Acadiana is the defending Class 5A state champion but is ranked only 15th in this year’s postseason.
On Friday against Mandeville in a quarterfinal playoff, the Rams played much more like the former than the latter.
After knocking off second-seeded Ponchatoula last Friday, Acadiana returned to the north shore with another dominant showing against a District 6-5A opponent. The result this week was a 28-14 victory over 10th-seeded Mandeville at Sid Theriot Stadium.
Acadiana, which has reached the finals five times in the previous nine seasons, next will face Zachary in the semifinals. Mandeville finished 9-4.
The Rams rushed for 245 yards and scored each of their four touchdowns on the ground — two by Malik Eugene, and one each by Kevin Moore and Donavin Soloman. The Acadiana defense, meanwhile, limited Mandeville to 39 yards on the ground and forced the Skippers to throw the ball, which they have not done often this season. Acadiana (9-4) outdistanced Mandeville 363-161 in offensive yardage Friday.
“We had to keep with the inside runs, not so much the sweeps, because they were fast to the ball,” said Eugene, who finished with 132 yards on 11 carries. “We just had to keep pounding it.”
The expected defensive battle certainly played itself out in the first quarter, with Acadiana out-gaining Mandeville only 21-13 in total yardage. Neither team completed a pass in the quarter.
Acadiana’s battering run game finally broke through in the second quarter. Beginning at 3:12 remaining in the first, the Rams put together an eight-play drive that covered 85 yards, all on rushes. Eugene capped the drive with a 54-yard touchdown when he burst over left tackle, broke to the left sideline and outraced the Skippers defense to the endzone.
Brodie Fontenot kicked the PAT, and Acadiana led 7-0 with 11:31 remaining in the half.
Mandeville began to move the ball steadily on its next possession, but an interception by Moore (who played linebacker and quarterback for the Rams) ended the movement. The teams traded drives after the turnover until there was 1:15 remaining in the second quarter.
That’s when Acadiana scored again. Just before halftime, the Rams went on a seven-play, 70-yard drive that ended with an 8-yard touchdown run by Soloman around the left side. The big play on the drive was a rare pass by Acadiana — a 35-yard hook-up between Moore and Bry’Keithan Mouton that put the Rams deep into Mandeville territory. Fontenot’s second PAT gave Acadiana a 14-0 halftime lead.
Time of possession played a huge part in the game. Acadiana’s rushing attack consumed huge chunks of time and kept Mandeville’s offense from the field. It also opened up the occassional big play in the passing game. Moore completed only 4-of-7 passes but gained 118 yards in the air, 100 of them to Mouton.
The Rams led 28-7 late in the fourth quarter before Mandeville quarterback Jonathan Penton completed a 27-yard scoring strike to Parker Orgeron (who played quarterback for the entire first half). Mandeville used a trio of quarterbacks but only managed 122 passing yards on 26 attempts. The Skippers’ other score came midway through the third quarter when Orgeron threw to Codie Nye for a 13-yard touchdown.
“It’s a tough loss, but our defense played well all year,” said Nye, a senior. “We just didn’t get the big plays we needed (tonight,) but this isn’t a bad loss at all.”