ABBEVILLE — A year after a humbling defeat in the Division IV select state championship, Southern Lab’s returning with a vengence.
“That was the goal,” Southern Lab first-year coach Marcus Randall said. “These guys had already tasted what it’s like to be in the Dome and come up short. They’re hungry, and that’s pretty much been the talk since I got there in April ... to go back and finish the deal.”
No. 6 Southern Lab punched its ticket for a return trip to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with a powerful rushing attack and an opportunistic defense in a 34-12 state semifinal triumph Friday over No. 2 Vermilion Catholic.
Southern Lab (9-3), which lost 55-6 last season to Ouachita Christian, opposes No. 4 St. Mary, a 49-42 winner over No. 1 Ascension Episcopal, next Friday at 10 a.m.
“It feels even better than the first time,” Southern Lab defensive back and Tulane commitment Jonard Robinson, who keyed the Kittens defense with three of his team’s five interceptions. “We know we have to redeem ourselves. It makes it more special because we’re seniors. We want to finish it off right.”
Running back Darbbeon Profit rushed 23 times for 167 yards and scored three touchdowns, capping his team’s scoring with 5:16 remaining on a 2-yard TD.
The Kittens rushed the ball 47 times for 248 yards and wound up running 64 plays for 438 yards compared the Eagles’ 258 yards on 37 plays.
“We knew they were a high powered offense and we wanted to keep the ball away from them as much as possible,” Randall said. “We wanted to keep their offense on the sideline as much as we could.”
Quarterback Bladerick Veal complemented Lab’s power rushing attack with an 11-of-17 effort for 190 yards and a pair of interceptions. Curtlan Williams topped the Kittens with three catches for 69 yards.
Southern Lab extended its 8-6 halftime lead to 28-6 with a 20-point third quarter on a pair of scoring runs from fullback Shannon Forman.
VC (10-3) cut Lab’s lead to 28-12 on William Nogel’s 1-yard run at the 10:20 mark of the fourth quarter, and place-kicker Emile Trahan recovered on his own onside kick at Lab’s 20-yard line.
With the Eagles threatening at the Kittens’ 6-yard line strong safety Damone Clark stepped in front of quarterback Hunter Frith’s third-down attempt and returned it 66 yards with 8:50 remaining.
Lab’s defense intercepted Frith, one of the state’s top passers with 3,436 yards coming into the game, five times and limited him to 26-of-53 passing for 257 yards and a touchdown.
Frith had never thrown more than three interceptions in a game this season and had been picked off just twice in his last 102 attempts.
“I knew they were going to throw the ball the whole game,” Robinson said. “My job was to bait the quarterback into thinking his receiver was open. That’s what I do. Get the offense the ball and they’re going to score. That’s how we win games.”