NEW ORLEANS — Running back Carlos Henderson, his jersey soggy and legs still cramping, jogged on the field at the end of Friday night’s Class 4A quarterfinal win against Teurlings Catholic, barely able to keep up with his teammates, who were eager to start their celebration at Pan American Stadium.
As they jumped around, he shook hands with coaches, moving slowly for the first time in nearly three hours.
Henderson earned a break.
After all, he rushed 19 times for 161 yards and three touchdowns and added a 7-yard receiving TD to lead McDonogh 35 to a 34-27 victory and a spot in the 4A semifinals for the first time in school history.
“I was a little gassed from running the ball,” said Henderson, who left briefly on the Roneagles’ last possession before returning to the field to watch teammate Isaac Brooks score from 1 yard with 15 seconds left, sealing the win. “I stayed true to myself. I knew I had to help my team win this game.”
The Roneagles move on to face Neville, but Teurlings Catholic’s season, which included a District 5-4A championship and two playoff wins, ended at 11-2.
McDonogh 35 needed all the heroics Henderson could muster against Teurlings Catholic, which was trying to return to the 4A semifinals after a one-year absence.
Junior running back Zach Lafleur did his best to end the Roneagles’ upset bid by rushing for 74 yards and scoring on runs of 3 and 1 yards, including his final score with 4:33 left. He also caught a 32-yard TD reception.
It wasn’t enough. Teurlings Catholic had three interceptions of quarterback Williard Cheatham, but its defense had no answer for Henderson and his offense’s passing game with less than five minutes remaining and a one-point lead. The Rebels were unable to stop Cheatham from converting three third downs and a fourth down on the final possession, including fourth-and-16 at the Roneagles 42.
On the play, Cheatham found Lawerence Williams for a gain of 22 yards, igniting the home crowd. Six plays later, Brooks scored from the 1.
“The effort was there,” Teurlings Catholic coach Sonny Charpentier said of his defense. “We just couldn’t get off the field on fourth down. Give them credit. They made plays in the first half and in the second half.”
Perhaps the pressure was easier for the Roneagles to handle since they did not punt once, opting instead to try to convert on fourth down. When it counted, they were ready.
“A whole lot of people felt we couldn’t throw the football, and I felt we could do it well,” McDonogh 35 coach Wayne Reese said. “I just thought our passing game could get us over the hump.”
Cheatem threw for 201 yards on 22-of-27 passing, no easy effort against a defense that has allowed fewer than 14 points in nine games this season, including the playoffs.
To get there, the Rebels overcame a 12-0 deficit early in the second quarter — the first of Henderson’s rushing scores.
In the third quarter, Henderson gave McDonogh 35 an 18-13 lead with his receiving TD, only to watch Lafleur, his Teurlings Catholic counterpart, follow his effort with a 32-yard score off a screen pass.
With momentum moving in the direction of the Rebels, Henderson made his biggest play of the game. On the Roneagles’ first play from scrimmage early in the fourth quarter, he took a run to the left, made a move near the line of scrimmage and ran 88 yards to the end zone to give his team hope.