ST. FRANCISVILLE — West Feliciana coach Robb Odom was looking for one more play from his defense.
With his team’s grip slipping on a 20-14 lead and Iowa facing a second-and-goal from inside the West Feliciana 1-yard line, linebacker Hunter Smith stood up the Joseph Figueroa, and safety Derrick Turner stripped the ball to ice the Class 3A quarterfinal victory for the Saints.
Thirteenth-seeded West Feliciana advances to the semifinals for the second straight year. They’ll travel to face top-seeded Lutcher, a 13-8 winner over Kaplan, next week.
“We found a way to pull it out at the end,” said Odom, whose team improved to 9-4. “That’s a good football team we played, and they’re young and physical, and I’m not taking anything away from them. But we found away to pull it out at the end, and we live to play another week. At this time of year, that’s all that matters.”
The Saints pushed out to a 20-0 lead after the first possession of the second half on a 6-yard run by Turner, playing quarterback in the run-oriented West Feliciana offense. But No. 21 Iowa answered with touchdown passes from quarterback Zack Jongbloed to Cole Fleming and Andre Sam, cutting the lead to 20-14 with 6:13 remaining in the game.
After a short punt by the Saints to the Iowa 48, Jongbloed marched his team down to the Saints’ 1 in 11 plays before the turnover in the final minute.
“We had lots of heart and played to the very end,” Smith said. “We pumped each other up and believed in each other, and we knew we controlled our own destiny.”
The Saints finished the game with 279 rushing yards from a balanced attack featuring Turner (23 carries, 73 yards), Ronald Sims (13 for 70 yards) and Morrison (nine for 67 yards).
West Feliciana’s defense held the visitors to 74 yards of total offense, including 41 passing and 33 rushing in the first half. However, Jongbloed finished the game with 189 passing yards with 13 completions in 32 attempts and his team managed 85 rushing yards.
Two second quarter touchdowns staked the Saints to a 14-0 halftime edge with sustained 80-yard marches. Devon Harris broke loose for a 41-yard run to cap a nine-play, 80-yard drive and he scored the two-point conversion for an 8-0 lead.
They drove 80 yards in 12 plays later in the quarter when Morrison bulled in for a 17-yard TD, but the conversion attempt failed and West Feliciana led 14-0.
“It’s hard to come back when you spot a team a 20 points, but we battled back like we have all year,” said Yellowjackets coach Sean Richard, whose squad finished 7-6. “I can’t fault them for what happened down there at the end. Those kinds of plays happen in football. But we showed up in the second half and got all the way to the 1-yard line, but couldn’t finish.”