They say when the game is on the line, you give the ball to your best player and get out of the way.
No. 5 seed Warren Easton did just that when wide receiver Tyron Johnson ran in a reverse from a yard out with 28 seconds left to clinch a 43-36 victory over No. 1 seed Plaquemine in the Class 4A semifinals Friday night at Pan American Stadium.
“When the game is on the line, we’re going to give the ball to our best players,” Easton coach Tony Hull said. “We gave it to Deshawn Capers-Smith and Tyron, and they got it done for us.”
With the victory, Easton (12-2) gets an opportunity to compete for a state championship for the first time since 1958. It will face next Saturday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
“It’s huge for this school, this community and these kids,” Hull said. “It’s a huge accomplishment, not only for the Warren Easton community but the city of New Orleans. To have the No. 1 academic performance school compete for an athletic state championship is huge for us.”
Despite falling behind by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, Plaquemine never gave up and fought its way back into the game. After falling behind 35-21 with 9 minutes left, the Green Devils marched 80 yards in eight plays, capped by a 5-yard touchdown run by quarterback D’morea Wicks.
After forcing an Easton punt on the ensuing drive, Plaquemine went 83 yards in nine plays — assisted by a 52-yard catch-and-run by receiver Joe Keller — and Wicks capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run (his fourth of the day) to give Plaquemine a 36-35 lead with 1:17 left.
Wicks finished with 21 carries for 160 yards and four touchdowns.
“They faced a lot of adversity,” said Johnson, one of the top recruits in the nation for the 2015 class. “They’re a good team, they never gave up and they’re very disciplined. They fought hard, but we came away with the win.”
Plaquemine had an opportunity on third-and-16 early in the fourth quarter to take the lead for the first time since they led 7-0 for about 30 seconds in the first quarter. Wicks had running back Wayne Toussant running wide open for a 47-yard touchdown, but the ball slipped through Toussant’s hands and fell to the turf, forcing Plaquemine to punt.
Easton pounced on the mistake four plays later when Capers-Smith hit Darren Holmes on a screen pass and the receiver outran every Green Devil defender for a 69-yard touchdown, extending the Eagles’ lead to 35-21.
Capers-Smith, named the Gatorade Louisiana Football Player of the Year this week, completed 13 of his 23 passes for 234 yards, with 23 carries for 116 yards and four total touchdowns.
“It’s a wonderful feeling,” Capers-Smith said. “We knew we haven’t had an opportunity to play for a state championship in forever, and we wanted to just do whatever it took to get it done.”
Plaquemine surged after halftime, driving 74 yards in seven plays on its opening drive of the second half, with Wicks capping the drive with a 28-yard touchdown run. After blocking an attempted Easton punt on the next drive, the Green Devils only needed to go 22 yards before Wicks finished the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run to shrink Easton’s lead to 27-21.
“They’re the No. 1 team in our bracket for a reason,” Hull said. “We knew they were going to compete, we knew they were going to give their all. We just went into the week saying we have to play 48 minutes, and that’s what we did.”
Warren Easton scored 27 unanswered points in the second quarter to take control of the game.
After a a failed fake-punt attempt by Plaquemine, Easton marched 43 yards on eight plays and capped the drive off with a one-yard touchdown run from Caper-Smith. After a three and out by Plaquemine on the following drive, Tyron Johnson took a Green Devils punt 60 yards for a touchdown.
Johnson had four catches for 48 yards and two total touchdowns.
Another three and out by the Green Devils on their next drive gave the ball right back to the potent Eagles offense. They went 55 yards on eight plays before Capers-Smith connected with Darrell Clark on a back-shoulder fade for a 9-yard touchdown, giving Easton a 27-7 lead.