BRUSLY — The inaugural Sugarcane Classic trophy is going to Brusly High School.
The Panthers rushed for almost 300 yards and made two huge defensive stops inside the 10-yard line to grind out a 15-12 win against District 6-3A rival Port Allen on Friday night. The trophy, which was created to commemorate the 50th meeting between the schools, will stay at Brusly until next year’s installment of the rivalry.
“It felt extremely good,” junior running back Zavian Bell said. “We knew we had to get this for our community because our community did a lot for us tonight. They showed up, they gave us the fan support that we needed. So we tapped into their emotion.”
Brusly (4-4, 2-3) marched down the field on its first two possessions but turned the ball over on downs just outside the red zone on both drives. The Panthers leaned on Bell, who picked up 62 yards on 13 carries in the first quarter.
Port Allen (3-5, 2-3) rolled the dice early as well, electing to attempt a fourth-and-4 instead of kicking a field goal from the Panthers’ 29-yard line a few minutes into the second quarter. Junior quarterback Jarius Robertson found an open receiver near the goal line, but Brusly linebacker Klay Clopton timed his hit perfectly to break up the pass.
Robertson later ripped off the most explosive play of the game, breaking several tackles on a 46-yard, highlight-reel run down to the Panthers’ goal line. But Brusly stuffed the Pelicans on four rushing plays to preserve the scoreless tie at halftime.
“That’s pretty much the difference in the game right there,” Brusly coach Marc Brown said. “This was by far the best game the defense has played on every level. We bent a little bit, but we didn’t break, and I was happy to see that.”
Brusly attempted on onside kick to open the second half, but the ball didn’t travel the necessary 10 yards. Though Brown said he was trying to “steal a possession,” he ended up giving the Pelicans the ball past midfield.
Port Allen finally capitalized on its second play, a double-reverse flea flicker that resulted in a 44-yard touchdown pass to junior receiver Dontrius Franklin. Port Allen coach Nick Mitchell decided to fake the extra point, but the Pelicans were unable to convert and held a slim 6-0 lead.
The Panthers answered, using a 44-yard pop pass to set up a 3-yard touchdown run from Bell. Brusly went ahead 7-6 before both offenses stalled for the rest of the third quarter.
Early in the fourth period, Robertson again scrambled to put Port Allen on the Brusly 6-yard line. On the next play, however, he threw an interception on a quick slant.
“It’s very frustrating as a coach because when you get into that area of the football field, you expect to score,” Mitchell said. “…Credit Brusly’s defense. They stood tall, and we didn’t do our job.”
Port Allen forced a three-and-out and reclaimed the lead on its next possession after Robertson picked up a crucial fourth-down conversion with his legs. Senior running back DeMarcus Franklin capped the drive with a 5-yard touchdown plunge.
But just like before, Brusly answered.
The Panthers picked up five first downs by running straight at an exhausted Pelicans’ defense, which Brown said was all a part of the game plan. Bell was the workhorse once again, though junior quarterback Jason Holliday scored the go-ahead touchdown and two-point conversion.
Port Allen got the ball with 1:28 to play but couldn’t pull off the comeback. Brusly’s student section rushed onto the field to celebrate with the trophy after the Panthers knelt to seal the win.