PLAQUEMINE — The opening and closing moments of the second half were enough for Plaquemine High School to fend off pesky Carver in a Class 4A first-round state playoff game.
Linebacker Brian Jordan’s 14-yard interception return on the first play of the third quarter stopped a surging Carver, and quarterback Austin Mitchell sealed a 36-21 victory with a 5-yard score in the final 1:18 seconds Friday at Andrew Canova Stadium.
No. 12 Plaquemine (8-3) extended its win streak to seven games and travels to New Orleans to face Warren Easton, a 56-14 winner over Belle Chasse, in next week’s regional round.
“That was huge to start the second half,” Plaquemine coach Paul Distefano said. “I was very proud of our defense. They stepped up big time. We fumbled the ball too much, but we were able to get a lot of turnovers. That was the difference in the game.”
Plaquemine offset quarterback Izea Hurst’s 223-yard passing night that kept Carver (6-5) in contention with six interceptions and a fumble recovery.
Malik Randolph picked off two passes for the Green Devils and Todd Harris added the final one of reserve quarterback Quinton Matthew with 56 seconds remaining.
Hurst, who completed 15 of 30 passes, accounted for all three of his team’s second-quarter touchdowns that nearly erased all of Plaquemine’s 22-0 lead, throwing for one TD and rushing for two more in the last four minutes of the half, leaving the Rams facing a 22-21 deficit.
Besides a Carver offense that came to life after registering 16 yards on the opening quarter, Plaquemine had to deal with a staggering number of penalties that resulted in the ejection of Wayne Toussant and Bryant Jones.
The Green Devils were flagged 15 times for 137 yards in the first half and 18 times for 152 yards overall.
Carver was whistled 11 times for 95 yards.
“It was very frustrating,” Distefano said. “That’s as poorly officiated a first half as I’ve seen in my life. We hadn’t had over 10 penalties all year in a close game. Our kids aren’t perfect. We make mistakes. We have penalties but should have never been flagged that many times in the first half.”
Jordan’s return of Hurst’s fourth interception of the game stopped Carver’s surge of 21 straight points, but the Rams responded by forcing three fumbles that deterred the Devils somewhat on offense.
Plaquemine rushed 49 times for 241 yards, led by Kevin Dominique with 10 carries for 85 yards, while Toussant added 58 yards on six carries and Tyler Wesley 50 yards on 11 attempts.
The Green Devils’ final points came on a six-play, 21-yard drive after holding the Rams on downs with Mitchelll scoring on a delay on second-and-goal.
Plaquemine established a 22-0 lead early in the second quarter on Mitchell’s 19-yard TD pass to Codi Willis, coupled with Toussant’s 28-yard interception return and Dominique’s 53-yard dash.
Carver scored on three of its last four drives of the second quarter with Hurst throwing 22 yards to Gary Young and running for scores of 8 and 3 yards, respectively.