When John Ehret played at West Monroe in the teams' season-opener on Aug. 31, quarterback Travis Mumphrey remembers the Patriots' offense struggling. Ehret was shut out in the second half after scoring twice in the first half.
“We were all over the place offensively,” Mumphrey said. “We had a new offensive coordinator (Shane Bohrer), and we just weren't all on the same page.”
West Monroe came away with a 44-20 victory. Ehret (12-1) is set to take another trip to West Monroe (13-0) for a Class 5A semifinals game on Friday. The winner will play the winner of No. 2 Destrehan-No. 6 Zachary game on Dec. 8 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Ehret coach Marcus Scott said it wasn't just the Patriots' offense that struggled.
“We didn't play well offensively, defensively or on special teams in that first game,” Scott said.
Especially special teams. The Rebels' Michael Hamburg returned the opening kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown. Other gaffes included a blocked extra-point attempt after Ehret's first touchdown, a muffed punt recovered by West Monroe, a high snap to the punter that resulted in the Rebels getting a safety and two more bad snaps that gave them great field position and enabled them to score both times.
For that, Scott said there was no excuse, new coaches notwithstanding. “We'd worked on that since spring training,” he said. “They scored 22 points in the first half off special teams play.”
Special teams remains a work in progress for Ehret. Last week against East Ascension, two kicks were blocked, including one returned for a 78-yard touchdown, and the Spartans returned the ball well enough that Ehret squib-kicked its kickoffs in the second half.
Against West Monroe, Mumphrey completed 12 of 24 passes for 118 yards. Most of his passes went to Jordan Pickney, who had 90 yards receiving, including three of more than 20 yards, and two touchdowns.
However, that performance — or lack thereof — lit a spark in the Patriots, Mumphrey said.
“We came back Monday, got with the coaches and put our mistakes in the past,” he said. “Ever since then, we've just been rolling.”
Ehret rebounded with a 26-0 triumph against Hahnville, then won 37-35 over Destrehan on its way to 12 consecutive wins, including playoff victories at Dutchtown (43-0) and at home against No. 13 Haughton (37-6) before fighting past No. 5 East Ascension (27-24) last week.
Clearly, Mumphrey said, No. 4-seeded Ehret is a different team than the one which played West Monroe, Class 5A's No. 1 seed, to start the season. Mumphrey, 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, can point to his own stats as evidence. He has completed 185 of 262 passes for 2,764 yards and 28 touchdowns with just four interceptions.
“We have grasped the offense a lot better now,” Mumphrey said. “It has allowed me to spread the ball around more. We ran a spread offense last year, too, but this year it's (a ran-pass option).”
Then, he smiles.
“Pickney is a great possession receiver,” he said. “De'ron Coleman is very fast, and Jacoby Windmon is a big, strong receiver. Plus, we have other guys who come in, like Ja'Ron Glenn, who also are good players.”
West Monroe has vanquished three playoff opponents — No. 32 Pineville, No. 16 Captain Shreve and No. 8 Ruston by a combined 130-0.
“They have a good defense, especially their defensive line with Dalvin (Hutchinson, 6-1, 320), and they play well together,” he said. “I'll have to make better decisions quickly.”
The Patriots could be hampered by the loss of leading rusher Damond Leonard (1,003 yards, 13 touchdowns), who left the East Ascension game with a knee injury late in the first quarter. Leoj Hampton, 5-9, 220, replaced Leonard and gained 24 yards on 11 carries. However, Scott said Windmon, 6-2, 220, who also starts at linebacker and is listed as an “athlete,” also could play running back.
“I played in the state championship game (loss to Zachary) as a freshman, and it was an incredible experience,” Mumphrey said. “I just want to get back to the (Superdome).”