Following a midseason shutout loss to Assumption, Plaquemine football coach Bob Howell wondered if his team possessed the poise to compete for championships.
Now the Green Devils are sitting at the doorstep of a district title.
Plaquemine rallied from a sluggish start and coasted to a 30-0 triumph against Belaire on Thursday night at Memorial Stadium.
The Green Devils (6-3, 5-0) earned their fifth consecutive win to set up a winner-take-all matchup in District 6-4A in next week’s season finale against Lutcher.
“I knew it’d be tough, but I wanted it to be tough on our guys,” Howell said.
“Every game this year Belaire’s been in a certain defense, and it wasn’t the one they played tonight. But I was proud of our guys to be able to make the adjustments and figure it out.”
The Bengals (2-6, 1-4) stood toe-to-toe with the Green Devils for most of the first half before Plaquemine’s option attack sparked a 22-0 run in the second quarter.
Running back Hakeem Deggs led the Green Devils with 168 rushing yards and a touchdown. Fullback Julius Maracalin added 105 rushing yards and a touchdown while quarterback Ricky Aro added two 1-yard rushing scores.
The Green Devils outrushed the Bengals 390-128.
“They put you in a bind that makes it hard for everybody on defense,” said Belaire coach Jason Wilkins. “You miss an assignment or a tackle and it turns into a big play.”
The Green Devils defense limited the Bengals to 182 yards and sacked BHS quarterback Jarvis York three times. Plaquemine forced three turnovers that led to two touchdowns.
“The defense had another great night and they were dialed in,” Howell said.
After two stalled drives in the first quarter, Howell kept his offense on the field on fourth-and-inches at the BHS 48-yard line with 6:05 remaining in the second quarter.
Maracalin received a handoff up the middle, spun away from a tackler and broke away for a 48-yard touchdown run. Maracalin ran in for the two-point conversion to give PHS a 14-0 lead.
After a BHS three-and-out, the Green Devils closed the first half with a six-play, 62-yard scoring drive. Aro connected with Alvin Grant on a 20-yard pass at the BHS 30-yard line. PHS rushed for two first downs before Aro scored on a 1-yard run with one second remaining.
Myron Jacks’s 50-yard run with 1:12 in the first quarter set up the Green Devils’ first touchdown, a 1-yard run by Aro on the first play of the second quarter.
An interception in the third quarter set up an 81-yard touchdown run by Deggs that cushioned Plaquemine’s lead 30-0.
The Bengals crossed the PHS 25-yard line four times but came away empty. York led BHS with 118 total yards, including 64 rushing yards on 10 attempts.
“We’ve had our problems this year getting in the end zone,” Wilkins said. “We got close down there and made some mistakes at key times.”
Both teams traded turnovers on their opening possessions. York threw and ran for first downs before losing a fumble on third-and-long. The Green Devils recovered the fumble and ran for three first downs to reach the BHS 25-yard line. But BHS safety Christian Preston intercepted Aro’s first pass of the game.