Ehret was clinging to a one-lead, and the momentum had shifted to Ponchatoula during the second half of the teams’ Class 5A quarterfinals game Friday night.
Fortunately for the Patriots, their defense stepped up again.
With the offense following its lead, Ehret scored 20 unanswered points in putting away Ponchatoula 34-7 at Hoss Memtsas Stadium.
The victory advanced Ehret (12-2) to the state semifinals for the first time since 2007. They will play next week against Mandeville, which topped the Patriots’ District 8-5A rival, Landry-Walker on Friday night.
Ponchatoula (9-4) was coming off an upset of No. 1 seed West Monroe last week.
“It came down to we couldn’t block their defensive line,” said Ponchatoula coach Hank Tierney, the former Shaw and West Jefferson head coach. “Their D-line is outstanding, as good as I’ve seen. They’re as good a unit as I’ve coached again” in 34 years as head coach.
Ehret led 14-7 four minutes into the fourth quarter, when safety Jarrius Wallace came across the field and picked off a pass by Green Wave quarterback Jeff Kraft at the Patriots’ 44. Two plays later, Dejon Harris scored on a 32-yard run.
On the first play after the kickoff, Kraft was sacked by defensive end Robert Green and fumbled on the 20. Freshman quarterback Travis Mumphry, put in to give Ehret more of a passing threat, completed a 15-yard touchdown pass to Travis Jordan, pushing the score to 27-7.
“We knew they couldn’t run, and we’d seen the types of patterns they use in their passing game,” Wallace said. “We always get great pressure up front.”
All four of Ehret’s defensive backs — Wallace, Jordan, Darius Campbell and Terrell Bailey — intercepted passes, and the front seven , led by Green, had eight sacks, including five in the second half, creating short fields. They held Ponchatoula’s option to 72 yards rushing and 53 passing.
“They’ve been awesome all season,” coach Corey Lambert said.
However, the Patriots also made adjustments that reaped dividends. On Ponchatoula’s first possession of the second half, fullback Juan Gross covered all 49 yards in three dive plays up the middle, going 15 yards for a touchdown that brought the Wave to 14-7.
“One of our linemen was supposed to be covering the guard instead of outside the guard,” Lambert said. “Hank and them found it, and we had to adjust.”
With leading rusher Juwan Leonard playing sparingly because of a turf toe injury, the second adjustment was to move Harris from quarterback to running back and put Mumphry under the center. Mumphry completed four of five throws for 35 yards, loosening up Ponchatoula’s defense.
Ehret took a 14-0 halftime lead on the strength of its speed on defense. The Patriots got three turnovers, including interceptions by Campbell and Jordan, who returned his 35 yards for a touchdown on the last play of the first half, giving Ehret the two-touchdown lead.
Ponchatoula’s defense was stellar for the most part. It held Ehret to 60 yards rushing. However, Donte Green ran 31 yards for a touchdown on a Wildcat play at 5:48 of the first quarter. That came two plays after Campbell’s interception.