Denham Springs finally found the formula for stopping Woodlawn’s senior quarterback Charles Brooks.
Led by a stifling defensive front, Denham Springs held the Panthers’ most potent offensive weapon in check and posted a 34-7 win in 5A playoff action at Panther Stadium on Friday night.
The victory was Denham’s first playoff win since 1989. The No. 19 Yellow Jackets (7-4) advance to host Zachary next Friday night.
Brooks, who paced the Panthers to a 28-0 win over Denham Springs in the regular season opener, felt the heat from Denham’s defensive line all night long as the hosts gained just 47 yards on the ground.
Brooks, who entered the game for No. 14 Woodlawn with 1,833 passing yards and 868 rushing yards on the year, was limited to 103 yards in the air and just 26 yards on 19 rushing attempts.
Denham’s defensive front pressured Brooks, sacked him and batted down the quarterback’s passes. The effort was led by senior nose tackle Darrell Washington, who made the switch from offensive line to the defensive side during the off-season.
Washington said the key to success was keeping Brooks in a box.
“We tried to just keep him in the pocket so he couldn’t break out and run on us,” the senior said. “The main thing we did was swarm him and played physical every down. I told him I was coming for him every play.”
Washington was flanked by junior tackles Brennen Wall and Caleb Roddy, who combined to control the line of scrimmage while the defensive backs played lock-down coverage on Woodlawn’s receivers.
Denham Springs coach Dru Nettles said the defensive unit was intent on keeping Woodlawn’s offense from making big plays and gaining traction.
“Those guys up front have really grown. They knew that our first game against Woodlawn this year didn’t define who we are,” Nettles said. “Our guys showed a lot of improvement and growth, and they had a huge impact on what we were able to accomplish tonight. Brooks is a great quarterback, but our coaches had our guys ready to play and they just hustled and got to him.”
On the offensive side, freshman Tyre Golmond gained a game-high 108 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. He entered the contest with 1,129 rushing yards in the regular season.
Quarterback Torez Kinchen also passed for 103 yards, throwing to six different receivers.
Denham Springs ate up most of the first quarter with an 18-play drive that failed to produce points. The Jackets converted five third-down situations but placekicker Zach Boothe’s 40-yard field goal attempt fell short of the goal post.
The visitors struck quickly on their next possession, however. Kinchen dropped back and threw long to Kyandre Brooks in the left side of the end zone. Kyandre Brooks battled Panther junior defender Shawn White for control and came down with the ball for a 32-yard touchdown.
Boothe also missed the conversion attempt as the Jackets took a 6-0 lead after holding the Panthers scoreless through the remainder of the first half.
Denham’s defense kept Brooks hemmed in through the entire first half, playing outstanding gap control and leaving the senior little room to operate.
With three minutes to play in the second quarter, Golmond fumbled and Woodlawn senior defensive back Eltorrian Gildersleeve recovered to give the Panthers excellent field position at Denham’s 40.
But the Jacket defense buckled down and held firm once again, pressuring Brooks in the backfield and forcing the senior to commit a grounding penalty just before the end of the half on third-and-25.
Woodlawn coach Brett Beard said he was surprised that his team appeared flat and was disappointed in losing control of the line of scrimmage.
“We had some problems up front and it showed. When your ‘big uglies’ struggle, it makes it tough. They got to Charles tonight, but he had a great career here and we’re going to miss him. He’ll be tough to replace,” Beard said.
“I thought we had one of our best weeks of practice, but this one’s on me because apparently I didn’t have them prepared to play. Denham just outplayed us in every facet of the game and came in here more prepared to play. My hat’s off to them and I wish them the best of luck,” he said.