The No. 5 seed Zachary Broncos return to the semifinals of the 5A playoffs for the sixth consecutive year with their win over the No. 20 seed Ruston Bearcats at L.J. “Hoss” Garrett Stadium on Nov. 29.

Keilon Brown and Chris Hilton got the Broncos going on the first possession with five pass completions including a 25-yard touchdown on fourth down. The Bearcats would respond three plays later on a 59-yard touchdown run by Ketravion Hargrove.

The Broncos second possession of the game would end with a touchdown on a reverse pass where Jayden Williams threw to Charles Robertson, who rumbled into the end zone. Undaunted, the Bearcats would score two plays later on another 59-yard Hargrove touchdown run. The Bearcats would miss the extra point.

The Broncos offense was kicking on all cylinders as they scored on their third possession, recovered an onside kick and proceeded to extend the score to 35-13 late in the second quarter. After a Ruston punt, the Broncos drove to the Bearcats 5 yard line near the close of the quarter. The Broncos were denied another score due to a fumble.

The first quarter offensive explosion would be all the points the Broncos would score on the night as Brown had over 300 all-purpose yards and Chris Hilton was over 112 yards on 8 catches in the first half.

The Bearcats would get the ball first in the second half and score on a Devian Wilson dive off-tackle for a 50-yard touchdown. The Broncos were not able to generate offense or sustain drives in the third quarter. The Broncos defense held strong and held the Bearcats scoreless after the initial touchdown.

The fourth quarter would prove to be breathtaking and stressful . The quarter began with the Broncos unsuccessful on a fourth down attempt at the Bearcats 30-yard line. The Bearcats first possession of the fourth quarter would see them methodically drive to the Broncos 7-yard line before handing the ball off to Hargrove who would score with 7:46 remaining to close the score to 8 points (35-27).

The Broncos would not gain a first down on the subsequent possession, but a 75-yard punt by Prince Johnson would pin the Bearcats at their own 5 yard-line with 5 minutes remaining. A’gen Langford’s fourth down tackle of a Bearcats wide receiver would give the Broncos the ball at the Bearcats 30 yard-line with 3 minutes remaining and a first down the only thing separating the Broncos from victory.

The Broncos were again stymied deep in Bearcats territory and the Bearcats would take over with 1:58 remaining in the game, no timeouts, and the ball at their own 30 yard-line. Two Broncos penalties would aid the Bearcats as they drove to the two-yard line. On a third-and-goal play from the two-yard line the Bearcats run attempt was stopped just shy of the goal line as time expired to secure a Broncos victory. The home crowd was in absolute shock and horror with the Broncos goal line stop.

Coach David Brewerton’s last personal experience with Bearcats was the 1990 State Championship game where he was a player at Catholic High on the losing side.  Brewerton said, “I’ve been waiting 30 years for this win.

“I am really pleased with the way our kids played. They fought all the way down to the last possible second,” Brewerton said.

The Broncos will be on the road for a semifinal matchup against another 5A power, top seed Acadiana on Friday. Though these programs have mutual respect they do not necessarily like each other as the Broncos have evolved from Acadiana’s stepping stone to the Broncos defeating them at home and on the road during the most recent matchups.

Prior to Brewerton and staff coming to Zachary, the Acadiana Rams were kryptonite to the Broncos defeating them 49-7 (2010), 75-21 (2011) and 63-42 (2012).

The Broncos and Rams met in the semifinals in 2014 at Acadiana, where the Rams would barely escape with a 9-3 victory and go on to win the 5A state championship during Brewerton’s first year at Zachary. This would also be Acadiana’s last 5A State Championship.

In 2016, the Rams would come to Zachary in the 5A quarterfinals where the Broncos would defeat the higher seeded Rams 31-24. On their trek to the 2018 5A state championship, the Broncos would travel to Acadiana and defeat the Rams 26-14 in the quarterfinals.

The 2019 version of the matchup should be intriguing with conflicting styles and bragging rights for 5A supremacy on the line. The winner of this match will play the winner of the Haughton versus Destrehan semifinal game in the Mercedes Benz Superdome for the 5A State Championship on Dec. 14.

Warren Brady covers sports for The Plainsman. He can be contacted at zachary@theadvocate.com.