LIVONIA —- Twelve months have passed since Livonia High football made its first state championship game appearance, only to suffer a double-overtime heartbreaker that cost the team a perfect season.
Now the Wildcats return to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome looking to complete the task.
Top-seeded Livonia secured a return trip to the Class 3A final with a 23-15 semifinal victory over West Feliciana, riding the rushing of senior Malcolm Dedrick and a defense that allowed just eight points after the game’s opening possession.
The Wildcats (13-0), unbeaten entering the final weekend for the second straight season, meet No. 3 seed Amite at noon Saturday in New Orleans.
“The mission was not just to get there,” Dedrick said, “but to win it all. We want a ring.”
The road back to the Superdome has been an emotional journey for the Wildcats, who during the offseason were forced to vacate their 3A runner-up trophy after the LHSAA ruled they had used an ineligible player.
They then welcomed coach Guy Mistretta after David Brewerton left Livonia for the Zachary job.
Keeping alive perfection this year came on a night when this small Pointe Coupee Parish town threw a football party that epitomized late-round action in the Louisiana state playoffs.
Droves of fans from nearby West Feliciana crossed the Mississippi River, helping form a crowd that overflowed the eight sets of temporary bleachers Livonia installed and circled the fence around the field.
The big crowd saw Dedrick rip off 159 yards on 21 carries and score on runs of 50 and 18 yards, and it saw the Livonia defense mostly put the clamps on a West Feliciana offense that had exploded for 98 points in its previous two playoff games.
The Saints (10-3) struck early for a 7-0 lead, using quarterback Ryan Reed’s 46-yard connection with LSU commitment Jazz Ferguson to set up Desmond Wilson for a 5-yard touchdown run.
But the Livonia defense buckled down, keeping West Feliciana scoreless for the next two quarters.
A run of 23 unanswered points by the Wildcats began when Diante Bridgewater scored from 15 yards out early in the second quarter, and Dedrick helped make it 15-7 with his 50-yard run 5:57 before halftime.
The lead had grown to 23-7 before West Feliciana, enjoying its deepest playoff run since losing in the 2010 semfinals, made a last-ditch effort to keep its season alive.
“You better never take a break with these guys,” Mistretta said of the Saints, “because they’re going to come. You can count on them fighting and being warriors until the end.”
Wilson’s second 5-yard TD, followed by R.C. Carmenia’s two-point run, made it a one-possession game with 8:28 to play.
After forcing a Livonia punt, the Saints took over at their own 29 with 4:39 remaining and marched to the Wildcat 33. Reed completed a short pass to Lorenzo Green on fourth-and-10, but Barrick Slaughter stoped him for a 3-yard gain.
Ferguson finished with seven catches for 124 yards.
West Feliciana coach Robb Odom was critical of a non-call on what he thought should have been pass interference against Ferguson during the final drive.
“I don’t want to take anything away from their football team, but there was some blatant stuff that went on,” Odom said. “It’s nothing against them because they deserve it, but our kids had to fight more than just Livonia tonight.”
Mistretta is back in a state championship game for the first time since leading Redemptorist to the 3A title in 2005.
“It will be exciting for all of us, coaches and players,” Mistretta said. “I wish everyone could get to experience this.”