After seizing control in the first half behind running back Tevin Bush, Landry-Walker found itself on the cusp of losing to McKinley High of Baton Rouge on Friday night at Behrman Stadium.

However, the Charging Buccaneers came up with two big plays in the fourth quarter and held on for a 21-20 victory.

“These games get us ready for the playoffs,” said Landry-Walker coach Emmanuel Powell, whose team is ranked second in the state in Class 4A. “Our defense came up with a big play, then our offense made one. But we’ve got to play with more focus.”

McKinley’s Charles Vaughn had a 2-yard touchdown run with 9:10 to play in the fourth quarter to pull the Panthers to the final margin. After an encroachment penalty on Landry-Walker (4-1), McKinley chose to go for two points and the lead. However, running back Larry Moore was stopped inches short of the goal line.

“If I had to do it again, maybe I’d give the ball to my fullback (Vaughn),” said Panthers coach Robert Signater, whose team competes in tough District 5-5A with Catholic, Dutchtown and St. Amant. “But you can’t look at it like that. What’s to say they wouldn’t have scored at the end instead of just running the clock out.”

On the first play after the ensuing kickoff, Landry-Walker quarterback Li’Jon Cortier completed a 45-yard pass to receiver Jeremy Sanders to the McKinley 30. A facemask penalty on the play put the ball at the 20. The game ended with the Charging Buccaneers on the 7.

McKinley (3-2) trailed 21-7 at halftime but came back behind its defense and running game. The Panthers cut the lead to 21-14 on a 12-yard end-around by Nicholas Wiggins with 1:51 left in the third and Vaughn’s score.

The first half was just the opposite, with Landry-Walker’s defense holding the Panthers to 82 yards and running back Tevin Bush rushing for 98 yards on six carries and scoring two touchdowns, staking the Bucs to the 21-7 halftime lead. He injured an ankle, however, on his last carry of the half, a 25-yard run. In the second half, he gained just 10 yards on seven carries, slowing Landry-Walker to a crawl.

McKinley tied the score at 7 on a 3-yard touchdown run by Vaughn at 3:33 of the first quarter. The Panthers’ Aden Lopez kicked off short and high. However, Bush fielded the ball, hesitated, then burst left through McKinley’s coverage for an 80-yard touchdown, giving the Charging Buccaneers a 13-7 lead.

Landry-Walker forced a punt on the ensuing McKinley possession. Five plays later, Bush broke up the middle of the field, veered left and outran the Panthers’ secondary for a 65-yard touchdown, making the score 19-6.

Bush also had 90 yards on returns and an 8-yard reception.

A 58-yard punt by the Bucs’ Terrell Gilmore to the McKinley 3 with 3:01 showing set up Landry-Walker’s final points of the first half. The Bucs held on downs, and the Panthers’ Brady Monroe snapped the ball over the head of punter Anthony Raby for a safety with 43.6 seconds left before halftime.

Landry-Walker took a 7-0 lead at 7:07 of the first quarter on a 6-yard read-option keeper by Cortier. The score was set up by Deonte’ Gildersleeve’s 42-yard punt return to the McKinley 20. Four plays later, Cartier scored.

The Panthers answered, however, with a nine-play, 68-yard march, capped by Vaughn’s run.