PLAQUEMINE — This year’s regular-season opener between Class 1A St. John and Class 3A Brusly was a far cry from the 49-0 romp by the Panthers to open 2013, but the result was still the same.
Running back Zavian Bell rushed for 65 yards and a touchdown as the Panthers topped the Eagles 14-0 at Plaquemine’s Canova Stadium on Thursday night.
“(St. John) played a lot tougher than we expected them to,” Brusly coach Erik Willis said. “We knew they had a lot better team.”
The Panthers (1-0) rushed for 199 yards and racked up 250 total yards. Brusly amassed 15 first downs to St. John’s five.
“They’re a pound Wing team, and we knew that’s what they were going to do,” St. John coach Crickett Crockett said. “They did a good job of it.”
St. John (0-1) struggled offensively, amassing only 82 yards and punting five times. Senior quarterback Hayden Hemenway led the Eagles with 37 rushing yards and was 2-of-6 for 30 yards passing.
After a scoreless tie at halftime, Bell rushed for a 2-yard touchdown late in the third quarter to put Brusly on the scoreboard. A botched two-point conversion gave the Panthers a 6-0 lead.
“We wanted to stay vanilla, but they were just too tough defensively for us to do that,” Willis said. “In the second half, we took a few more bullets out of the gun and did some different things that helped us, and we kind of ran it at will.”
St. John’s next possession yielded a third-and-out. The Panthers began their drive at the St. John 45-yard line late in the third quarter.
That same drive, early in the fourth quarter, the Panthers took to the air on fourth-and-7, deep in Eagles territory.
On his lone pass attempt, quarterback Connor Manola hit receiver Austin Watts on a short screen pass that turned into a 30-yard touchdown. Manola converted the ensuing two-point conversion to give the Panthers the 14-0 lead.
“We were having trouble throwing it, but we knew we had a quick screen that, if we got a block, we’d make a score,” Harris said. “Watts made a heck of a play and made it happen.”
“We had our chances, and we had a couple big plays,” Crockett said. “We did some things to hurt ourselves, but that’s just the way it goes sometimes.”
Manola entered late in the first half after junior Evan Daigle started at quarterback. Daigle finished 2-of-4 for 21 yards. The Eagles finished with 51 yards passing. Senior running back Jaylon Green added 70 yards for the Panthers.
“We have two young quarterbacks, and they’re going to get better,” Harris said.
“It’s a great competition,” Crockett said on playing a 3A opponent to start the season. “It’s something for us to aim for and strive to get better. Playing something like (Brusly) is big for us, especially early in the year to see where we are at. We kind of like where we’re at now, and we’ll see where it goes.”