Amite opponents often have had to pick their poison this season in attempting to defend the star-studded Warriors roster.
Welsh’s choice on Friday was to focus on stopping the run and the reigning state champions paid the price as senior quarterback Amani Gilmore passed for five touchdowns and ran for a sixth to pace second-seeded Amite to a 47-20 victory in the Class 2A state championship game of the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Prep Classic at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Gilmore’s passing and running accounted for 366 of Amite’s 442 yards and six of the seven touchdowns scored by the District 8-2A champions who won their final 14 games to claim the Tangipahoa Parish school’s fifth state title.
Not bad for a 6-foot-2, 200-pound senior and Kentucky commitment who did not play as a junior after transferring from Hammond High School.
“Today was all about Amite High School,’’ Amite coach Zephaniah Powell said. “We could see that they were going to be stuffing our run, so we put the ball in Amani’s hands. He played a fantastic game for us.’’
Amite (14-1) was making its 10th state final appearance, but first since 2004. Only one point separated the Warriors from an undefeated season, which began with a 24-23 loss at Country Day, the eventual No. 2 seed in Division III.
In addition to Gilmore, who earned Amite’s Outstanding Player honors in the game, the Warriors featured two of the nation’s top prospects in LSU-committment wide receiver Devonte Lee and uncommitted defensive tackle Ishamel Sopsher.
Amite WR Devonta Lee discusses state championship, his current thinking on recruiting | Can't see video below? Click here.
“It’s been 14 years since Amite High School hoisted a state championship trophy, and that was way too long,’’ said Powell, who won his first state title as the Warriors coach.
Fifth-seeded Welsh (11-4) lost for just the second time in its final 13 games after an 0-2 start that included the forfeiture of a season-opening 41-16 victory against Rayne because of an academically ineligible player.
“We kind of feared going into the game that if we gave them too many chances that they would break loose,’’ Welsh coach John Richardson said. “We knew we had to put pressure on the quarterback and contain him. But that’s a lot easier said than done.’’
Gilmore directed the Warriors to touchdowns on their first four possessions and six of the initial seven to produce a 27-7 lead at halftime that expanded to 41-7 midway through the third period.
His scoring passes covered 35, 7, 33, 38, and 6 yards to Lee and fellow wide receivers Kyle Maxwell and Cameron Henderson. A 35-yard strike to Lee opened the scoring and was followed by touchdowns of 7 and 33 yards to Maxwell that were sandwiched around a 1-yard quarterback sneak by Gilmore.
Gilmore completed his 11-of-17 aerial show with touchdown passes covering 38 and 6 yards to Henderson that left Amite’s quarterback one short of the Prep Classic’s composite record of six scoring passes. Gilmore also had 23 carries for a team-leading 80 yards.
“Words cannot describe everything about this young man,’’ Powell said. “If I was going to use one word to describe Amani, it would be humble. He’s never too high, and he’s never too low.’’
Lee added a 17-yard touchdown run on a jet sweep for Amite’s first score of the second half to go with three receptions totaling 118 yards. Henderson finished with five catches for 75 yards and two scores and Maxwell added two receptions for 40 yards and two touchdowns.
“When the game started, I was just going to play my own game and let the game come to me,’’ Gilmore said. “Then coach Powell told me to relax and just play the game. That’s what we did.’’
Welsh’s touchdowns came on runs of 1 and 62 yards by running backs Alec Iguess and Da’Ren Zeno in the second and third periods that were following by a fourth-down carry of 12 yards by quarterback Austyn Benoit in the final period.
Iguess earned Welsh Outstanding Player honors after pacing a 195-yard rushing effort with 78 yards on 15 carries.
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