LORANGER - Battered and bruised for much of the ballgame and unable to throw effectively because of an arm injury, Port Allen quarterback Darian Claiborne saved his best for last in the Pelicans’ second-round Class 3A playoff game against Loranger.
Trailing 13-7 and needing to 88 yards for a touchdown, Claiborne used his feet and scored on an electrifying 73-yard touchdown with 1:06 remaining as Port Allen erased a 13-point deficit to claim a 14-13 victory over the Wolves on Friday at Rusty Chambers Memorial Stadium.
Claiborne, who completed 4 of 13 passes in the game, rushed for 129 yards to lead PAHS (10-2) to its first 10-win season and first berth in the quarterfinals. The Pelicans will meet Parkview Baptist, a 28-13 winner over Notre Dame.
“Great players make great players in big games,” Port Allen coach Guy Blanchard said. “His arm was killing him, and he couldn’t throw the football. He kept battling back and told me at one point, ?Coach, I’m not going to let us lose this football game.’”
Port Allen was pushed back to its own 12-yard line with 1:39 remaining after an illegal block in the back negated an Ashton Paul Williams punt return to its own 35. The Pelicans were aided by a pass interference penalty by Loranger on the first play of the drive before Claiborne stunned the home crowd with his go-ahead score one play later.
“One play, one play,” Loranger coach Sammy Messina said. “Defensively, in the second half, we stopped them at every opportunity except for one play. We had him (Claiborne) bottled up, wrapped up and couldn’t finish, and he was able to break free. Their playmaker made a play for them at the end of the game.”
Claiborne rolled right attempting to throw downfield but was chased to his left and eluded a potential sack by the Wolves’ Brennan Catalano. Claiborne then scampered down the left sideline before cutting back to the middle and outrunning the LHS defense to the end zone.
Both teams battled through a scoreless tie for nearly the entire first half before Loranger (10-2) struck first with its own electrics.
On first-and-20 at its own 39, B.J. Rainey tossed a screen pass to Jeryl Brazil, and the 2013 LSU commitment outraced the Pelican defense for a 61-yard touchdown with 5 seconds remaining in the first half.
The Wolves upped their lead to 13-0 in the third quarter after stopping PAHS on its opening drive. Rainey capped an eight-play, 76-yard drive when he connected with Mark Cox for a 29-yard touchdown pass with 7:25 left remaining. PAHS’ Caleb Johnson broke through the line on the extra point and blocked Gavin Oldham’s attempt, which turned out to be the difference in the game.
Port Allen used its defense to cut the lead to 13-7 when James Pollard stripped Rainey of the football and raced 20 yards for a touchdown with 1:38 left in the third quarter.
“We told our kids all week long that they (Loranger) had been running out and grabbing the ball out of people’s hands,” Blanchard said. “Teams that do that don’t like it done to them, so I said let’s go run to them and get a couple of turnovers.”
Brazil finished with 58 yards on 13 carries while catching two passes for 74 yards. Rainey finished 5-for-14 for 132 yards and a pair of touchdowns but was sacked five times as both teams combined for 10 total.