CARENCRO - Carencro High quarterback Jalen Nixon had only one thought as the game clock wound down inside 30 seconds:
“In my mind, I had to take it to the end zone,” said Nixon, who did just that, scoring on a 5-yard run with 28 seconds left Friday night as Carencro completed a fourth-quarter comeback to defeat Ouachita Parish 28-24 in a Class 5A regional playoff game.
Nixon’s TD closed out a fourth quarter in which Carencro (11-1) scored two touchdowns in the final 9:36 to eliminate a 10-point Ouachita lead.
The win propelled seventh-seeded Carencro into the quarterfinals either Friday or Saturday against Jesuit. The Lions ended the season 9-3 after entering the playoffs as the No. 10 seed.
After Ouachita scored on a 3-yard Xavier Davis run to end a 77-yard drive and grab a 24-14 advantage, the Bears struck quickly on the next play following the kickoff.
Nixon pitched the ball to tailback Alex Johnson, who completed an 80-yard tailback pass to wide receiver Shawn Thomas, who stiff-armed a OHS defender and sped into the Lions’ end zone.
The Bears defense stopped Ouachita on the next series at midfield, and following a Lions’ punt, Carencro drove 80 yards in 10 plays to score the TD on Nixon’s keeper.
“We had two plays called coming out of the timeout. But if I didn’t score, I was pretty free to call any play that I wanted,” Nixon said.
“On (the touchdown play), we went with the power run. We had the stronger line, and I just got behind the big men and then got into the end zone.”
Carencro coach Brent Indest said the Johnson pass to Thomas was the play that turned the momentum permanently.
“That would be an understatement,” he said. “We had that play in all year long, and we hadn’t used it. It’s something we practiced?.Alex just threw it up there and let (Thomas) make a play. Shawn made a great play on the ball.”
Nixon finished the game with 97 yards on 18 carries. Johnson ran for 80 on 16 attempts, scoring on one run and catching a pas for another TD.
Ouachita coach John Carr said the game was a tough one to lose.
“There were so many momentum swings,” he said. “It was a great game between two good football teams. I think it finally came down to (Carencro) making a few more plays than we did.”
Although the Lions scored 21 unanswered points over three quarters to take the 10-point lead, Carr said he never felt safe.
“Then they came back with the big play (on the Johnson TD pass), and that proved to be the game’s big play,” he said.
Carencro led 14-3 midway into the second quarter, but the Lions scored with 2:07 left before halftime to cut the lead to four on an 80-yard pass from quarterback Quentin Wheeler to receiver Cameron Sims.
“That was big for (Ouachita). We told our guys all week that you can’t let (Sims) get behind us and that’s exactly what happened,” Indest said.
Ouachita took a 17-14 lead on the first possession of the second half, when the Lions traveled 80 yards and scored on a 39-yard throw from Wheeler to DeVaughn Sanders.
Wheeler threw for 217 yards on seven completions in addition to running 20 times for 91 yards.
The Bears produced consecutive touchdowns in the first half on a 1-yard Johnson run and his 26-yard reception on a second-quarter Nixon pass.
CHS scored on the game’s first possession, ending an 80-yard, 10-play drive with Johnson’s TD run. Marlon Mouton had the key play with a 28-yard gain to the Lions’ 11.
Ouachita answered that TD with a five-minute, 28-second march that covered 44 yards and ended in a 27-yard TJ Kuak field goal.
Johnson caught the touchdown throw from Nixon just over the line of scrimmage, and then raced into the end zone with 9:23 remaining in the second period to give the Bears the 14-3 advantage.