The Bears rushed 65 times for 304 yards against a smaller C.E. Byrd defense to control the ball for nearly 33 minutes, and Carencro defeated the Yellow Jackets 34-21 in a semifinal playoff game.
Carencro (13-1) moved into next Saturday’s title contest against West Monroe in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for the first time since 1996. The No. 7 Bears were playing in a state semifinal for the first time since 2003.
Second-seeded Byrd (12-1) was in a state final game for the first time since 1964.
Brent Indest, in his second season at Carencro, said he preached getting physical with Byrd in the Bears’ practices all week.
“The word that we kept using to our offensive linemen was ‘smash.’ There have been so many other times that I’ve coached teams in the playoffs where we were the smaller guy that was outmatched by the bigger team,” Indest said. “Tonight, we got to be the bullies. We wanted to smash them with our running game and shorten the game.
“I respect old-fashioned football where you line up like this. I know you had a whole lot of guys out there loving it.”
Carencro left it up to quarterback Jalen Nixon and running back Alex Johnson to bully the Yellow Jackets.
Johnson, who entered the game with 2,602 rushing yards, ran 32 times for 205 against Byrd. Nixon carried 23 times for 79. Carencro offensive lineman Tevin Guillot said the Bears’ interior blockers didn’t do anything unusual.
“We did what we always do as linemen and that’s grind it. We want the running backs to get going and that’s what we did this time too,” Guillot said.
“Against (Byrd) we lined up, did our jobs and then let the rest of the offensive execute.”
Byrd coach Mike Suggs said he expected Carencro to get physical with his team.
“We haven’t played anyone that big, and that was one thing we were concerned about. We knew we were coming in outmatched size-wise,” said Suggs, whose team featured 40 senior players.
“They three and four-yarded us to death…We didn’t get that many possessions,“ he said.
Despite having the ball for only 14:09, the Yellow Jackets stayed in the game with quick-scoring drives that continued to cut Carencro’s lead into the fourth quarter.
The Bears were ahead 14-0 after a nine-play, 71-yard drive that ended on a Johnson 3-yard run, followed by a 38-yard drive that ended on a Nixon 2-yard run.
Byrd struck back with 2:12 left in the first quarter when quarterback Richard Carthon broke loose on a 39-yard run.
The TD was set up when Carthon completed a 12-yard pass to wide receiver Brandon Hudgens.
Carencro used over 10 minutes to drive another 79 yards to go ahead 21-7 after Nixon scored the TD on a 1-yard run.
Byrd, which ran only 11 first-half plays, responded with another touchdown when Carthon scored from 11 yards out. Carthon set up the score when he threw a 50-yard completion to wide receiver Ryan Schuler.
DJ Thomas kicked a 25-yard field goal to give the Bears a 24-14 halftime lead.
Another long Carencro drive, this time 14 minutes, ended with Thomas field goal, extending the Bears’ lead to 27-14 with 5:23 left in the game.
Byrd again struck quickly — 55 yards in five plays — as Christian Willis scored from 9 yards away to make it a six-point game, 27-21.
Nixon scored again on a 35-yard run with 34 seconds remaining.
Carthon finished with 82 rushing yards on 19 attempts. He completed eight passes for 140 yards.