gouged the Saints for drives of 70, 82 and 50 yards to pad the lead to 56-14.
Now the Eagles are playing their best football of the season and get a week to rest for the postseason.
“That’s always what you hope for,” Guillot said. “It wasn’t always easy with the way we started, but we feel like we’re doing some good things right now.”