RUSTON — The No. 5 seed Zachary Broncos rode a nine-game winning streak north to take on No. 20 Ruston on Friday night at L.J. “Hoss” Garrett Stadium.
The home fans witnessed an offensive explosion from the onset. Ultimately Zachary hung on for a 35-27 victory that puts the Broncos in the Class 5A semifinals for the sixth straight year. The Broncos, who have won three of the past four Class 5A titles, meets top-seeded Acadiana (13-0) next week.
Zachary got the scoring started when Keilon Brown started with five completions to Chris Hilton, the last a TD pass on fourth down from the 25.
But the Bearcats responded three plays later on a 59-yard TD run by Ketravion Hargrove.
The Broncos scored on their second possession with a razzle-dazzle reverse pass from Jayden Williams to Charles Robertson. Two plays later, Hargrove responded with another 59-yard TD run to bring the Bearcats back to within one. Hargrove ran for 205 yards on 19 carries and scored three TDs for the Bearcats (7-6)
Zachary (10-2) finally gained some separation with a touchdown, a surprise onside kick and another touchdown to take a 35-13 lead into the late second quarter.
After a Ruston punt the Broncos drove to the Bearcats' 5 yard-line as the half was nearly over but were denied another score because of a fumble. Brown had over 300 all-purpose yards at the half, and Chris Hilton had 112 yards receiving on 8 catches.
The Bearcats opened the second half with a Devian Wilson dive off-tackle for a 50-yard touchdown. Neither team scored for the rest of the third quarter.
After stopping the Broncos on a fourth down at Ruston's 30-yard line to start the fourth quarter, the Bearcats got a 7-yard touchdown from Hargrove would with 7:46 remaining to cut the lead to 35-27.
The Broncos went three and out, but Prince Johnson's 75-yard punt pinned the Bearcats at their own 5-yard-line with 5 minutes remaining. A’gen Langford’s fourth-down tackle of a Bearcats wide receiver gave Zachary the ball at the Bearcats' 30 yard-line with 3 minutes remaining.
But Ruston had one more chance. The Bearcats stopped the Broncos on fourth down and took over with 1:58 left at their own 30-yard line with no timeouts. Two Zachary penalties aided Ruston as it drove inside the 10, but the Bearcats couldn't get off a third-down play before time expired. Brown finished with 263 passing yards, while Hilton and Jayden Williams each had over 100 receiving yards.
UNION PARISH 35, MADISON PREP 26: In Farmerville, Major Burns spent most of the final frame at quarterback and had a 75-yard pick-6 on defense, but the one thing he couldn’t do was keep No. 12 seed Union Parish from beating No. 4 Madison Prep in the Class 3A quarterfinals.
The loss snapped a 11-game win streak and ended the season for the Chargers (11-2), who advanced to the quarterfinals for the second straight season.
The Chargers had the ball at their own 27 to start the game, but had a 4th-and-17 from their own 20, five plays later. The punt was blocked and recovered at the 4-yard line by a Farmer, who took it in for the first score of the game. The ensuing PAT put Union Parish up 7-0.
A failed Union Parish onside kick gave the Chargers the ball at their own 45, but the offense went nowhere and UPHS ended up with the ball on their own 9 following a punt. The Farmers punted after five plays, giving the Chargers the ball at their own 22 with 5:19 left in the first quarter.
Three plays later the Chargers fumbled. UPHS recovered and scored another touchdown for a 14-0 lead.
Burns' 75-yard interception-return touchdown for Madison Prep cut the Farmers' lead to 20-14 at the half.
But the Chargers couldn’t stop Union Parish up the middle and, while they stayed close enough to make it interesting, the Farmers were too much in the end.
Burns had four catches for 32 yards and four carries for 44 yards. He threw three touchdown passes and had the pick-6. Makih Palmer had 12 catches for 115 yards and two touchdowns, including an 84-yard TD. Tyrell Raby added three catches for 110 yards. Sophomore Zeon Chriss was the MPA QB for most of the game and later played at wide receiver.