ZACHARY — A 39-degree temperature at kickoff couldn’t slow down No. 3 Zachary against Airline on Friday night and neither could losing its quarterback in the first quarter.
The Broncos easily defeated the Vikings 53-27 in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs despite starter Lindsey Scott going down with an undisclosed lower leg injury just before the end of the first quarter.
Fortunately for Zachary coach David Brewerton and his team, sophomore wide receiver Shyron White was able to fill the void without any hiccups to the offense.
“(Losing Scott) kind of shortened the playbook a little bit, no doubt,” Brewerton said. “… (White) is actually really quick with the ball in his hands.”
Brewerton said removing Scott from the game was largely precautionary — despite only leading 7-0 at the time — but with White and running back Braylon Jones combining for three touchdowns on the ground, he felt leaving Scott on the bench was the wise option. Jones led the Broncos with 138 yards and a pair of scores, including a 41-yard burst on the first play following Scott’s departure.
White and Jones also connected on a 23-yard pass just before halftime that gave Zachary a 27-7 lead going into the break.
But Brewerton — along with Airline coach Bo Meeks — credited the Broncos’ fake punt reverse as one of, if not the, biggest play of the night.
With two minutes left in the second quarter, Brewerton decided he needed to give his team an extra spark after the loss of Scott, so he opted to fake a punt to defensive back PJ Cannon, who proceeded to run 59 yards for the score to give Zachary a 21-7 lead.
“Obviously when you make big plays, it’s going to be positive in your favor and they made more than we did,” Meeks said. “Again, it boils down to them being a good football team and us making too many mistakes.”
Cannon said he could feel himself going on a hot streak before the game, but even he couldn’t have predicted the night he had. The junior tacked on an interception to start the second half and scored on an onside kick return just before the final whistle blew.
“We (played pretty physical) with Lindsey going out,” Cannon said. “We needed some other players to come out, and they did. It just shows we have a loaded team.”
Physicality has been Brewerton’s motto in his first season with the Broncos and the team kept up with that belief all night against Airline.
The Vikings struggled to move the ball, particularly in the second half, as the Broncos defense constantly swarmed the ball.
Airline was forced to pass for most of the game after taking an early deficit, but only competed 17 of its 37 attempts.
Wide receiver Cameron Howell was Airline’s favorite target of the night, hauling in five passes for 86 yards and a touchdown that put the Vikings on the board in the first quarter.
Airline was able to put together a few scores after a Zachary fumble was returned 100 yards for a score and backup quarterback Thomas McKain punched in a 5-yard score in the last few minutes of the game.
“We just made too many mistakes in such a short period of time,” Meeks said. “We came out in the second half and just didn’t make enough plays, and it kind of steamrolled on us.”